I was sad. I was sad because I knew the therapist was right. A dog would be perfect for my little dude. I had read a few studies on animal companions for kiddos with language difficulty and social anxiety. The connection between a struggling child and a dog can build social confidence, self-esteem and give them the nerve to break out of their shell. I'm no behavioral scientist (Are there "behavioral scientists"? Is that thing?) but if I had to guess, I'd say the unconditional love offered by a pet clearly and without subtext tells the child that they are deserving of love and respect. No messy emotions or jumbles of WORDS that make human-human relationships so flarping confusing.
A dog forgives instantly. A dog only wants your love - and maybe your food. Nothing more. And most importantly for kids like Pants, a dog doesn't try and have painfully long and meaningful conversations with you (my bad, dude) or demand eye contact. They just lick your face and snuggle.
So while our move out here to our new house a year and half ago, was abrupt, unexpected and a totally scary for us, it ended up being the best move we could have made. Not just because we got him that dog. But man, it sure did help.
Gloria Anne Puppy Pants earns her food and lodging every day by working her job description...
When they are sick, she is next to them.
When they cry, she comes.
When I have committed an egregious error in parenting, she is there to listen to them plead their case against me.
When it is too scary to sleep alone, she is there to protect them.
When the morning air is too cold, she allows them to wiggle their cold feet under her warm body.
She doesn't complain when Plum uses her as a canvas or brushes her ears.
She is always up for a snowball fight.
She saves our lives every singe day by alerting us of imminent threats like mailmen, garbage trucks, children playing in their own yards and the coming and goings of the little old lady who lives across the street.
But my favorite of Gloria's jobs occurred when Pants experienced a particularly bad day and was struggling to regulate. No one trained her to do it. It was a hard day and no amount of anything from me was bringing my boy back from the edge. So with gentle nudges and few barks in his direction Gloria coaxed him upstairs and onto the bed and that's when she simply covered his eyes. And it was over.
In that moment the world fell away and it was just the two of them.
When I look back on the year and half since the move to our new town, I can't help but notice how many enormous leaps Pants has made verbally, emotionally, self-regulatory and socially. I know that his preschool teachers, therapists, Kindergarten teacher, church community and maybe even Brandon and I have had some small hand in some small bit of it. But then I catch these two together, like this, and I know that two members of this family really deserve those bragging rights.
It was most certainly the work of a boy and his dog.