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Expanding Your Family, Four Legs at a Time

 

“The first few weeks are the hardest. Prepare yourself for interrupted sleep. Anticipate separation anxiety and seek out opportunities for socialization. Be inclusive of older siblings, engaging them in the process while helping them transition.”

Adding-Dog-to-FamilyThese words of advice would lead one to think that bringing home a puppy was much like welcoming a child. While it’s similar, it is not the same, and it can be a surrendering and selfless act of love for the whole family.

“Kids need animals in their lives,” says Carie Peterson, Adoption Manager, Humane Society of Tampa Bay. “Not only does it teach responsibility but the child can have a best friend to play with, talk to, love and feel love back.” She advises parents to involve children in every aspect of adoption. From meeting the potential dog affirming compatibility to training at home, all family members should be included.

My daughter is “about to be 5” (so she has told me for months) and my son is 3. My husband and I recently popped the bubbly and celebrated having a diaper-free, full-night-sleep kind of home. And then, in a moment of pure sanity, we decided it was time to add to our family again – this time with a dog.

As an initial step, we focused on socializing our children around dogs as well as dog-sitting for friends. This informed our decision and prepared us for the dog days ahead. When the time came, we shared the news with family and friends. There was no shower or gender reveal, just an announcement: “We’re getting a dog—a golden retriever.”

Adding-Dog-to-FamilyThe response was nonchalant and positive, but nevertheless cautionary. We proceeded knowingly and realized the benefits far outweigh the challenges. The threat of a sleepless night was not a deterrent. Even when our children began sleeping through the night, REM sleep was a dream of the past. After toilet training toddlers, a pooper-scooper seemed more hygienic. And now, our dog is a brother to our son and a loyal friend to our daughter, another excited face running to greet my husband at the door and a companion to me throughout the day. Cubby completes our family and shapes us as much as we impress upon him. And for that I will gladly let him chew my favorite pair of shoes.

 

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