I am a dog's human for the first time. At almost 40 years old. I can only regret that it didn't happen sooner. And that I didn't give in to all of our daughter's pleas over the last 6-7 years. The pandemic hit though and we finally matured to this idea. We got Chara, a Labrador-like puppy, when she was only 45 days old. Chara brought our daughter (12 then) out of isolation and gave her the opportunity to connect in such a meaningful way with another living being, to care for it, to enjoy the pure happiness it gave her. The same goes for all of us in the family.
Chara is already 3 years old. She has changed our lives immensely in the last 3 years and made me realize exactly how valuable it is to have a dog in the family. Chara makes me go out early in the morning in the cold, rain, snow. I didn't think it was possible (I hate being cold), but these morning walks make the start of my day so much more enjoyable. I get exercise, interact with other dog owners in the park, learn interesting things.
I can see the kids getting very excited about it, taking responsibility too. They way that a dog welcomes you at home, it's amazing. There have been times when, after a hard day at the office, I've just taken her for a walk to clear my mind. That emotional support that Chara gives is irreplaceable. And even before I had a dog I was very open to clients bringing their dogs into my office during sessions, but since having her I even recommend it whenever possible. I can not stress enough on the fact that the dog is a full member of the family. I even now position them on the genogram that invariably accompanies the therapy process. I have changed along the way. She is like our third child. Fortunately, no matter how much she grows, she will still be a child.
There are a number of studies that show that a dog helps the immune system function better, reduces stress, increases the release of happiness hormones. We feel so connected to her that it hurts when she hurts. We rejoice when she is happy, reassure her when she is scared. Every single emotion is valid. She learns so fast and is so social that there is no way a person around her could be anti-social. Any fears are easier to experience when you have a dog by your side. The presence of a dog helps when a child has a fear of dogs in general. Our daughter was young when, for some unknown reason, she began to show fear when she saw a dog. Then her grandparents started raising a dog, who is still a member of the family to this day. Through him she was able to overcome her fear.
One of the first questions my son asked when they saw the surprise dog was, "How many years will she live?" We are all aware that we have limited years with her and that her loss will someday bring great pain. But we will have those precious years with Chara and we can enjoy them. She teaches us unconditional love every day.
If you are wondering whether to get a dog into your family, wait until you feel ready to do so. The thought of having Chara was maturing for quite some time. First we were lucky enough to be able to watch our friend's dog (Jack) when she was out of town. That way the kids felt that having a dog was a responsibility - walks, food, play, attention, care. But most of all, they felt how innocent, spontaneous, sincere this creature is. Jack was instrumental in our decision to get our Chara, for which we thank him! So, after being an on-demand foster family, we became a permanent family to a wonderful dog who has found her forever home. I wish it to everyone!