September 13, 2014

Forget Family Therapy: Get a Dog. ~ Sharon Gregory

confused_dog by darkuncle

There are wonderful and unexpected benefits of getting a dog when your kids are teens.

My girls were 15, 13 and nine when I reluctantly gave in to the arrival of our male golden retriever (he had to be a boy at my husbands directive!).

He’s now nearly three years old and my eldest daughter is preparing to leave home for drama school a long way away in NYC.

When our beloved Brodie arrived we spent longer choosing his name than we did for any of our children. All five of us had strong views.

I should have seen the warning signs then.

The wonderful and unexpected benefits have been:

  • I’ve seen a side of my eldest daughter I had never seen before—gentle, loving and nurturing—what a blessing to see in an otherwise feisty and prickly teenager who has now grown into a warm and spirited young woman
  • The girls actually want to walk with us. Rarely all together but I now have whole hours alone with one of my girls on a regular basis (and the dog of course!)
  • We talk about important ‘stuff’ when we walk. There’s something about the gentle rhythm of our walks and the need to keep focused on where the dog is running away to that negates the need for uncomfortable eye contact, and so allows more freedom of speech
  • They are learning to take care of another sentient being—grooming him, taking him to the vet with me, worrying and taking care of him when he’s been unwell, missing him when we’re away—all emotions to come to terms with as they become young adults and make plans to move away from home
  • We now take holidays occasionally  without our eldest daughter and she skypes us nearly every day so that she can see and talk to the dog. I’m pretty sure wherever she is in the world she’ll be in touch almost every day whether we like it or not!

Are there any downsides?

Well, in truth, if it rains my husband is usually walking alone and as a working mum the downside for me has been a return to the days when the children were young and I was beset by guilt over time away from the family home—the dog I’m afraid presses exactly the same guilt button. Something to work on for my own journey.



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Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Dark Uncle at Flickr 



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Sharon Gregory