Do you recognise this from the advertising campaign about dogs?

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas?

A dog needs: A home, caring for, affection, nurturing, training, protecting, food, water, insurance, vaccinations, worming, flea treatment, bathing, dental care, toys, bedding, blankets, connection, safety, consistency, reliability, consideration, for its whole life (average maximum 20 years).

Think about how your life can change in 20 years, the different stages of your life and what might happen in that time – going on holiday, weekends away, births, marriage, divorce, retirement, death, illness, money challenges. 

Life events will happen – considering how your dog will be impacted by life events and what support, planning  and information you will need and how easy it is for you to access those now will give you an indication of how hard that all feels.

Thinking about all of that can feel stressful. But, you can put it out of your mind, these challenging situations might not ever happen… right? 

Instead you are thinking about the long walks, the ball throwing, teaching them to sit and stay, the cuddles on the sofa, the cute coats and matching hats, the photo moments.

You are not thinking about the cost, the mess, the disruption, the arguments over who is walking the dog when it’s raining, picking up the poo, the vets bills, the insurance renewal, challenges with training, possible guilt, the barking, 

And even if someone else tells you about all that, you won’t listen because you will do it differently, it can’t be that bad or no-one would have a pet.

All pets are different. All people are different. The breed line impacts the dog. The breed line impacts the house. The environment affects the dog. The owner affects the dog. 

And then the decision is made, the puppies arrive and you get to choose one and it’s all exciting and then the day arrives to collect one and it’s all lovely.

And by day three you want to send them back – the nipping of ankles, the crying all night, the impact it’s having on your daily life and the pee and poo on the floor – it’s exhausting.

Even if you choose wisely, life changes, and you may have to change in ways you don’t want to. Causing resentment, and far outweighing any joy in having your dog. The heavy weight of responsibility.

It felt like the right decision at the time. But now you have to get on with it. And all the support you had dries up, the offers of help are gone and it’s all on you. You made that choice after all.

How many of the difficult conversations are you able to have with other dog owners to help find solutions to your problems? 

Your dog will know when you don’t like them or are cross with them. You can apologise and give them a biscuit and take them for a walk and throw a ball but they know.

And you will need to rebuild their trust in you by being consistent and reliable and available.

Having a child is similar in many ways to having a dog. Though having a child is a much longer commitment than 20 years. However, there are some notable differences:

  • The impact of a lack of consistent, reliable care and connection takes much longer to rectify in a child.
  • The relationship between you can be impacted on a depth you cannot comprehend.
  •  The relationship you have will impact the rest of your life, the rest of their life, and the life they will build with their children, and grandchildren.
  • What you teach them can impact generations to come. 
  • All children have different needs in order to thrive. 
  • The development stages for children are much longer and much less predictable.
  • A child needs to know how to take care of themselves once you are gone, which can be a constant worry.
  • You will have to make decisions constantly about the right thing to do for your child.
  • You will need to leave your child with others and hope that you are making the right choice knowing that only time will tell and anything that goes wrong will be yours to repair.

Like a dog, having a child means you have to make changes that you don’t want to make, processing the frustration and disappointment that you feel and accepting that life is different now even though this is what you wanted. 

Like a dog, a child’s behaviour is affected by what they eat. They respond to their environment. They will mainly want you. And you will get the blame for everything. 

Allowing yourself to think ahead, to consider the huge shifts in your life that are going to happen by this life changing event and having honest conversations with those around you to really explore the realities of this change is essential.  Not many dog owners want to share the negatives, parents don’t want to either.

But if we can allow ourselves to share how we process the frustration and disappointment we can all have better connections.

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