There are numerous things we’ve done wrong as parents; I can’t even begin to count the things or the ways we’ve messed up our kids (they will need therapy in some capacity when they are adults most likely)! There is one thing, however, that we’ve done right, and, without a doubt, we will do it again.
We bought a dog.
Before we had children, we had a dog, a beautiful chocolate lab, Ginger. She was a good dog, but we didn’t have the time or the space to keep her and make her the best dog she could be. So, unfortunately, we had to sell her. She went to a good home, an excellent home, with a lake and acreage. She lived a long happy life there.
A few years later, after we had our three children, a larger house with a huge yard, we rescued a small mixed breed dog, Mollie. She was a good dog for a year or two, then she became grumpy. She would snap, growl, and be downright ornery not only to strangers, but to our children. After 9 years of this, we had to put her down for their safety. At the time you would have thought we were the worst parents known to man. Our children said horrible things about how awful we were, etc. Of course, their reaction was the emotional consequence of loving something, even something with such vicious tendencies.
As we neared the end of Mollie’s life, we got a new puppy, a boxer we named Stella. For almost a year we had two dogs, one moody and very much not friendly, and one that was playful, fun, and full of life. We put time and energy into Stella’s training, we encouraged family and friends to come over so she could socialize with them, we brought her places so she would be used to other people and environments, we took her to obedience classes, we worked hard. She is very protective of our kids – even trying to grab my youngest’s hand so he doesn’t “fall” into the pool (when in reality he is trying to jump in and she thinks she’s protecting him from that scary body of water). She is a really great dog!
The best part of Stella is what she has taught our children. Most of these things we have tried to teach them, but in no way could we have taught them as well as Stella has. She has taught them patience, especially when she has chewed up their favorite football (she loves footballs and soccer balls – and she destroys them, absolutely destroys them). She has taught them perseverance; her tricks took a lot of time and energy to learn, but she did learn them, eventually. She has taught them the value of a good laugh as she quietly and patiently lets them put human clothing on her so she can struggle through walking just so they can laugh at her expense. She has taught them the value of exercise; she has a lot of energy (a LOT) and she needs to burn that energy through daily walks or runs across the field, often chasing one or two of them in the process. She has taught them the value of friendship; rarely is she not near one of our kids…sleeping, playing, or just being next to them.
But perhaps the best thing she has taught them is unconditional love. We love our children unconditionally, and we’re pretty sure they love us the same way, but Stella has taught them to love others. Every time Stella does something wrong (chewing up a toy or digging a giant hole in the yard or knocking over their cup of milk), they just look into her big brown eyes and forgive her. She is thoroughly excited every single time one of us walks in the door after being gone for even 5 minutes, we are greeted with a wiggly butt, and a face that looks like it’s smiling with joy. They love her, even at her worst.
And when one of our kids is sad, angry, or hurt, the first thing we see is Stella trying to cuddle up to them to make them feel better. And you know what? It works. Every.single.time.
Not everyone is a “dog-person” and not everyone should be. Dogs are a lot of work, they smell – boxers REALLY smell, they make messes, they ruin things, they are clumsy, they are hairy, they drool, they are protective. But, now that we have Stella, she really is truly a part of our family. She completes our family.
And there is just something about a boy and his dog.