Perfecting Parenting: Another Chance Please?

As my family attempts to adopt a dog, I have been forced to consider my skills as both a dog owner and a parent.

I am ready for the pitter patter of little feet to scurry across my floor again. My children are growing up. Although my ten year old still loves my lap, I can no longer see the TV over her head.  My seven year old prefers a quick hug and kiss to my lap.  My youngest just turned four, and still loves to snuggle, but only when he isn’t angry—which isn't often.

However, my next pitter patter will have four legs instead of two. I want a dog. A dog that will love and kiss and cuddle without attitude.

She won’t complain about the dinner menu.  She will be ecstatic when I suggest we hike, which is not the reaction I currently elicit. And she won’t block my view of the TV when she takes her rightful place on my lap.

But things have changed quite drastically since last we adopted a dog in 1997 when a simple call to area shelters landed us with a golden retriever named Lainey. No questions asked. We drove away with her the same day. 

Thirteen years later, I find myself trolling the internet for the perfect pooch. Hundreds of pictures of wide eyed furry faces pleading with me to take them home. How to choose?

I carefully peruse doggie bios. Unlike our last adoption this one comes with children attached, so I need to consider size, breed, and temperament. A unique opportunity and something I didn’t get to do when I had my kids.

But since I began this process I have realized it is not enough for me to choose a dog, the dog has to choose me. Whenever I inquire about a potential pooch I get the distinct impression that my ability to be a dog parent is being scrutinized.  

I am being vetted (no pun intended) with extensive applications by various rescue agencies as they try to determine whether or not we are fit to own a dog.  At first, I was indignant.  I have three children; I kept my golden fed and clean and loved for more than a decade.

But then I thought a little more.

Based on the behavior of our last dog, maybe we are not suitable pet owners. Lainey was rude. She had no respect for personal space. She jumped on visitors, unable to control her love.

And for that matter, what about my children? The last time we adopted a dog we had no kids. We were naïve. We thought we’d be naturals at parenting dogs and kids.  

But our children, like Lainey before them, ignore basic commands like, “Down!” (Climb off the countertop or you will break your neck) or “Off!” (This refers to whatever screen we are trying to get them to shut down).  

So as I answer these application questions, my self doubt as a parent and pet owner grows.

How do you break up dog fights? I have never had to break up a dog fight.  My dog was submissive. However, my four year old is not submissive. He often growls and bares his teeth. Once, he bit his brother. A firm “No!” and a long time out seemed to help.

Under what circumstances would you give up a dog? I would say only if the dog bit one of us when he was unprovoked. Than again, my four year old bit his brother unprovoked and I didn’t give him away. So I am not really sure.

 Will you bring your dog to obedience class? Absolutely! I plan on bringing the whole family. I hope to be the proud Mama watching all four (children and dog) earn diplomas on graduation day.

 What training worked with your last dog? What would you like to change?  I might need to change everything.  Well, not everything. Lainey was kind, like my son. She was affectionate and accepting of people, like my daughter. And she had an unbelievable zest for life, like my youngest. (The biter).

Of course I’d like to believe that these qualities were part of my stellar ability to shape the behavior of a dog or a child. But I know better. The dog had a genetic predisposition for her qualities, as do my kids.

So it all goes back to the training. Persistence and repetition yields obedience and good manners in both kids and dogs. A few thousand more recitations of “No!” “Off” and Down” may do the trick, and even if its too late for my kids, I know I can  if I can do it with another dog.  If I prove that I am capable of this, maybe some shelter will allow me to hear pitter patter of a four legged friend in my home again.

So far, I haven’t heard from anyone.






Nelson Salazar April 11, 2011 at 09:29 PM
After raising two standard poodles to the age of fourteen and just recently losing one to cancer we adopted a fabulous mix breed at Northshore Animal League (love this place!). It is absolutely much harder to train a puppy 14 years later (now we have 4 kids). I know it will be worth all the effort. Good Luck!


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