Q: Dear BooneDogs: My name is Jordan. I am 10 years old. I told my mom and dad that the only thing I want for my birthday is a dog. I’m a pretty good kid, I help take care of my little sister, I clean my room, I get good grades, and I have never been in a fistfight. Can you tell my parents I should have a dog? Thank you!
A: Dear Jordan:
While I believe that almost everyone should have a dog, or maybe even two or three, the fact is that some people just don’t have a lifestyle conducive to raising a dog. If your parents work long hours, or if your family rents a home where pets are not allowed, or if someone in your home has allergies to pets, a dog may not be the best choice for your family. Raising a dog requires a lot of work, time, money and dedication, and although it sounds like you really are a great kid, maybe your parents just feel like having a dog requires more than you or they can take on right now.
When I was 10, I also asked my parents for a dog. I wanted a collie so badly that my heart ached at times, especially when I would watch “Lassie” or would see a collie at the vet’s office or out for a walk with its owner.
So I begged, pleaded, cleaned my room, did the dishes, worked hard in school and did just about everything else I could think of that would convince my parents I was indeed ready for a dog. But two years passed, and all the begging and pleading and chores in the world still didn’t get me a dog.
But finally, the day arrived, a day that literally changed my life. My parents surprised me on our way to camp by stopping at a nearby farm that also raised — you guessed it — collies! There was only one puppy left. She was too big for her breed, marked all wrong, goofy and gangly, and to be honest, the breeders should probably have never been involved in the collie breeding business. But there she was. And I thought she was perfect.
We took her home and named her Sunshine. Sunny had numerous health issues, so we definitely learned our lesson about buying puppies from backyard breeders. But Sunny and I had 12 great years together. My parents made me take her through obedience training, which started my life-long passion for training dogs. We grew together, explored together, made friends together.
It wasn’t always easy, and yes, my parents often had to remind me to feed Sunny, brush Sunny, walk Sunny, clean up after Sunny, but thanks to that sweet, giant, gentle collie, I learned many valuable lessons about life that still stick with me today.
So, I guess the moral to my story, Jordan, is that a dog can be a great companion, and raising a dog can be a very rewarding experience that can teach you many valuable lessons about responsibility and loyalty that can one day help you in other areas of life, as well. But if it’s not the right time yet, or if there are issues that prevent your family from owning a dog right now, try to be patient and understand that your parents want only what is best for you.
You may be ready, or at least think you’re ready for a dog, but maybe your parents understand things about owning a dog that you might not know yet. If a few years go by and you still want one, don’t give up, because I have a feeling that you will one day have a dog.
In the meantime, read everything you can about different dog breeds, about training and dog behavior. Watch TV shows, like “The Dog Whisperer,” and try to learn some things that will help you be a great dog owner.
Volunteer at your local shelter. I started doing that at your age, and I have to tell you that I learned more about dogs from being an animal shelter volunteer than I did in any of my formal dog training and behavior classes. And just in case they need just a little encouragement, here is something you can share with your parents that may convince them that there are lots of good reasons for letting you have a dog, or at least some type of pet.
Jordan, I hope this list of benefits that pets provide for kids, written by Robin Elton of Eco Child’s Play, will one day help you in your quest for a dog, whether it happens now or in the future.
Benefits of Pets for Children
- Children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma.
- Playing with dogs may help lower blood pressure.
- Kids with pets get outside more — to go for walks, run and play — and enjoy all the associated health benefits.
- Pet owners require fewer doctor’s visits.
- Emerging readers often feel more comfortable reading aloud to a pet.
- Nurturing a pet is an acceptable way for boys to practice being caregivers.
- Feeding and caring for a pet encourages childhood responsibility.
- Children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills and self-esteem.
- Sharing the love and care of a family pet forges an additional common bond among siblings.
- Pets offer security and stability. Nearly 70 percent of children confide in their pets, confident their secrets will not be betrayed.
- Cuddling a pet reduces stress, loneliness and anxiety.
- Pets provide a natural gateway into the animal kingdom. Love for one’s pet as a child often translates into an adult belief that the relationship between humans and animals is one of mutual support.
BooneDogs is a weekly column by Melissa Bahleda, certified canine behavior counselor and founder of PARTNERS! Canines, a Boone-based nonprofit shelter dog rescue organization.