“Say what? I’m sorry, I may have misunderstood. You want to get a dog? A real puppy? Now? Ha! Ha! Ha! Oh wait…you aren’t kidding?” This was essentially my reaction to my husband telling me he wanted to get another dog.
Listen, I love dogs! I mean really love them and of course I have missed having one around, but a puppy, now? We have two children in school and preschool, plus extra-curricular activities; we are a busy family! I could just envision an eight-week-old puppy in my brand new house we had only lived in for two months. He was going to love chewing on my furniture and peeing on my beautiful hardwood floors. The training and the vet bills. Confession: I was being a Negative Nancy. In the end, I could see how important it was to my husband, so, we agreed. Doc was coming home in a few weeks.
To rewind a bit, when our daughter was two, she was bitten in the face by our family dog. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t judge just yet. He wasn’t aggressive, at all. In his old age, his hearing was going and she startled him while he was sleeping. He reacted out of fear and he knew instantly that he was wrong. So, yes, we kept him until he passed at the ripe old age of 13, but he couldn’t be trusted like he once had been and our family dynamic changed.
Due to this accident, our kids were terrified of dogs.
Respecting this fear, but wanting them to know the love and companionship dogs can offer, we began to prepare them for Doc’s homecoming. At the ages of six and four, they thankfully were excited to welcome him into the family. We bought toys, treats, bowls and a teeny tiny little collar. They embraced their new furry brother surprisingly well!
Until he showed up…
For two months, they were scared. We built forts from the safety of our couch, out of the reach of Doc’s tiny paws. We bought “magic” boots for them to walk through the house, protecting their toes from nibbling puppy teeth. They loved him and wanted to keep him, but they were scared. I can’t tell you how many times I questioned our decision to bring him home. Should we have waited another year? How long will they be scared? Always?
Finally, it worked! With time, patience, fun doggie games and a whole bunch of grace, they realized that Doc loved them! They played keep away and fetch. They watched as he curled up in front of them to sleep, learning that he was protecting them. They could feel that he loved them with his whole heart. Boy, does he ever! #whew
Since they have truly accepted Doc into our tribe, he has taught us more than we ever expected.
- They have the responsibility to feed and help bathe him. Doc relies on them and it teaches them how it feels to know that he is counting on them. They are learning compassion and care and he is building their confidence.
- They are learning patience. Doc is a lab and really likes to steal and chew their toys. They have learned to work with him and teach him rather than yell and pout when their favorite stuffed pig or alligator gets swiped.
- Just like humans, dogs have emotions and feel pain. They get hurt and sad. The kids are learning to comfort him and love him through the growing pains.
- They have gained a respect for dogs and now know that they are fun! Doc vacationed in the Great Lakes with us! He jumps in the pond while the boys are trying to fish and snuggles at our feet when we read.
Initially, bringing Doc into our family was a hard decision (for me, anyway!). As the months pass, I am always granted a daily reminder that he was the right choice and exactly what our family needed. The kids want to include him in all that they do and I love watching their hearts grow.