Of Kids And Dogs…

Iris, the one-eyed wonder

Iris, the one-eyed wonder

Growing up I never had “real” pets. Sure, I had turtles and goldfish and even a snake and a chameleon (not all at the same time…), but I never had dogs or cats. The excuse was that I, as a chubby asthmatic kid, was allergic… but I always suspected that the real truth was that my mom was not inclined to deal with the hair, litter-box, poop and pee that accompany canine and feline ownership.

Call It Puppy Love

But I loved animals, and they loved me. In fact there’s an old story about the time when I was three and we were at a barbecue at a relative’s house. I fell off a picnic bench and broke my arm, and the relative’s dog, a miniature schnauzer that I had befriended, would not let anyone near me, running in circles protectively around me, as I cried and clutched my injured arm. It took some time for my dad to finally fend off the pooch in order to get me to the hospital…

So, when I was finally an “adult” I wanted to get a dog… but dogs are a lot of work, especially for a single guy in a small NY apartment. Eventually, I got a couple of cats, introduced to the finer facets of felines by my then fiancé. After we were married, and moved to Rockland County, the prospect of getting a dog seemed closer (but not close enough to hamper our dink status (Dink = Dual Income No Kids). Then we got pregnant, and life as we knew it, was going to change.

Diapers & Poop Scoopers

So, with my first son Zachary on the way, we figured the time was ripe to become dog owners. If we were going to be staying home more to be parents, we could care for a dog along with our son. Yes, Zach’s first sibling was Ling-Ling, a beautiful Chinese Shar-Pei. By the time Zach’s human siblings came along, Ling-Ling had unfortunately passed away (a long, sad story) but we were committed “dog people” and our kids grew up alongside canine kin including Logan (a great, Great Dane/Lab mix), Molly (a magnificent mutt), Chelsea (a gorgeous Golden Retriever), and over the years over a dozen dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds. We learned many lessons in care and compassion from our furry friends, and I wouldn’t have had my kids grow up any other way. Our dogs have made us all better people.

Iris The One-Eyed Wonder

It has been a long time since I’ve had both a puppy and one of my kids in the house. My dogs are old – I’ve had them more than 12 years and as they’re all rescues I’m not quite sure how old they were when I got them… And, my kids are no longer kids (but I do know how old they are!) As young adults my kids have acquired their own pets as they’ve moved out and onward. They’ve only known a home with dogs, so it is not surprising that they’ve been continuing our course of canine companionship with dogs of their own.

My daughter recently moved back home (yay!) and she brought along her recently rescued puppy, Iris. Despite the fact she is a cyclops – yes, Iris lost an eye shortly before Olivia rescued her, Iris is a ball of energy. My formerly “empty nest” is now bustling as Iris (and my daughter) have brought back some welcome noise and activity to keep us older folk (me and my aged dogs) on our toes (or paws, as the case may be). Kids and dogs are a lot of work, but the love you get (and get to give) in return is well worth it. I am really happy to have both “girls” home.

How about you? Have pets played a role in your home?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads,  Wunderkind!  and Gape Into The Void podcasts.

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  • Tim Dahl

    We’ve got a cat. Though, I would love to add a dog to the mix.

  • Matt Sternberg

    My family had dogs as a kid and I always wanted to share my life with more dogs but moving around and the usual excuses of a 20 / 30 year old prevented me.

    When my then girlfriend moved out to LA to live with me I was almost as excited for her as her amazing black lab, Riley ;). Riley was a “once in a lifetime dog”. She understood everything you said and was incredibly lovable, sweet and as a 100lb hound, protective. When Riley turned 7 we found her a sister, Ruby. The snuggliest black lab ever.

    Riley stayed with us just in time to see the birth of our daughter. When Riley went to doggy heaven we were comforted by the love of Ruby. Our plan has always been to have at least 2 dogs, providing one a companion when when she (we’re girl dog people) turns 6 or 7. The older dog teaches the younger and the younger keeps the older young and playful.

    Now with our daughter in Kindergarten and my wife and I working we have not found the time or have the requisite level of attention to get Ruby a sister. She’s 10 1/2 and we worry that we may not be able to before her time comes.

    The thought of not having a ‘big stinky hound’ around is worrisome and a bit terrifying. You’d think that the prospect of not having to get up in the middle of the night in a snowstorm to take her out, cleaning up an accidents and having to play when you just want to chill would be welcome. At least for me and my wife, it is most assuredly not. 

    Thanks for posting, Jeff. Our dogs are as much a member of our family as anyone else and have taught and continue to teach us lessons every day.

  • http://www.jeffreysass.com sass

    Thanks so much Matt (and for sharing the awesome picture!)  I have many pics of my toddlers with BIG dogs. You should definitely get a puppy soon.  It iwll make Ruby young again!

  • http://www.jeffreysass.com sass

    Thanks Tim.  I like cats too, and have had many, but there is something special about “a boy and his dog…”