Ewan and Otley looking out at our local pond, June 2012
Welcome to the July edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Pets and children.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing their thoughts and experiences with pets and children! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
A game of fetch
My toddler son squeals with delight as his two favourite dogs wildly whirl round him and away, racing blissfully together at top speed around the pond. Ewan, a twinkle in his eye, shouts at the top of his lungs ‘Otley!’, ‘Eva!’ as he throws a stick for them, commanding them to play fetch. He attempts to chase after them, unperturbed by their agility and speed. This is a typical walk for my son, who absolutely adores dogs.
A member of the family
Without fail, whenever I tell Ewan his grandparents are visiting, he reminds me that we shall also be seeing their blue merle Border Collie dog, Otley, as important a member of the family as the people in it. From the moment Ewan became aware of his surroundings, he has interacted with my parent’s dog, stroking him, throwing balls and sticks for him, chasing him, going on walks with him and calling him. He has a similar relationship with our neighbour’s dog, a Labradoodle called Eva. Almost every day he will come into contact with one or both of these dogs, which undoubtedly adds joy to my son’s life, as well as offering him lessons in how to care for another living being.
A childhood of pets
I have always been an animal lover. As a child I joined the RSPCA’s children’s group ‘Animal Action’, sending in pictures of my various pets to their magazine. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by pets, owning a rabbit, three guinea pigs, two gerbils and a series of cats, but was desperate to own a dog, dreaming about the ways I would take him for walks, pet and train him. At the age of fourteen my parents bought Oscar, an eight week old blue merle border collie, the predecessor of Otley. He soon became an integral member of our family, a beautiful, sensitive and very much loved family pet who lived for fourteen years.
I look back fondly at all those happy years growing up with pets. However, they brought so much more than happiness, teaching me to love and care for other living creatures, to appreciate and respond to the needs of animals and of humans. Not only that, I learnt the value of living with a creature who could not talk, but communicated in other ways; for instance, whenever I was upset Oscar senses this, nuzzling up to me, offering quiet, loving support by simply being present. For a teenager growing up in an often bewildering world, he offered an irreplaceable love and loyalty no human could give.
My love of going for walks developed because of Oscar, as I discovered great value in stretching my legs, feeling the fresh air and being surrounded by nature. At the age of twenty-eight, on his death, I felt the first true profound loss in my life, mourning him as I would any member of my family. That was perhaps the deepest, hardest lesson I had to learn, that of inescapable death.
The benefits of dog ownership
My personal experience of dog ownership equates with many research studies which indicate the benefits of dog ownership for children. For instance, psychologists at Oregon State University discovered that when children look after a puppy improve their social skills, including sharing, co-operating and empathising with others. See HEALTH; Children and Their Pets: Unexpected Psychological Benefits
Countless other studies illustrate the link between periods spent with dogs and enhanced self esteem, as well as helping children who are lonely or suffering emotional neglect. Indeed, dogs and other animals are increasingly being used in therapy sessions with children, to aid their recovery from abuse and/or trauma. I am a great advocate of the healing, restorative power of animals and nature; simply stroking Otley instantly calms me down, his soft fur warm and comforting to the touch, his patient eyes accepting and loving.
A shared love of the outdoors
My husband and I met at university whilst pursuing our mutual hobby, mountaineering. As outdoor enthusiasts and exercise fanatics, we have spent many years walking, running and climbing together. Starting a family has in no way hindered our shared interests; from a small baby Ewan has accompanied us on long country walks, runs in the baby jogger and trips to the mountains, content to fit into our timetable as long as he has access to Mummy milk. At the age of two Ewan will happily be carried in the toddler sling for hours at a stretch, enjoying being snuggled up close to Mummy, as well as periods walking as well. If Otley or Eva accompanies us he is even happier, content to play with them or watch them racing around the countryside.
Living a settled, happy existence in a village in Derbyshire, England, with countryside right on our doorstep and Ewan a thriving two year old well socialised with dogs, the time has come for us to add to our family by owning our own dog. We are collecting our yellow Labrador puppy next month; right now he is still with his mother Maddie, and his brothers and sister, in a nearby village, growing more each day. Life will indeed become more complicated as we take on yet more responsibility, but we feel ready for this next stage in our lives, prepared for the challenge and the pleasure dog ownership will bring, as well as how it will change our lives. Being outdoor and animal lovers, getting a dog to share this love makes sense!
To go for walks with our own dog in our beautiful countryside, for Ewan to be brought up with a family dog as well as his grandparents and neighbours dogs, to offer him the valuable gift of owning a dog, seeing it develop from a puppy into an adult and old age as he grows up himself, are some of the many reasons we have taken this important decision. We very much look forward to what the future holds, with a growing boy and dog at our side!
Watch this space for puppy and toddler tales from mid August!
Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- A Pet’s Role in the Home School — If a house isn’t a home without a pet, how can you imagine homeschooling without one? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses the many benefits of home schooling with pets. .
- Toddlers and Whiskers, Co-existing as One — Mama Duck at Quacks and Waddles explains how to introduce new pets to toddlers and babies
- Children and the Death of a Pet — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama offers suggestions on how to help children work through the loss of a pet. She includes a variety of books to support both parents and children during this tender time.
- 10 Reasons to Be a Foster Family for a Pet in Need — Christy from Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered gives her top 10 reasons to consider fostering a pet until a forever home can be found.
- Preparing Dogs for New Baby — Jennifer from Mother of the Pack gives advice to new parents for preparing their dog(s) for a baby
- Children, Pets and Death — Lauren at Hobo Mama has walked with her son through the untimely death of their cat, a fascinating and troubling journey.
- The Health Benefits of Having Pets — Laura from Authentic Parenting tells us exactly why having pets is beneficial to your child’s health.
- Romeo, My Healing Dog — Bianca at the Pierogie Mama writes about her loveable old dog, Romeo, who at one point she had to give away but a few years later he was placed back in her life when she least expected it.
- 6 Tips to Help a Child That is Afraid of Dogs – Ariadne at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing helpful tips and using play to help children overcome a fear of dogs.
- The Value of Pets – Caroline from Stone Age Parenting writes about how pets have brought so much more than happiness to her life and how she has learned to appreciate and respond to the needs of animals and of humans.