One of the best things you can do for your children is have a dog around the house. I know getting a pet is a momentous decision. And I wrote a post about when not to get a dog home, dismayed as I was with the behaviour of many pet owners. But, if you can give them the time and energy especially in the first year to housebreak them and train them, then they will be very valuable companion to you for life. And the best part is even your little kids will get to raise a puppy and be responsible about its food, walk and emotional needs. When we got Coco home, the younger boy was just 3 years old and mischievous as hell. I was worried about how he would handle a pet. But they took to each other like fish to water.
The younger son is the one Coco is the most protective about. Perhaps he saw in him a little child. And he is the one who launches on Coco smothering him with hugs and kisses. As they spent their childhoods together, I saw how Gautam became more clued in to animals, dogs and pets. His emotional quotient became high. I saw him being mindful and sensitive about how people treat dogs especially strays.
Even though I am a dog lover, have been since childhood, I have always been wary of stray dogs. It is not that I change the course of my path if I chance upon one, but I would be watchful around them. Also, I thought of them as a nuisance. They bark without any provocation. When in packs, they chase kids and vehicles. In short, I did not care much for them. Till my younger son showed me otherwise.
Unlike me, his love extends to the strays as well. When we go for our walks, he is the one who attracts stray dogs who come wagging their tails with a shine in their eyes. We often have long conversations about how difficult life is for the strays with no one to care for them. They have to fend for every meal and no one to look after them when they are sick or injured. Many people are cruel to them because they can be. And we have a unique brand of people in India who will feed them so that they can protect their house but provide them nothing else.
I know you would say at least they are feeding them. Sure, but some of these strays become a nuisance when they are encouraged by these home owners to be aggressive towards others. I have seen quite a few such people in the gated community where I live. These strays also growl and bark at other pet dogs who do nothing to them. Anyway, so as Gautam started warming up to these stray dogs, and I saw how they reciprocated his love, my attitude towards the streeties starting softening as well.
We now keep biscuit packets in our car to give to the strays when we go shopping or when we see a particularly hungry looking stray dog. And this thought came from Gautam. Not only that, the other day he shared a dream of his with me. When he grows up he wants to open a shelter for stray dogs. He feels very sad to see so many of them in a state of utter misery and unhappiness. That really made me feel happy and proud. I do hope that one day he gets to achieve his dream.
And you know we have about 10 kids who come home every evening to play with Coco. Each one complains that their parent will not let them have one, and we welcome them. They take Coco running, play with him and also pick up his poop after seeing us do that for a few days. And parents worry that their kids are not responsible! Coco in turn rewards them with multiple hugs, licks and jumps.
Getting a dog home will help your child:
Dogs only communicate with body language and non-verbal cues, and kids really start reading them well. This helps them in the real world with people as they become more attuned to understanding what others are saying even without verbal cues. Also kids are drawn out from their self-absorbed worlds when they have to care for a dog. What does the dog need, and sometimes they put their needs above their own.
Our kids are dealing with a lot of stress at each phase in their lives, and having a dog at home is a natural de-stresser. When your pet comes and puts his head in your lap or looks at you with those mopey eyes, your heart melts and you immediately feel a rush of happiness. I’ve experienced it so many times and so have the kids. A dog always puts you ahead of himself, and this selfless love invokes feelings of gratitude, love and joy. These are wonderful for kids.
Makes Them Responsible:
When the younger boy was a baby, he was precocious. I never thought he could take care of Coco the way he does now. From playing with him to grooming him, taking him out, picking up his poop to giving his food, there is nothing that he won’t do. In essence, having a pet makes kids take on responsibilities happily. I see the same in other children who come home to play with Coco. If their parents had any doubt if their kids could care for a dog, they should come and watch them.
Increases their self esteem:
A dog loves you unconditionally unlike your parents, siblings and friends. It is immensely satisfying to see how a dog welcomes you home or makes everything about you when you are with them. Their undivided attention and love can make you get over feelings of not belonging or not being loved. Children feel an immense pride because the dog loves them. I notice in kids telling each other, “He really loves me! See how he wags his tail!”
Introverts find it harder to have very close friends or often express their emotions. But it is easiest to talk to your pet or tell him that you love him. I’ve seen the grumpiest of individuals open up when they are around a dog. A dog encourages you to automatically talk and then nods sagely and gives you undivided attention. No wonder dogs are used for therapy.
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Thanks to Coco and Gautam, our circle of love is expanding. These days I even smile and give the strays a friendly look. And remembering Gautam’s advice, I seek out strays and feed them. If we can’t care for all of them, at least let us help them in whatever small way we can. Gautam has showed me a path to empathy for these strays. Who says children don’t make excellent teachers?
Pinned pic courtesy By ESB Professional on Shutterstock
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