The Dog I Never Wanted Is Helping Me Survive The Teen Years

As a kid, I would cross the street to avoid people walking their pups. Or if I was close enough to home, I’d make a lame excuse to pop inside until the scary beast with claws and sharp teeth was safely out of range.

Even as I got older, I never much cared for canines, with their jumping up, shedding and barking. Plus, they would dig up the yard, track dirt everywhere, tear up the furniture and add to our bills — my kids already have that covered, thank you!

When I met my husband, I knew he loved dogs. And he wanted one. Badly. I held him off with some very good excuses: Baby #1, Baby #2, moving, long work hours, no fence, moving again. But after 15 years, my list of “buts” was wearing thin. And then a friend told me how her family dog was invaluable during her son’s teenage years. Even when the young man was grumpy and standoffish with his parents, his love and affection flowed freely to their four-legged family member, giving the teen an uncomplicated emotional outlet.

A dog is helping me survive the teen years.
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

With that final bit of encouragement, we adopted a rambunctious little rescue mutt.

I prepared myself for extra chores and burdens. Vet visits, grooming, walks.

Each morning I fixed breakfast for one more mouth. Then I had to stop by the house every couple hours to let her outside. Poop patrol. Weekly trips to obedience class. Dog food. Ugh, and carpet cleaner

Yet even on my worst days, when I’m puffy and crabby and not much fun, when my teen and tween are moody and hiding in their rooms, that brown-eyed pup is thrilled to see me. She peeks out the drapes to watch me leave and rushes to the door to greet me, her whole body wiggling.

As predicted, my sons fell in love, hard. I swear, puppy-girl smiles and even serenades when they get home from school (sorry, neighbors). My kids even started telling people they got a new baby sister. And, yes, I quickly observed a newfound sweetness emerging in my rough-and-tumble boys. For them, she became a nonjudgmental listening ear and an unconditional friend, always eager with kisses and cuddles.

My 13-year-old will probably grumble his “Good morning” to me, but he lights up when he sees the dog and greets her with, “Hello, Sweetheart! How’s my baby today?”

It also didn’t take long for me to stop feeling burdened about leaving meetings, skipping lunch dates or breaking up errands to come home and let her out. In fact, I started looking forward to my own special time with a fuzzy ball of happy-dog. And if I’m being honest, she makes me feel safer, too, especially on nights when my husband’s away on business.

She is love. She is comfort. She is playfulness, energy and joy. Pure joy. And all she wants in return is a bowl of kibble and a belly rub.

Today, I smile at every dog I see. I might even cross the street to get closer and say “hello.”

Adopting that little rescue mutt was one of the best decisions we ever made, and it’s hard to believe I resisted for so long. She’s part of our family, and I can’t imagine navigating these teenage years without her.

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Jacqueline Miller is the lone female in a house full of guys. She travels freakishly light and can balance two kids on her Dutch bike. Her recent articles appear in Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, and Sammiches & Psych Meds, and she’s working on a book about her three years in the Netherlands. Follow her at www.boogersabroad.com and on Facebook.

 

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