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Whether you grew up with a dog for a pet or just love
animals in general, the time will come when you think, "Let's get a dog!" And
if you have kids, the battle against adopting a furry freeloader might be lost
before you even have a chance to write your pro/con list. But no matter how
awesome having a dog in the family can be, it isn't always the best choice when
you have a toddler.
So what were we thinking?
When our son's third birthday was approaching, my husband
and I were over-the-top excited to get him a puppy. I mean, what little boy doesn't
need his own dog, right? So for his third birthday we surprised him with an adorable
chocolate lab puppy named Max and videotaped his reaction for posterity.
Adorable? Totally! But we were so wrong about all the reasons we thought
getting a dog would be awesome.
1. "It would be a great way to teach responsibility" is a myth
Who was cleaning the poop and feeding the puppy? It wasn't the 3-year-old, that's for sure.
He can clean up the poop! Take the dog for walks! Be responsible
for feeding him twice a day! Our son was an only child at the time, and I was a
stay-at-home mom. Adding a furry friend into the mix seemed like a great way to
encourage our boy to be compassionate and responsible. Fast forward a few days
and who was cleaning the poop and feeding the puppy? It wasn't the 3-year-old,
that's for sure. Any ideas I had about him cleaning the yard were quickly
dropped when I realized how disgusting and generally unsanitary it would be.
Aside from following him around the yard with a bottle of hand sanitizer and
changing his clothes after each cleaning session I couldn't get past the fact
that he was just too little for that kind of responsibility. Yuck.
2. Dogs get excited—with their whole bodies
We chose a Labrador retriever for their playful nature, chill
personality and reputation as a great family dog. And that's what we got—just wrapped
up in a big, slobbery 125-pound body. Max grew quickly (our first clue should
have been the enormous paws) and in no time he was knocking our son down purely
by accident. His tail was a weapon and wagging all the time (because Lab). Our
son loved to play with him, but he wasn't big enough to keep from toppling over
any time Max ran by—or just wagged his tail. If they were in the backyard alone
together I had to keep an eye on them the whole time to make sure my son didn't
get plowed over. Max 1, toddler 0.
3. Pets die—and it's horrible
Hear me out on this one. One of the hardest things
about being a parent is when you have the horrible task of telling your child
that their beloved fish/hamster/hermit crab/dog has died. It just sucks, plain
and simple. Bringing Max into our family when our son was so young meant that
when he died, both of our kids were still relatively young. I know you can't
control these things, but it sure was hard to tell the kids that the dog they
had loved their entire lives was dying. Parenting fail.
Do I regret adding a dog to our growing family? Not at all—I
just would have waited another five years or so. An 8-year-old could hold his own
against a huge, happy dog and clean up the yard to boot. Sounds like a win-win