Chris and I were strolling 'round our neighborhood one day last fall when I brought it up. "New research shows that children raised in a home with a dog have reduced risk of anxiety issues," I said.
And that's how it started. Turns out Chris had already been mulling over the idea of a dog, but he'd been waiting to bring it up. There'd been enough other things going on in our lives! But now the subject was open.
For weeks, we talked about what it would mean to get a dog. We talked about other people's pets, family pets from our childhood, how our lifestyle would be affected. We had most of our discussions while walking sidewalks littered with autumn leaves, and it didn't matter how the subject came up, or how good a day I was having--every time we started talking about dogs, tears would start pouring down my face. Every stinking time! It didn't take a psychologist to discern that there was some deep-seated pet-associated childhood trauma locked up in my brain.
Since I'd been delving deep into other painful places for months, I figured I might as well dig in. I unpacked as many old memories as I could. I visited a friend and witnessed what a difference a dog made to her. I talked to my brothers about Max, the family pet for a year or two of my childhood, until Mom had had enough of his misdeeds and had him put to sleep. Eventually I was able to put my finger on the fears I had about adding a pet to our family.
The fears had always been there, but if I'd learned anything from my summer adventures, it was that I can change, and grow, and take risks. That reality can turn out far better than I imagine. That my heart can expand. That relationships can be unpredictable and heartbreaking yet still worth every minute. That I only regret the things I don't try.
The week before Christmas, Chris and I decided to "window-shop" for dogs. The fear still lurked, but by then I was ready to take the plunge. I told him if he thought a pet was a good idea for us, I was in. I'd probably cry, but he should know it was okay.
Daisy came home with us the next day.
|We hadn't even planned on getting a puppy, but that's how it happened.|
The kids were taken completely by surprise.
One was over the moon. One shed tears of sheer shock. One was quietly pleased.
And I surprised myself.
I discovered that a puppy is incredibly grounding. That observing another mammal makes me both grateful every day for being human, and acutely aware of my own needs and limitations as a member of the animal kingdom. Since Daisy arrived, I've spent a lot more time doing nothing. A lot more time playing. A lot more time on the floor. We all spend more time on the floor! A lot of time stroking and hugging and being licked.
Daisy has brought out sides of each of us that weren't exposed before. It's been a delight to watch new aspects of the kids' personalities develop as they play with Daisy and take care of her. She's made a difference in our family's vocabulary and how and where we spend our free time. She makes us laugh. Her affection does us all good.
My beloved grandmother adored dogs and our youngest daughter seemed to inherit her fondness for the species. Still, I didn't anticipate how much I would enjoy having such a loyal and enthusiastic companion, or how much a pet alters social interactions.
|Daisy loves to go along to pick the kids up after school.|
And what is more soothing after a rough day than puppy hugs?
In some way, getting a dog seems to have made us more human. Softer. More humane. More attuned to our senses. And, yes, less anxious, too.