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For the Love of the Dog

For a child, growing up with a dog is a priceless experience.

I am and always will be an at heart.  

Growing up, I had a cat that I loved very dearly all 19 years of her life. And while I would not have traded my cat for anything, I really always wanted a dog - in addition to, not in place of, the cat.

I’m not sure when my obsession with began. I blame my parents who had a three-inch thick tome of a book simply titled Dogs in their bookshelf.  Inside there were pages upon pages of information and pictures about every dog breed that existed, or at least that was in existence in the 1970s. These were not the days of Puggles and Labradoodles.

I spent a good amount of my childhood leafing through those pages and pining away for a puppy. I’m sure my parents tired of my letters to every year asking for a real, live Beagle puppy, or Dalmatian, or Golden Retriever or Bernese Mountain Dog or whatever dog I was infatuated with when December rolled around. 

Given the opportunity, I also wrote letters to the Easter Bunny requesting a puppy in my Easter basket. Come to think of it, maybe this is about the time I stopped believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny because I never did get that puppy.

It was only natural that once I was married and living in a house of my own, getting a dog was my first line of business.

The first major obstacle, and admittedly a huge reason why my parents never fulfilled my childhood dream of having a dog is that I am terribly allergic to them. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I researched online, quickly narrowing my list of breeds to those considered hypo-allergenic. I also had to take into consideration my husband’s pleas that we not get “some kind of little dog that you carry around in a purse.”

Our compromises narrowed to the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, and months later, after finding a wonderful breeder, I had my long awaited puppy. I named her Maddie, which seemed to suit her perfectly.

Raising a puppy is very much like having a all at once.

They cry at night and wake you often. They have rapid bursts of energy and frustrating, annoying habits. Teaching them not to poop and pee on the floor will seem like one of life’s greatest accomplishments once you have achieved it.

But the unconditional love and companionship makes it all worth it.

We are beyond lucky to have found the perfect dog for our family. Not only do I have no allergy problems with Maddie, but she is also a happy, friendly, sweet dog who has proven to be wonderful with children.

Although my kids are young, they already turn to Maddie for a playmate, which is so fun to watch.

, my youngest, is known for opening the drawer of dog toys and initiating games of fetch. can often be found with her arms thrown around Maddie’s neck and her face buried in her fur. Both of my kids love nothing more than running around the house having Maddie chase after them and then switching directions so they are chasing her.

It is a ruckus with all the commotion they cause together, but who I am to argue when there are squeals of laughter filling the house and lots of energy being burned that will tire out said children and dog?

We definitely hit the family dog jackpot when we got Maddie. She is extremely tolerant of little hands, eager hugs and invasions of space. She lets them climb on her and wake her up from naps with nothing but happy dog kisses.

I like to think she bonded to the kids when she discovered these small creatures would throw tasty morsels of food dropped on the ground. While the kids probably don’t think I notice, I have also seen some deliberately deceptive handovers of food as well. Clearly, even toddlers realize the value of having a dog as their ally when they don’t want to eat their vegetables.

As a parent and dog lover, it brings me so much happiness to see my children growing up with a dog. I hope it fosters in them a love and respect for animals. I already see Lily preferring to play with her animal toys instead of dolls, which is exactly the way I was as a kid.

I do believe that having a dog will teach them responsibility, kindness and empathy. I don't want to think of the days when Maddie grows old, but I know there will be some tough life lessons there as well in dealing with loss.

In the meantime, we are enjoying the privilege of owning a dog and loving every minute of watching the kids and dog play together. At the very least, I will not have to hear them pester me for a dog and I can tell them how lucky they are to have one.

Stephen March 15, 2011 at 02:46 PM
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Lorna Ponte Tomek March 17, 2011 at 06:11 AM
Vanessa, loved the article; and apparently many others did as well. I recommended it on my FB page and I am getting so many comments on it, some from friends outside the US. Dog lovers are everywhere and "For the Love of the Dog" - the appeal is international! Great article, keep em comin.

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