When I was born my mum and dad had a two year old dog called Abbey. She was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (yes, that dog you always see in the news for the wrong reasons). My parents said as soon they brought me home from the hospital she never left my side. There aren’t many photos of me without Abbey being somewhere in the picture and I used to watch TV sat on the floor leaning against her and we’d sit like that for ages. I used to crawl into her bed and find it hilarious and Abbey just let me, she accepted me into her pack straight away.
I was 12 and she was 14 years old when she passed away and I was devastated. I even repressed the memories I was that heartbroken, I remember my mum and dad telling me she had gone but then I don’t remember afterwards, even days maybe weeks after. That’s how heartbroken I was, I’m not sure if I knew that’s what I was feeling at the time. I just know that I understood about death so I knew that I wasn’t going to see her anymore and I felt incredibly sad about that.
My parents had another Stafforshire Bull Terrier named Angel when I went to high school and she saw me through pubity, exams and boys. If I came home from school upset it was Angel I flung myself at for a big hug and sloppy kisses. We lost Angel when I was five months pregnant which was an upsetting thing to go through but she even saw me through that first horrible trimester because I stayed back at my parents for two weeks, I was that ill! I swear dogs have magical healing powers that can instantly make you feel better. Our dog now can sense if a single tear rolls down your cheek even if you haven’t made a murmur and comes over and nudges your hand, as if to say “it’s okay.”
Of course I want to shield my little girl away from any pain or hurt that I can so you’re probably thinking “well why would you put her through the heartbreak of losing a family pet then?” And even though I had to go through all of that I still had the best of times with Abbey and Angel, they were my best friends growing up and it has made me the huge animal lover that I am today and I wouldn’t want to change that.
I think owning a family pet, be it any kind of pet, when you have young children can teach them compassion and empathy to animals and even others. Once they’re old enough if you involve them in feeding, walking, bathing and cleaning up after a pet, you’re teaching them responsibility, they’re learning all of the time.
Owning a dog also gets you all out of the house and into the fresh air because they need regular walks, which we all know is healthy for us humans as well but it also provides us with something to do as a family and brings us closer. Even now, at the age of one, Ivy never wants to be inside of the house no matter what the weather is like! They also provide a good source of entertainment because we all know pets can be hilariously daft.
We own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (seeing a theme here?) named Star. I was originally gifted her puppy, Finley when I turned 21 but when I moved out of the house, it wouldn’t have been fair to him to take him from his home and what he was used to. I ended up taking in Star when I moved into my first home, a one bed flat. She was my little shadow and still is to this day. When we found out I was pregnant we didn’t know how she would react because she’s always had me to herself and any kind of dog can be jealous and protective.
I read article after article on how to introduce your baby to your dog but I knew that deep down it was up to me to reassure Star but to also keep my baby safe. When I was pregnant and we were decorating the nursery I never shut Star out, she was right there with us to see the changes. When we brought Ivy home from the hospital I made a fuss of Star just as much as Ivy. When I was feeding Ivy downstairs she would have the spot right next to me on the couch or when I was feeding Ivy upstairs she would have the spot on the footstool of the feeding chair. She was always there and even now when it’s Ivy’s bedtime, Star stays with us while I bath her and comes into the room while I dress her and read her a bedtime story and put her down for the night.
Ivy finds Star hilarious, especially when she goes in for big sloppy kisses, and listening to that belly laugh brings me so much joy and it’s all thanks to Star. I loved having my four legged best friends growing up and I think my little girl is incredibly lucky that she gets to experience this kind of love for an animal as well. When she’s old enough to look back on her childhood then she’ll have lots of happy memories and stories to tell with her furry friends.
Let me know what kind of pets you have and how you think they help your child(ren) to grow in the comments down below.