In just four short months our rescue puppy, Clyde, has turned us into a bunch of fully converted Dog People. Of course the kids had been begging for us to become a Dog Family for donkey's years, but I had taken some convincing, because I'd heard the rumours.
Dogs are lots of work. They stink, they shed hair, they chew everything, they pee and poop everywhere, they eat you out of house and home. Having a puppy is the same amount of work as having a newborn; having a dog is like having another kid.
Being your quintessential Lazy Mother, I was extremely reluctant to sign up for extra work. I mean, I already had my hands full with three human children.
Who needs the extra job of picking up poop and bathing a dog when it's all you can do to keep your boys regularly showering and your toilet floor a urine-free zone.
Am I right?
Having a dog sounded like sooooo much work.
But then we got Clyde. In some kind of weird fit of intuition, I had a gut feeling that a puppy was just what the kids needed to help them get through a tough time.
It seemed counter-intuitive, and plenty of people thought I really had finally gone crazy taking on extra work in the middle of a crisis, but I turned out to be right on the money with this one.
Clyde was just what the kids needed. And actually, he was also just what I needed.
I have done a 180 degree turnaround from being anti-dog to being so pro-dog that I'm now convinced EVERYONE should have one in the family if at all possible.*
*There are lots of practical reasons why families can't have a dog e.g. allergies or their rental doesn't allow pets. But if you CAN have a dog but were a dog-phobe like me, that's what I'm meaning*Dogs are wonderful not just for their loving, loyal natures, their heart-mending doggy kisses, and their cuddles that actually bring your heart rate down and reduce anxiety. Oh no.
Having a dog in the family teaches your kids things; it prepares them for life in a way that nothing else can.
Here's what I've discovered my kids are learning by being Puppy Parents...
Having a Dog Teaches Kids ResponsibilityDogs are not like cats. We love our cat, Dave, but she is extremely independent and requires little from us beyond putting out some kibble. It doesn't take much effort to care for our cat, but our dog is different story. Every day, Clyde needs to not only be fed and watered, but exercised and played with and trained. He needs to be let out to pee and poop. His mess needs to be cleaned up. It doesn't matter if we're feeling tired or lazy, the dog needs to be cared for, just like a child does.
Caring for a puppy really is like having another child in the family, except that in this case, the kids get to be the parents.
When I agreed to get a puppy, the kids promised (in front of witnesses) that they would be the ones to care for the puppy. They are his parents. (I am like the grandma, apparently).
Remember those newborn sleep-deprived days of early parenting? What can prepare you better for the insistent cry of a hungry dependent child, than the insistent whine of a hungry dependent puppy?
Even when you don't feel like it the puppy must be fed. He must be played with, he must be walked.
The kids are learning how to take care of their responsibilities, even when they don't feel like it. It's a learning curve, but they are learning.
Having a Dog Teaches Kids SelflessnessThere is a lot of talk in the air these days about this generation of kids being increasingly narcissistic. Well, having a puppy is a step in the right direction towards combating any encroaching narcissism.
Kids of any generation are naturally self-centred. They need to be coached towards caring for others and putting others ahead of themselves - some more than others!
Having a puppy requires kids to put someone else's needs ahead of their own - someone furry who depends on you; someone helpless, who you really really love.
It is the best preparation for parenting, I reckon.
Siblings may bicker and argue and act selfishly towards each other at times, but those same self-centred kids think twice about neglecting their adoring puppy.
Selflessness can be learned and puppies are the most wonderful teachers.
Having a Dog Teaches Kids About Unconditional LoveI remember one of the most amazing revelations I had as a new parent was to realise what it's like to love someone unconditionally. It was a massive lightbulb moment to realise how you can love someone to the moon and back and yet still be severely annoyed and displeased with them. My love was not dented one little bit by my child's naughtiness or sleeplessness or thoughtlessness. Then I was able to understand God's love towards me for the first time. And my parents' love for me too.
Well, guess what? Having a puppy gives kids insights into that very same truth.
I can't tell you the number of times that Clyde has done something naughty and been scolded by one of the kids, only for them to hug him round the neck a minute later exclaiming, "Oh but I still love you Clyde, you gorgeous boy!" and then turn to me and say, "Mum, is this how you feel about us?"
Yes, yes, yes, my darling kid, absolutely 100%.
Having Clyde to love, is teaching my kids about unconditional love. About the kind of love their parents have for them (how we may be cross when they do dumb stuff but it doesn't diminish our love one bit). And it gives them insight into the Heavenly Father's love too.
Are you a Dog Person or a Dog-a-phobe? I'd love to hear your puppy-stories/dog tales...
MORE DOG TAILS
Our wonderful puppy, Clyde is a rescue puppy from DC Rescue Dogs. I highly recommend DC Rescue as a wonderful organisation to adopt a puppy from.