THE DOG DAYS ARE OVER: WHAT A PUPPY TAUGHT MY SON ABOUT OUR OLD LIFE

My son and I got a puppy yesterday. Lots of people had warned me about how much work it was going to be, but when I’ve made up my mind about something I tend to be quite dismissive of any neigh-sayers. It’s probably not the gentlest response, but I find it quite easy to shut down any negative commentary by suggesting that whatever it is we’re debating can hardly be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Receiving a puppy into our home together with joy flurishing in our hearts can’t even nearly compare to raising a toddler alone with grief rushing through every shred of my soul.

It transpires, however, that the initial phase is no walk in the park (not least because you can’t take them out immediately). Puppies are quite like babies: they cry in the night and, while they don’t need feeding, they do need comfort. This means getting up in the wee small hours to offer affection and to take them outside. My son is nine, so I agreed that I would take charge of overnight duties as long as he provided all the care in the day.

I should state now that I have no intention of turning this site into a dog-blog. I just write about life and learning the art of living well. If I observe something I think may be of value, I can’t help but share.

Now, I went into pet ownership wanting to bring some affection into my son’s life and to teach him about responsibility. Not for one moment did I consider that it would make him think about parenting.

‘You’re a natural at this,’ Jackson told me at midnight last night while I was comforting the puppy to sleep. ‘How do you know what you’re doing?’

It was then that I realised that he would have no memory of the effort I put into caring for him as an infant. Frustrated parents will sometimes point out how ungrateful their children can be for not crediting all they do and have done for them. But these responsibilities (because, let’s face it, they didn’t ask to be here) are not always visible or recallable to such young minds.

‘Well, because I’ve done this before, haven’t I, Jackson?’

‘Oh yes, you had dogs when you were a child,’ he replied.

‘No, I don’t mean that. I did nothing to help back then. I mean with you. I got up in the night to feed and comfort you. You cried and you needed changing too.’

For the first time in all his nearly ten years, he clearly understood and was able to acknowledge what it is to protect and be responsible for another being.

Who knew an eight-week-old puppy would help a nine-year-old boy understand the assertions and commitment of this 41-year-old man?

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