Three years ago we got a dog. The only reason I got this dog was for my kids. Ever since my 14 year old daughter was 3 years old she wanted a dog. Over the years she wrote reports about taking care of a dog. She researched different types of dogs. She even presented us with a proposal that explained all of the reasons that a family should have a dog. She passionately wanted a dog for her entire life. I, however, hoped she would change her mind because I was not an “animal person.” Whenever I thought about having a dog, all I could think about was all of the work it was going to mean for me.
I also didn’t understand the appeal of having a dog. I had many friends and family who had dogs and they loved them as if they were one of their children. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t judge them, but I just couldn’t relate to it. But, as mothers sometimes do, I eventually relented and allowed a dog into our home. I did this for my kids and only my kids, knowing that it was going to be a sacrifice and a nuisance for me.
I’m not going to lie. Having a puppy was as difficult as I thought it would be. Actually, it was harder than I anticipated. In fact the first night we brought her home, before she even crossed the threshold of our house, she jumped out of my arms, ate a cicada on the porch, walked into the house and promptly vomited. Here we go I thought! The things we do for our kids.
Fast forward three years later and I have to say that I am in love with Bijou, our golden retriever. Let me tell you why. This creature has brought so much love and happiness into our home. I’ve become one of “those people” that can’t imagine life without this family member. Dogs seem to know what people need at just the right time. When my 8 year old wants to run in the dogpark with abandon…Bijou runs with her. When my husband has been at his home office desk for 16 hours working non-stop, Bijou comes up to him, puts her head on his lap and forces him to take a much needed break. When my teenager, filled with all the angst and emotion that comes with this turbulent time, needs a friend to “talk to”, Bijou snuggles with her in her bed and listens to all the injustices that high school provides.
And then there is me. When my girls are fighting with each other, my teenager is not speaking to me, or my husband is so wrapped up in his job or following politics that he forgets to talk to me or ask me to go somewhere with him, Bijou is there. When I take a two mile walk with her, she lets me pretend I am Joanna Gaines from “Fixer Upper” and listens to my ideas about how I would update all the houses on our route. She doesn’t mind if I’ve gained a few pounds or don’t wear makeup. I don’t feel judged by her when I’ve worn the same yoga pants for three days. In fact she rather likes it because she likely finds some peanut butter on them she can lick off. When I ask my family if they would like to go for a walk with me, she is the only one that loses her ever-loving mind by running around in circles, jumping up and down, and running to the door. She fully supports me when I want to take one of my beloved naps and doesn’t make me feel like I should be cleaning or cooking something instead. In fact, in a show of solidarity, she naps right there with me. She doesn’t ask me for anything or expect anything from me other than love. I think the great essayist Nora Ephron said it best when she stated:
“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”
I worry about her, like I do the rest of my family. She IS my family. She starts every day with enthusiasm and hope. She likes to run and play and she knows when she needs to rest. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full. She doesn’t beat herself up when she does something stupid or silly. She seeks atonement when she does something she shouldn’t do. She loves everyone equally regardless of race, gender, political affiliation or socio-economic background (except for squirrels…she’s not a fan of squirrels). In other words, she shows by her canine example how all humans should act. I originally got this dog for my kids, and their lives have been better for it. But somewhere along the way I fell in love with her myself. Why? Because she is simply the best “person” I know.