Dear Dr. Forsythe: Now that school has begun, my husband and I are having the discussion about whether or not to get our two children a dog (again). We have had this same "talk" for the past three years. The kids beg and beg their father, and he is almost ready to give in, but my common sense takes over and I explain to everyone that once we get a dog, the stress we will have is going to be huge. We finally decided to ask your advice, since the kids are in middle school now. What do you think about introducing a dog into an already chaotic family unit?
Crazy but happy
Dear Crazy: Yours seems to be a crazy, happy, busy family, always on the move. I remember when my (ex) wife an I were scrambling around with our two children and running endlessly to little league and ballet and life seemed to be in a constant state of bedlam. Other than my four years while I was a veterinary student at Purdue, those years while the children were growing up and running us around non-stop most certainly will turn out to have been the happiest of my entire life.
But one constant throughout all of those years in our children's lives was the magical presence of our pet Bulldog, Mrs. Butterworth. She was sweet, loving, doting white dog with a little fawn coloring on her side and on one ear and just on her little tail. She was a wonderful companion to my children Sigrid and Magnus while they grew up. Not only did she not cause any mess or hassle or tie us down, we could take her anywhere. She provided love and security and immeasurable delights for the entire family for 14 years. She taught us all about unconditional love, how brave in the face of physical adversity, and was an excellent example of a loving and nurturing mother when she had a litter. As a family, Mrs. Butterworth reminded us about the preciousness of good food, fresh air, the joy of simply taking a nice walk, and how wonderful it can feel to enjoy something as basic as a good nap.
Dear lady, I hope you can see that a pet gives so much more than you will ever need to give back. The human animal bond is a treasure. My memory of baby Butterworth romping with my baby daughter out in her sandbox in our little house on Steely Street behind Purdue University 20 years ago brings tears of joy to my eyes. They are tears of appreciation and happiness that we had such a fantastic family pet that provided so many excellent moments and memories.
Hopefully you will see the value in incorporating a dog or cat into your household and benefiting from the joy this will give your kids. Finding the right one is important, and having support and cooperation in the care and feeding is also paramount. When this relationship develops for your family, I would bet my bottom dollar that, like me, you will look back later on in your life and agree to yourself that you could never have imagined family life without the family pet.
Dr. Vallard Forsythe owns the Broadway Veterinary Hospital and Wellness Center, 735 Broadway in Sonoma. 707.938.4536.