Our family dog is 17 years old. Spy was born in 1998. For most of these years, she was just my dog. She came and went with me. I took care of her. We were a two-person pack. I’ve lived with her longer than I lived with either of my parents. She knew my brother, father, and grandmother, all who have since passed. In the relentless time-lapse stream of life, Spy has been constant.
But she’s no longer just my dog – now she’s a family dog. I met my partner and her daughter three years ago. At first, the kid was interested in Spy, but not crazy about her. Spy was totally indifferent in return.
It’s remarkable to see the bond that’s grown between them over the past three years. Every morning the kid runs downstairs to greet Spy with a pat on her head. She’s mindful about not giving Spy too many treats, makes sure her fan in on, and almost never complains when it’s time to take her on a walk. Those slow, chatter-filled walks make my morning.
Having a dog has helped the kid learn about responsibility and consideration. It’s gut-wrenching to know that someday Spy will force us parents to teach our kid about loss and mourning. (I can’t express how I dread that day – for myself and for the kid. Reading this helps.)
It’s a bit of a cliché that getting a pet for a kid is one of the best things you can do for them. But for our dog, the reverse is also true: getting a kid was one of the best things I could do for her.
The kid keeps our old dog healthy – moving around more than she otherwise might, keeping her interest and attention, interacting with her even when she’s grumpy and achy. I’m pretty sure that the extra attention has given our dog extra years, and youth-by-association.
It’s wonderful for a family to have a dog. And it’s wonderful for a dog to have a family.