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The Perks and Pitfalls of Having a Family Pet

Photograph by Twenty20

When I was pregnant with my third child, while I had a 1- and a 2-year-old toddling around—I got the urge to bring a pet into our family, so we got a dog. I soon realized that caring for a canine was a lot more work than I'd expected. I'd never had a dog before and had no idea the amount of time and attention they needed. I figured it out as the years passed, and our beloved Golden Retriever, Eve, became a huge part of our family.

It was adorable when she'd sleep outside our kids' bedroom doors until we got home after leaving them with a babysitter. She always kept our floors clean of food crumbs and ate tons of the kids' yucky veggies from their hands at the dinner table. She would let them dress her up, play doctor with her, and she was always forward with her love and affection. We recently lost her and we all feel the void she left.

There's a huge part of us that wants to rush out and get another dog to take some of the hurt away, but I wonder if we have it in us to take care of another pet. Here are some of the perks and pitfalls of having kids and a pet.

PERKS

1. They get you outside for exercise. There is nothing like taking your dog out for a hike or an hour of throwing the ball around. It's good for the whole family and, since most dogs need a daily dose of exercise, you need to do it whether you are motivated or not.

2. They love you unconditionally. No matter what, they always love you and look to you for love. Pets don't discriminate and will never be mad enough to refuse your snuggles.

3. The memories you make are amazing. We have lifelong memories with our dog, like camping, long walks and going for a swim. They are amazing companions and up for anything.

4. It teaches your kids about loss and responsibility. Having a pet is a great way to introduce chores to your kids. And, while it's hard to lose them, it has been a good lesson to teach my kids the hardships of life, but proof you will be OK, move on and come out a bit stronger.

Pets don't discriminate and will never be mad enough to refuse your snuggles.

PITFALLS

1. You have to potty train them and you have to be diligent, whether it's pouring or freezing outside. This means cleaning lots of messes in the house, too.

2. Having a pet is a bit like having a child. They can be naughty and cry, and you have to watch them at every moment to make sure they don't put things in their mouth they aren't supposed to.

3. You can't take a family trip at the spur of the moment. You have to plan a visit to the kennel or ask someone to watch them. You always have to consider the family pet while taking a trip.

4. They are expensive—food, toys, vet bills, registration—it all adds up very quickly. And, if they have health problems and need pricey medication, you are often forced to choose between your pet and other things that are important to you.

5. You feel like you aren't able to devote as much time to them as you'd like. It's one thing when you have a pet and it's just you and you partner, but with kids, you often feel guilty for neglecting your pet.

6. It can be hard having friends over. If your dog is especially hyper, the commotion, the barking and jumping can make it impossible to want to have visitors. Not to mention they often knock down drinks and get food from unsuspecting guests.

I keep reading my list over and over in my head. My kids keep trying to convince me to get another family dog, but let's face it, I'm the one who will be doing the bulk of the work or reminding them to do it. But I keep going back to the same thing: a dog, or any family pet for that matter, can add so much joy in you kids' lives that it's just worth it.

And, honestly, it's nice to have someone in the house who still loves and wants to please me, even if I'm in a bad mood.

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