Eighteen months ago we welcomed a precious, tiny, new family member into our lives.
We bought a dog.
Now, this probably could seem like a crazy thing for a young family with three kids and two working parents to do. And I’ll be the first to admit I had pangs of apprehension even as I drove an hour home from the birthplace of our Ruby, with her whimpering and wailing, homesick and tummy-sick (and with explosive diarrhoea to prove it. Sorry not sorry. Had to be said. Painting a picture here).
Was this the right thing to do? Was it the right time? Have I made a huge life-altering error? Can we get these windows open any faster?
My little son petted her head her the whole way home, unfazed by her distress, unsuccessfully soothing her (“Aw Wooby, it’s alwight. You are so cute and adooooowable”).
He was the happiest four year old in the world, and she was the most miserable puppy, in that moment.
When we brought her home, she adjusted quickly and the kids instantly bonded with her. She has the most beautiful nature and she made all of us fall in love with her.
My sons would lay out on the grass and let her lick their faces. My toddler daughter would smother her with affection. Ruby is by nature extremely forgiving and resilient. She’s been roughed up by the kids (not naming names but one in particular is quite heavy-handed!).
Then in November last year we had our fourth (actual, human) baby. He’s now eight months old and just as besotted with Rubes as the older three. The other day while we were dining on the back patio I saw him lean to the side of his high chair and feed a milk arrowroot biscuit to her. True story.
The thing that never fails to amaze me is the degree of empathy my kids show our dog. It’s innate. We’ve done nothing in particular to draw out their compassion and care for their pet.
As parents we often find ourselves harnessing “teachable moments” to help them to show respect and care for other humans; for each other, for us, for other adults and children in their lives. And sometimes they struggle to do this. They’re still learning. They’re kids.
“How would you feel…?”
“Is that how you’d like to be treated?”
My eldest son was overjoyed to receive a badge from his teacher, which he earned by displaying empathy towards others. As he pinned it to his hat he proudly declared “It means I’m empathetic, Mum!”.
You weren’t very empathetic when you woke the baby up by noisily strumming your ukulele up and down the hallway at 5 this morning.
You weren’t very empathetic when you ate your sister’s Elsa chocolate she’s been saving in the fridge since Easter.
Still learning. He’s seven.
At seven, five, and three, they’re still finding their respective places in the world, still learning to socialise and interact with others. It’s so heartwarming to witness them displaying empathy toward Ruby, because it comes to them so naturally, so intrinsically. They haven’t had to be taught.
Recently we were on a country drive and I commented to my little family that we were near Ruby’s home town. They said:
“We should have brought Ruby so she could visit her parents.”
“I bet Ruby misses her mum and dad.”
“Did Ruby have any brothers or sisters?”
So many questions and an outpouring of concern ensued. Certainly not what I expected when I made my throwaway comment. Cue heart melt.
And it wasn’t just that day. There was the time they all sat in the waiting room at the vet because they didn’t want to see Ruby upset getting her needles.
Or when my second boy asked me if Ruby could come with us on our (cruise ship) holiday so she wouldn’t miss out.
Or when my daughter told me “No, mummy, you have TWO girls. Blaire and Rubes.”
Seeing our children interact with, love and care for our dog is so special. It struck me the other day that if there was no Ruby, I might have missed out on these heartwarming insights into my children’s personas.
The positivity that has come from bringing her into our lives has been all the confirmation I need. Sure, we’ve given her a warm home, but in her young life she’s given our family immeasurable happiness and growth. I can’t wait to see my babies and my furbaby continue to grow together over time.
Do you have a family pet? What’s your most memorable moment with your kids and pets together?
Linking up for #ibot at Capturing Life.