Kids And Dogs – A Match Made In Heaven

I am moving to Disney in 6 days –I’m so not ready- and I won’t be around my doggies for several months. So every post I think of, I start, and then realize I should save it for my dry spell. Like a blogging camel.

So I have works in progress about dog health, behavior, and just why they’re awesome. In addition, I’m hoping to do some work involving animals other than dogs while I’m away. If it’s anything interesting, you’d better bet I’ll tell you all about it. (Hint: I’ve already requested to shadow caretakers at Animal Kingdom!)

Anyway, I had a post written before last weekend, but didn’t have time to post it before rushing off to Tallahassee to watch my boyfriend graduate (congrats to him!!). But, here we are, finally a post! (Complete with some atrocious pictures of my sister and I as well as some adorable pictures I have gratefully borrowed from Pinterest. Each image links to the website from which I borrowed it. I take no credit for the images. If you are the rightful owner of an image, let me know and I will gladly give due credit or remove the photo.)

ImageMy good friend Shalini just wrote a response to an awful article some sad excuse for a human being wrote about why having kids made this woman stop loving her dog. I’d give you the URL, but I’m sure she’d be thrilled to get more views. (If you really want it, you can find it in her post.)

When I read the original “article” (an awfully nice term for that pile of crap), I feared for the woman’s husband. For her children. If she stops loving her dog when she has kids, does she really still love her oldest kid and her husband? But Shalini brought up a point I never even thought of – what is she raising her kids to believe?

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Be nice, the ugly little kid was me.

That animals are expendable. That these kids are the center of the universe. That everyone around them should change their lives for the sake of the soon-to-be-spoiled-brats. Fantastic. I was just thinking we needed more people like that.

I am not the mother of a human. And I’m not saying I could do a better job. But… I could do a better job. Seriously. I’ve seen animals be better mothers. Especially dogs. Again, I have major respect for most parents – your jobs are hard and you rock for doing what you do. And I know you don’t want to listen to a “non-parent” give advice, but please hear me out: If I ever have kids, I will still have pets (and obviously will still love them, too). There are more reasons than I could ever list, but essentially, dogs and children just go.

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Dogs are great for Trick-or-Treating!

Animals teach children about unconditional love. When kids go through that awkward I’m-a-teenager-and-absolutely-insufferable-to-be-around phase, their dog is there for them. If a kid is bullied for being heavy, handicapped, a reading level behind, pale, gay, whatever, their dog is there for them. When they experience their first heartbreak and don’t want to talk to their parents about it, their pets with listen without judgment, and kids know it. I have no shame in admitting that my parents’ dog was my best friend by the end of high school.

Pets teach kids to care for someone, whose only possible gift in return is gratitude. They teach responsibility. Stability. Long term commitments. If you choose to rescue, kids can witness the inside of a shelter, and what it means to save a life.

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Me (left) Desi (middle) and older sister, Kristyn (right)

Pets exemplify the circle of life. Kids can experience, in a comparatively short time period, the playful puppy, the confident adult dog, and the needy senior. As sad as it is when a pet dies, at some point we’re all going to experience life and death, and understanding it is probably important.

Pets can teach kids about diversity. Different animals have unique appearances, behaviors, and personalities. And whether you have one dog or a pack, living with animals can help children grasp the complicated ideas behind social orders. Hierarchies exist within the dog world as well as the human world. Observing how every individual falls into place within a family or pack can show kids a concept that is difficult to explain, and even more difficult to comprehend.

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The black blob in my arms (left) is a bunny. The black spot in Kristyn’s hand (right) is a gerbil.

Pets can teach kids about work ethic. Tell a kid a search and rescue dog’s job is to find missing people, that seeing eye dogs hold the lives of human beings in their paws, or that horses helped to build this nation before cars and trains, and surely they have to feel some sense of awe and respect. If that’s too big of a concept, just showing them how eager dogs are to please their owners with tricks can demonstrate work ethic.

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Juno, a Malinois saved from death row, and the young boy she serves, Lucas, who suffers from Sanfilippo Syndrome.

Dogs are caretakers. True, they should be supervised with children, but many a dog has saved a child’s life. When I was little, our Labrador Retriever, Tinker, saved my sister and I from a snake. Didn’t you know? All snakes are deadly. Years later, I wrote about her in an essay contest with the theme of loyalty and I won a $300 scholarship to college. Her fidelity stuck with me.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: My parents put in a lot of hard work raising my sister and I, but the animals we were around helped to raise us, too.

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Tinker, Kristyn, and me.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I sincerely hope parents think twice about abandoning their animals after having children. If you do, not only are you hurting your animal, and the animal who has to die to make room for them in the shelter, you are teaching your children that pets don’t matter. That family isn’t permanent. That your love is not unconditional. And you’re taking away a million chances at life lessons that kids with pets learn early on.

Dog is man’s best friend. That includes kids. That’s just a fact.

You Can’t Convince Me I’m Not A ‘Real’ Mom

ImageA recent study showed the relationship between dogs and pet parents mimics that of human children and their parents. I fail to see how this is news. I could have sworn it was common knowledge.

We dog moms, and probably other pet moms too, call ourselves ‘furmoms’. Should I explain? I can give you 25 reasons!

1. We love unconditionally

This one’s easy. My dogs have eaten things very precious to me, and I’ve had this amazing feeling of… almost apathy. I approach that as ‘stuff’. And stuff is never more important than my babies. Don’t get me wrong, they still need to be disciplined, but I love them no matter what.

