It's hard to live next to a dog park. It's especially hard to live next to one when you have a toddler that is fascinated by dogs (or as now referred to as "doggies" whenever I see one!). All those different breeds running around, chasing balls, playing with their owners and each other. Seriously, it's like I am watching a pet food commercial every day! And my son loves it! He goes right up to them -- whatever their size -- and pets them. Sometimes he even kisses them. (Of course, I check with the owner before I let him approach the dog.) He enjoys spending time at the park, and runs in that direction nearly every time I take him outside.
Lately, I've been thinking about getting him a dog of his own. I grew up with a Labrador retriever, who definitely was considered part of our family. Surprisingly, several friends have been discouraging me from getting a dog. "He's too young for one." "He's too little for a dog." "You're too urban." And even my wife who is more of a dog-liker than a dog-lover says, "you travel too much." And most shocking, a pediatrician friend remarked that he was "not a fan of pets that don't live in a fish tank." Maybe I'm just surrounded by cat lovers?!
Quite frankly, all these excuses don't hold up. Plenty of people in the city have dogs, and traveling doesn't impact the ability to take care of a dog. There is a point about the right age for a dog, but I have found four convincing reasons why my son should have a dog:
1. A dog might make my son even happier! There's a saying in Washington -- if you want a friend, get a dog! There's some truth to that. Dogs are one of the best examples of unconditional love, and it's good for my son to experience such love not just from his Mommy and Daddy but also a pet. A dog is always happy to see you, always willing to go out and play. And maybe all that love translates to happier kids. In fact, a study showed that raising a child with a dog improves kid's understanding of sharing and cooperation, and makes them more socially confident. In another study, 7-8 year old children were asked to rank their "top 10" relationships with people and animals. Pets were ranked often higher than certain human relationships and excelled in support functions of comfort, esteem support, and confidants for a secret!
2. He will have decreased chance of allergies. Data show that babies born in homes with dogs were also 44 percent less likely to develop another common ailment in kids: ear infections. Kids with dogs were also 29 percent less likely to have used antibiotics in the past year than children without pets. Sorry, my cat lover friends -- although owning a cat still had benefits, the benefits were not as great.
3. He will live longer. Pretty bold statement, isn't it? Well, consider this. Children who grow up with pets likely have a decreased incidence of childhood obesity. That's not surprising -- all the running around is bound to keep the pounds off. And we know that being overweight as a child increases one's risk of being overweight as an adult. And being obese as an adult increases one's chance of early death.
4. He'd have a walking first-aid kit around... literally! The saliva of dogs is actually filled with antimicrobial products. Fisherman in Fiji deliberately allow dogs to lick their wounds to promote rapid healing! So Fido comes in handy when there are no Band-Aids around. Some dogs have been trained to sniff out smells our body emits and can alert us of cancer, seizures, and hypoglycemic events.