For most of my life, I’ve almost always had a dog, cat, or both. In fact, when there isn’t an animal around, I can’t help but feel that something is missing. All animals, but in particular dogs, hold a special place in my heart. Over the years, they have taught me about love, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, and the finer art of stick fetching. In truth, they have taught me to be a better person overall and now, as a parent, I recognize even more ways how our four-legged friends enrich the lives of my children.
I would even suggest that all kids should have a dog because they teach them about life. How you ask?
1. Responsibility – Quite possibly the strongest argument for rescuing a dog (and most challenging) is that it teaches a child to be responsible for someone or something besides themselves. Caring for a dog is hard but overwhelmingly satisfying. When your child needs to be sure the dog has food (portion control and all) and water each day, they begin to realize that the dog relies on them; the dog needs them to survive. They learn that when they fail to do “their job,” the dog that they so love, feels the effects of their neglect. Dogs also need to be walked, exercised, and let out to relieve themselves. When the kids help out with these responsibilities, it gets them off the couch and moving and gives them a sense of accomplishment and responsibility.
2. Compassion – There is an undeniable truth that dogs have a keen sense of smell. They also seem to sense when we are sad or sick and without fail, sit by our side or lay at our feet as if to say, “I’m here. It will be ok.” Dogs teach us to be aware of the feelings of others and to support one another when times are tough. Involving a child in rescuing a dog is the ultimate lesson in compassion. My wife and I volunteer for a local dog rescue (One Tail at a Time) as much as we can and bring our kids along with us when rescued dogs are brought in before they are put up for adoption. They help socialize the puppies, fill water and food bowls, and clean the crates. Again, it gives them the opportunity to learn about compassion, responsibility, and love. And the puppy kisses are a big hit as well.
3. Forgiveness – We all get frustrated sometimes. And often times that frustration is misdirected at the people or pets we love even though we don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you’ve ever been around dogs, you know that when a dog is scolded (for good reason or not), they cower and avoid eye contact. They know they have upset you and that’s the one thing they never want to do. You are the center of their world and to upset you is the last thing they want to do. But when we realize that our misdirected anger was wrong, a simple pat on the dog’s head and a belly scratch is all you need to receive complete forgiveness and a wagging tail. They don’t hold grudges. They love us unconditionally and move on which is certainly a life lesson we all could be reminded of more often.
4. Acceptance and Tolerance – If you put 10 breeds of all sizes, ages, and colors into a fenced yard, dogs don’t care who you are, where you’ve been, the color of your fur, or how old you are. They only thing they care about is, “who wants to play with me?” Wouldn’t that be nice?
5. Having Fun – Dogs don’t get hung up on the details. Dogs want to play, explore, run, swim, be outside, make friends, and be your friend. And take naps of course
6. The Importance of Family – Dogs are social animals; they want to be full-fledged members of our families. They don’t want to be alone and they cherish the time they spend with you. In fact, if they could sit at the dinner table with us, I’m sure they would welcome that opportunity as well. They appreciate being together as a family and never opt to skip a family gathering or sit in the corner with their faces buried in their phones playing games or on Facebook. Dogs cherish the experience of being a family.
7. Don’t put off what you can do today – Dogs don’t live as long as we do. Their shortened lives, however painful it is when their time comes, remind us to live our lives to the fullest. Take risks, embrace life now, travel, explore, create, and love as if there is no tomorrow. Maybe that’s why dogs don’t hold grudges or take life too seriously. Yes, they are “just” dogs but maybe, just maybe they are on to something.
Are you ready? Roof!