2. I’ve cleaned as many bodily fluids/wastes as any other mom

Plus more hair than most moms. (God I hope you don’t have little sasquatch children…)

3. Everyone and their uncle hears about my dogs

They see pictures of my dogs, they see Facebook updates about my dogs, I have this blog about my dogs. I may need to tone it down.

4. I take my girl on play dates, and I become friends with her friends’ parents

Seriously. It’s actually pretty awesome.

5. I have holiday pictures of my girl

Christmas. Easter. Halloween. And I look forward to getting more every year!

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6. They participate in holidays other ways, too

Desi and our Lab Tinkerbell trick or treated. Lana, Desi, and Sierra wore Halloween costumes. Desi and Lana can open Christmas and birthday presents.

7. My home and car reflect my status as a mom

I even have a bumper sticker. But I meant the toys scattered everywhere, the fur in every crack and crevice, and the unsightly blotches in my carpet. Kids (and furkids) are a stain that never comes out. But in a good way.

8. I hate disciplining them, but I have to

Because that’s what a good parent does. *Not so subtle hint*

9. I dealt with the teenager phase

It just happened much sooner. About seven times as young, actually. And it ended faster. Yay!

10. I learned how to handle all sorts of maladies

Teething, warts, mange, incontinence, UTIs. Basically like teething, chicken pox, rashes, bed wetting, and UTIs. Or, at least that’s the best comparison I can come up with.

11. I drive them to school and daycare

Yep. And obedience classes involved me helping with homework just like real school should involve parents helping with homework. And I like to imagine graduating beginning obedience class is like graduating high school, intermediate is like getting a bachelors degree, and advanced is like getting a doctorate. So my dog is practically as educated as I am. And just about equally likely to get hired, thanks to my English/Psychology degree.

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12. They’ve cost me and arm and a leg

And it’s not just food! So very much food. It’s vet bills, pills, toys, collars, replacements for everything they’ve ruined… just like kids!

13. I’m more familiar with their doctor than mine

I kid you not, when the blood diagnostic center asked my doctor’s name, I almost blurted out my vet. That would have been awkward.

14. Maintenance is a must

Cutting nails, brushing hair, bathing, cleaning ears. The one thing I thank god I don’t have to deal with is using that sucky-squeezy thing (I think it’s called a bulb syringe) to suck snot out of baby noses. *shudders* I do respect you, human moms.

15. They get spoiled by the grandparents

Well, mine does at least. It’s like I have a kid; Lana’s grandparents babysit and buy her gifts and treats every time they see her.

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16. They wake us up in the middle of the night

And first thing in the morning. And during much needed naps. And even when we’re half asleep on the treadmill because we don’t know when to stop.

17. Some of them are terrified of strangers

Like mine. Ohmygosh!! Mom!! There’s someone at the door! They’re here to kill us all!! Make them go away! Bark bark bark!

18. Some are terrified of everything else, too

I got what I deserved. I used to be afraid of radiation, carbon monoxide, murderers, snakes, flesh eating bugs, government surveillance… all when I was in middle school. (100% serious, I was a weird kid.) And guess what! Now I have a dog who is afraid of hats, gloves, plastic bags, Halloween decorations, heating elements, the phrase ‘ooga booga’, vacuum cleaners…

19. Potty training

This was awful for Lana! It didn’t help I was on the third floor and had to run down several flights of stairs whenever she needed to pee. And when she didn’t but I thought she did. And when she said she did and then forgot once we got there.

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20. My fur kid also has A.D.D.

Only instead of losing focus during homework, she gets distracted when trying to find a spot to go potty (see number 19).

21. “That’s Mine!”

Anybody else think of the little kid, Randy, from A Christmas Story? Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING belongs to Lana. The food on my plate, all the toys – even the ones she’s not playing with (poor fosters), my spot on the couch… Insert Doctor Sheldon Cooper’s: ‘You can’t sit there, that’s MY spot!’

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22. We argue about the best way to raise them

Seriously, can we stop with this? Some people are SO judgmental. Let’s try to save it for a common enemy instead of pissing off our allies. We all learn, experiment, and figure out what’s best for us and our dogs, just like parents and children. (Note: abuse is still bad, but go easy on assuming everyone who gives a spanking is an abuser, okay? Thanks.)

23. They pout

When Desi gets mad at us, she turns her back to us and ignores us when we call her. Well, she used to. Now she’s deaf, so it’s not really her fault anymore…

24. They will totally lie to our faces

Human kiddos: “Did you brush your teeth yet?” “Yep!” “Then why does your breath stink?!” or “Did you steal a cookie from the jar?” “No ma’am!” “Then what are these crumbs?” (That’s right, we said ma’am and sir in my house! But we didn’t have a cookie jar… boo!)

Doggie kiddos: “Did you eat this shoe?” *tail wags innocently* “Stop lying!!!”

Image25. They have us wrapped around their fingers, er, paws

Lana has this habit of using her Border Collie stare when she wants ice. I can resist that, but when she starts with her Husky talk, I can’t say no. We’re working on teaching her to say ‘Mama’. I’m not even kidding.

ImageI’ve seen mothers of human children take offense, though that’s not the intent of this post. We aren’t saying what you do isn’t hard(er); we’re just saying we’ve had a taste of it, too!