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To Dog or not to Dog?

December 14, 2015 | By: Judith

Yesterday, I attended this informal forum that offered interactive, spontaneous communication. Groups where people were encouraged to talk, share and listen.

Sounds simple right?

My group offered both variety in age, culture, a unique group that was divided evenly in both male and female. Our topic. ‘Are animals important to the growth and development of youth? Do children who grow up with pets have an edge on children who have never owned a pet?’

I loved this subject <3

Last week I took a picture of my own child sleeping with his dog and then realized that I had exactly the same shot that was taken three years ago, when they were both so much younger. It was a real AHA moment. Dogs teach, my son who has a disability has learned nurturing skills, as well as empathy, patience and a more caring attitude. I know, because I witness it every day.

I was bouncing in my seat, like a child who wants the teacher to ask them to answer.. PICK ME PICK ME!

No they did not pick me to start the conversation. Actually they picked someone who had never owned a pet, not in their childhood or adult life. ‘NO. I believe that animals are animals and they need to be kept separated from humans.’

What? Really? I think my mouth must have dropped open like a fish out of water when I heard those words. Studies have shown that children with pets have a higher self-esteem, they learn social skills and develop a sense of caring and love.

I whipped out the picture on my phone.

Seeing is believing! Here in my hands was a shot that captured the concept of bonding and support between pets and their young owners. Three years later and my two favorite beings were still sleeping in the same position; their connection has only deepened with time. Now when my son is starting to stress or feel anxious the dog climbs on him and they cuddle, clear evidence of non-verbal communication.

Research shows families spend a lot more time interacting after the acquisition of a pet. You talk, laugh and play with this new little introduction into the family. We always include the dog in our family meetings; discussions are fun and interactive with lots of petting and giggles.

I mean let’s face it, pets provide a focus for fun activities and friendly conversation.

I was so lost in thought that the words, ‘Pets fill the home with bacteria.’ Was all it took to jumpstart my concentration. The conversation took a deeper twist when the group started discussing certain microbial classes that cause disease in humans.

I just stared back at the picture in my hands.

There is a certain amount of relaxation and relief from stress provided by animal companionship, especially when since we got our dog, our son slept through the night. SLEPT through the night. Yeah, you read it right. Who cares about the microbial classes of disease?

I was sleeping and that was AMAZING. I thought to myself. It is funny how simple something like sleep can mean to someone who has none for over 9 years.

All around me I heard snippets of conversations, the science and facts, weaving in and out between the pro’s and con’s of latest data and research.

I realized that first: Perhaps these informal forums are not my cup of tea.

Everyone had started downloading scientific papers on their phones and quoting statistics. Trying to outdo each other with quotes and direct connections. While all I wanted to do was show them this happy healthy relationship that is blooming between my son and his dog. A real life story of two best friends.

Second: The relationship between children and their pets is special and comforting, and brings with it many benefits for the child's development. YEAH, maybe children who grow up with pets do have an edge!

-Judith