EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 30, 2013

A boy's, and a mom's, best friend

Family Matters
Dr. Larry Larsen

---- — Dear Doctor,

We have two boys who both want a dog. They say they will take care of it, but I know I will end up doing the feeding and the taking out of doors.

Are there ways to make sure they will do what they have agreed to? I know they really want the dog, but I would like some reassurance about having them keep their word.

No Doggie Mom

Dear Mom,

There are no guarantees about boys caring for a dog. In fact, you will, as you have with your sons, likely become the dog’s good friend and primary caretaker.

You are also talking to the wrong man. I dearly love dogs, and I think a boy’s life is incomplete without the experience. I grew up with dogs, once getting one for Christmas. (That was a Boston bull dog named “Winnie,” in honor of Winston Churchill.)

My wife and I have had four Cairn Terriers. (Not at the same time.) Our two children adored the dogs, and our daughter has one of the same breed. Currently our house is ruled by “Thistle,” who even talks with howls and expressions while standing on her back legs. All of our dogs have been loving and seemed to know when comfort and closeness were needed.

But make no mistake about who the dog will love most. You will likely be the one who feeds it. You, along with the family, including Dad, will have to take the dog out. Thistle loves me, but she adores my wife! The dog may well be your shadow. If you cannot live with that, don’t get a dog. Nothing hurts a child more than having to give up a pet because parents do not like it. The emotional dynamics are painful.

On the positive side, why not make the dog an adventure and learning experience. Learn about the various breeds and what you want in canine behavior. Let your children learn about training and teaching the pet. Talk to a vet to get more information about care and what you need to know.

I am betting on the dog and you!

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.