My heart catches when I see my children care for Odie – the puppy I resisted for so long

The gratification of an Indian mother at the words “I love your food” is matched by the dread of hearing “I am leaving home”, so when my 10-year-old wistfully announced that he couldn’t wait to move out, my maternal guilt peaked as I tried to figure out why.

In the world he inhabited, “every parent” imposed fewer screen restrictions and “no parent” ever expected a child to excel at school. These two assertions made it easy enough for his parents to point out that a combination of excessive screen time and no work seldom gave rise to the ability to move out of home.

Why do they do that? When dogs kick after going to the bathroom, they are using the scent glands on their paws to further mark their territory.

But this time, his words sounded less wishful thinking and more genuine desire, moving me to ask why.

“So I can get a dog.”

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After raising three children to the point of relative independence, all I saw was a fourth who would remain needy and dependant. And not for a moment was I fooled by, “You just have to get the dog, we will do everything.”

But given the profound fondness Australians have for pets, we simply couldn’t shake off the topic. Friends and the unlikeliest of relatives acquired dogs, sent cute photos and cuter videos, and casually remarked, “Get a dog, they’re so much fun!” But amid the occasional froth these comments ignited, I stayed resolute – we didn’t need a dog to complete our life – and the kids gave up.

Remove Ticks From Your Dog With a Pair of Tweezers. Don’t have a tick remover on hand? You can carefully remove ticks from your dog with a pair of fine tipped tweezers. Grab the tick by it’s mouth area (the part closest to your dogs skin) and pull firmly until it’s removed. Place the tick in a jar of alcohol to kill it, and be sure to wear gloves when dealing with ticks since they can transmit diseases to pets & people.

Until the day their sibling voiced the fact that he couldn’t wait to move out of the house and they murmured their appreciation. Suddenly, the equation shifted: gain a dog or lose a child?

Then came the pandemic and, with it, a wonderful reprieve. Rescue homes were emptied of dogs and the cost of buying a puppy from a breeder soared. Every family driven mad by isolation wanted a dog and a hypoallergenic one – the kind we needed – cost a ridiculous $10,000! And then too, there was a waiting list nearly as long as the one for elective surgery.

Here's an ingenious leash that has a built-in waste-bag dispenser and a compartment for keys, cards, phone, and treats.

Suddenly my statement of intent, “We can look into it,” was matched by a harrumphing disclaimer, “But I refuse to pay $10,000 for a dog!” Yes, love had a price.

I shared my dilemma with my friend who owned dogs, cats, ponies and birds (who probably found me weak for not owning even one pet) and she connected me to her breeder friend whose first ominous words were, “No child should grow up without a dog.” But then lamenting the extortionist pandemic pricing, he maintained that the right price for a puppy should not be outright unaffordable but one that made buyers pause for thought because there was nothing worse than a momentary indulgence quickly abandoned. I found his view so sensible and his love for dogs so endearing that I decided to visit him.

Make Training More Fun by Switching Up The Rewards. Instead of just giving praise for a new trick add some yummy treats or a game of tug as the reward. By changing the rules & rewards you’re keeping training sessions more fun & exciting for both you & your dog.

When the litter was born, we took a surprise trip to the countryside. I will confess that watching a gel-like mass of blind things clinging to their weary mother (while their father happily chased birds) resurfaced all my previous misgivings but it was too late. Amid squeals of delight, we anointed one of the unclaimed puppies as ours – the breeder put a tag on him and bid us return after eight weeks.

The child who wanted to move out of the house was allowed to name the dog. A fan of the cartoon character Garfield, he named the puppy Odie after Garfield’s friend. The choice was passed by unanimous resolution in an Irish-Indian household, where nothing happens unanimously.

Teach Your Dog to Catch Using Popcorn. If your dog doesn’t know how to catch don’t start by throwing a toy at their face. Popcorn works great for training dogs to catch because it’s light & yummy which makes it enticing enough for your dog to try and catch it.

Odie at three monthsOdie at three months

At eight weeks and not a day later, Odie came home. I warmed to the breeder’s dim view of expensive training programs and his advice that dog owners must take responsibility for instilling the rules at a young age, which sounded just like parenting. So we kept an eagle eye on his propensity to pee on the good carpet and chew shoes in preference to his toys – and he soon learned.

One day Odie stole a grape. The vet said he could be fine, need dialysis or die without another window for intervention. I rued that it was the kind of useless “choice” I gave my cancer patients. After the $800 grape heist, we stopped buying grapes.

Treat Every Poop Like a Miracle aka How to Easily Potty Train a Puppy. When potty training your dog make sure to pay attention & praise them every single time they do their duty outdoors. If you treat every pee & poop outdoors like it’s the best thing that ever happened they’ll catch on pretty quick.

I am glad to say that my worst fears about dog care were not realised. The sink, dishwasher and laundry, loaded but inanimate, might groan for my children’s attention, but Odie is dutifully walked, washed and fed, and endlessly loved because he both demands and merits attention. There is a running joke in our house that I am jealous and resentful of a little dog who has become a big hit, but in truth my heart catches when, in the quiet of the night, I hear one of the kids telling Odie their day was better because of him.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means most dog owners get the recommended minimum 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease and keeping them in better overall shape.

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We strive to parent our children in wholesome ways – I underestimated the added dimension of love and responsibility that a dog would teach mine. On a hot day, my daughter cut short her outing to check if Odie had enough water. When Odie was sick, her teenage brother made fresh broth and patiently fed it to him. Such acts of reciprocity are hard to manufacture and, if a dog quietly teaches my children how to give and receive love, I am all for it.

Keep a pet-friendly home. Your dog or cat is a part of the family. If she’s a kitty, she needs her own litter box in a quiet, out-of-the way corner, a scratching post or tree, her own toys, and a nice cozy spot for napping.

Odie turned one this week. You should have seen the toys and treats, although I drew the line at the high-top dog sneakers with matching socks.

My in-laws ended up with Odie’s cousin,Rory, who brings them unparalleled joy in retirement. My children no longer talk about leaving home because there is the vexed issue of who will take the dog. The obvious compromise is living together for a long time or being close enough to each other to freely visit. I am realistic enough to know that this might not hold true in the moder world but, if having a dog means knitting my children even closer together, it will be a mother’s prayer answered.

Got a lot of studying to do? Here's how to read and play with your dog at the same time: Put a rope toy around your foot.

Happy birthday, Odie!