Why Pets Are Great Practice for Parenting
Written by: Stefano Ceroni
Seeing as how Valentine’s Day is just a couple days away, I felt inspired to write about a topic that is very near and dear to my Wife’s heart…animals.
You see, my Wife grew up in a home where there was never any shortage of furry and fluffy family friends to keep her company. In fact, she had all types of different pets growing up. She’s had dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, fish, baby chickens, etc., etc. You name it; she’s taken care of it.
Me, on the other hand…I never had any pets growing up…well, aside from the occasional goldfish that I would catch during summer camp.
So, when my Wife decided to leave her home here in Phoenix to go to law school in New York, she left behind not only her parents, brother and close friends, but also her beloved pets.
Anyway, after going on a few dates with my Wife during our first year of law school together, I immediately began to realize that she was the type of person who never ran out of room in her heart to take care of someone or something. It was just her nature. She could never have too many kids or too many close friends or, of course, too many pets. My Wife knew that no matter what the circumstance, she could always give just a little bit more of herself to make life better for someone else. Without someone or something to take care of, my Wife’s heart was simply not whole.
So, almost four years ago to the date, I decided to buy my Wife a puppy for our very first Valentine’s Day. Romantic, right??? I mean, there I was, her knight in shining armor, giving her a gift like no other…a living, breathing, ridiculously cute little puppy to cure her homesickness and make her heart complete.
She loved it!!!
And Puppy Makes Three!
Instantaneously, my Wife began to love this dog like they had been destined to be together forever. If it were up to her, the dog would have never left her side. She would have taken the dog to every class and every lecture that she attended. It would go with us in the car, go with us on vacation, and even go with us to bed. They were inseparable.
Boy, did I not know what I was getting myself into!
Of course, I was happy she liked the present. But wow! I totally underestimated just how much I was going to have to change in order to accept the new relationship that had started between my Wife and the dog. Sure, I was still number 1…but that dog, it was a real close number 2. And sometimes, depending on how well I behaved, I would momentarily get dropped out of the lead position.
What had I done to myself?
To make things worse, I didn’t know what the heck to do with this little thing when my Wife had class and I was stuck home alone with the dog. I mean sure, it was cute and all, but do you know just how much work is involved in taking care of a puppy?
Puppies Are Hard Work
They chew everything, pee every 5 seconds, poop under your bed, knock over anything that is within their reach, puke on the carpet, scream all night long, steal your toilet paper and continuously try to run away from you as if you want to be playing chase in your 500 sq. apt with your landlord screaming at you from below.
I was not prepared for this!
How could I be? I had never had a pet that didn’t come with a self-enclosed tank and a mini-castle. All I ever had to do was pop three shakes of fish food into the top of the tank every night and call it a day. I was grossly underqualified to be taking care of anything that had legs, especially a mini-greyhound puppy that could out-run Usain Bolt by the time he was 3 months old.
How Can Anyone Not Love Puppies?
Eventually, however, I started to change. I started to see just how loyal and loving our little 12lb. bulldozer could be. I started to understand that our little puppy needed us; he needed our love, our comfort, our training and, of course, our undivided attention. And, in return, he gave us his unconditional love. I started to see why my Wife loved animals and why she could never live without them.
Four years later, and two dogs later, my Wife and I are thankfully still together, happier than we have ever been.
And, with three dogs already accounted for, the next little one in our family will likely be someone who shares a little bit more of our resemblance. Yes, we will be nervous whenever we decide to start having kids, as it will be a first for both of us. However, our experiences with raising three dogs has, at least in my opinion, made the prospect of parenthood a little easier to swallow.
Puppies and Parenting
Because, having pets has not only taught us how to manage the stress of taking care of something that cannot take care of itself, but it has also helped us realize what our roles will be once we start parenting kids of our own.
For example, I now know that I will have to be the disciplinarian and the bad guy when it comes to raising our kids. I will be the one to say “no” and I will be the one to strictly enforce our rules and boundaries. On the other hand, my Wife will be the one who will teach them about forgiveness, comfort them when they are sad and never leave their side when they are sick. Also, she will be much better at dealing with the diapers…although I am sure I won’t be able to escape that responsibility too easily.
You see, raising dogs together has taught us a little bit about parenting. It has revealed to us what roles we struggle with and what roles we embrace. It has put us in stressful situations and taught us how to overcome them. It has made us work better as a team and improve on our weaknesses. It has helped us understand each other better and respect each other more.
For example, my Wife now realizes that sometimes having the dogs around us twenty-four seven does not allow me to have the attention that I need from her as her Husband. So, she has compromised, and has become more willing to lock the dogs outside in our yard so that we can spend individual quality time together.
In return, I have become more lenient and willing to allow our house to become more dog friendly. We have dog beds in our living room and food bowls in our kitchen. The dogs lay on our mattresses, jump on our couches and eat off our plates. Our backyard is full of dead grass, dog poop and holes.
But, I wouldn’t change a thing. Our dogs make my Wife happy, and don’t tell her this, but they make me happy, too.
Knowing this, knowing that my Wife and I can work together and compromise for the betterment of each other’s happiness is a profound thing. It provides me with confidence that when we do have children, although they may test us, they will never break us.
Sadly, as a divorce attorney, I see just how much kids can change the dynamic of a once successful marriage. Kids, love them or not, are a lot of work. This will never change. Unfortunately, some people are not suited to be handling this type of work together. Their individual personalities clash so much that parenting kids together ultimately destroys their marriage.
So, perhaps, before you decide to take the leap of faith and begin a family of your own, consider raising a pet together. You never know, it may tell you a lot about the other person in your life that you may otherwise not have found out until it was too late.
Happy Valentine’s Day!