Globe Syndicate

for release August 3, 2001

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Dog Days: How Puppies and Children Are Alike

Our household has been filled with the fabled antics of a puppy, as well as the joy and the trials. Actually, the German Shepherd-Collie mix puppy's name is Fable. (Daughter's idea: apparently Queen Elizabeth once had a Corgi dog with that name.)

Fable has been a reminder of what it is like to have a new baby in the house.

Crying at night, getting up to see to her toileting and feeding needs. Toileting mishaps on the floor. Toys strewn through the living room. Mealtimes interrupted (we're trying to teach the puppy to stay out of the kitchen when we're eating). Eager puppy pouncing around playfully. First steps toddling down the deck steps. A reminder that in the first days of life, puppies, like babies, mainly eat, go the bathroom, play a while, and then sleep. And what a relief it is when they do drift off to sleep. We walk quietly around the house so she'll stay asleep.

Our last family dog, June, was killed the middle of April. We all missed her. While I was not a dog person originally, after 25 years of living with dogs, I've become accustomed to their affection. With our entire family home for the summer, it seemed like a good time to add a dog back into our family. So it has been a family project, with the girls getting up the first few nights with her (one is a night owl anyway) and tending to her business. No matter how much they claimed they would take care of a dog when we added June to the family eight years ago, I never made them get up at 5 a.m. to walk her and feed her since my husband and I were up anyway.

I'm happy that my children are now old enough (20, 18 and 15) to actually help with the work of raising a puppy. I think they are a little surprised, actually, at how annoying a puppy can be, always jumping up, chewing on things, wanting to play when you want to be quiet. The deeper truth I'm rediscovering is that kids, like puppies, take a lot of work and discipline.

I talked recently to a woman who does home visits for a social service agency, and her profound impression from the hundreds of homes she visits is that too few parents are prepared or willing to do the work of raising a child. "When you are sitting down and reading the paper or resting, and the child acts up on the other side of the room and won't listen to you, parents don't know you have to get up out of that chair and go and deal with the child," she noted. "Too many parents think that children will fulfill their (the parents') needs, and forget that it goes both ways."

Puppies soon learn who is the weakest, youngest, and most vulnerable member of the household, and see what they can get away with. They are more inclined to jump up on a smaller person, with a weak or small voice. I think it is frequently the same way with children, too. They soon sense what they can get away with and constantly push that edge. If they learn that we are weak and vacillating, they learn they don't have to listen to threats.

They know that Dad or Mom says, "I'm only gonna tell you this one more time," and then proceed to repeat the same refrain over and over and over. I know, because I've been the same way. Sometimes it is tempting to pretend to not see a child misbehaving, hoping that they will soon tire of it. One day when the children were young I was extra tired in the check out line at a discount store. I knew the children were kind of playing on the bars between the lines almost like the bars were playground equipment. But at that moment I didn't want to deal with it. So I pretended not to see them.

Then the clerk said to the children, "Please don't play on the bars." I was mortified, of course, and so were the children. Somehow being reprimanded by a stranger has quick effect. I wasn't doing my job as a parent, but I suspect that most parents occasionally let things slide. That may be understandable sometimes, but I know children function best in an atmosphere where they know what the rules and boundaries are, and have consistent parents. My husband has helped me a lot with that. Together we have tried to learn the times to bend the rules, and listen to the concerns or viewpoints of the children.

So, whether you are raising a puppy or children, recognize that it is always a lot of hard work. But it is work that has lots of rewards and sloppy kisses, on both fronts.

Do you have a new puppy story to share? Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

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