I started my morning by taking a shower with a shit covered dog.
The culprit: Gracie Coco, our year-old Alaskan Malamute/Wolf mix. The other culprit: our 8-year-old daughter, Macy.
How Did This Happen? A Long, Strange Night . . .
See, Gracie is Macy’s dog. Normally, we have Macy give her own dog a bath. Especially because Macy didn’t want to get up from her cozy comforter to take her outside overnight. But Macy was leaving for school in 30 minutes. I didn’t have to be to work for over an hour, so I decided to take one for the team.
It was an unrestful night to begin with. I woke up bleary eyed at what I guessed was probably 4 or 5 am to my dog, Diesel, barking continuously. Both Luke and I eventually stumbled out of bed to investigate. My dog usually doesn’t cause a commotion overnight. She’s old and cranky and loves to sleep. I was going to have her go to the crate but to my surprise I discovered Gracie was already in there. I was too half-asleep to figure out why she was in the crate, not snuggling with her human.
The Reality of Pets
First thing when I woke, I went to Gracie’s crate since I was sure she would need to go out right away. Too late – she had diarrhea and had been laying in it. Ugh, talk about turning a morning on its head. Soon, we got Gracie out the door. Macy cleaned the floor around the crate, and two of our older kids took the crate outside to wash it. A un family activity. Eye-roll.
Now . . . the fun part. To get the shit-covered dog from the back door to the shower- without getting shit all over the house. Luke grabbed a dirty towel, went outside, wrapped her in it, and deposited her directly in the shower. I proceeded to rinse and rinse, since she has what seems like 20 pounds of thick, fluffy fur. Then I grabbed shampoo and scrubbed and rinsed, scrubbed and rinsed until the water going down the drain was clear.
Gracie laid in the shower, exhausted from all the drama, I assume.
But this is life with pets, right?
The idea of a pet: a loyal dog, a fluffy bunny, a purring kitten – is one thing, but often kids don’t realize that there’s so much more to it than cuteness and furry kisses. On the one hand, what kid doesn’t love the idea of having a pet of their very own? And, on the other, what kid wants to get out of bed at midnight to clean vomit, pee, or shit out of a carpet?
Our 30 Day Pet Rule
We’re not the type of parents to tell a kid “no” if they want a pet, but we also want them to realize up front that having an animal is a real job. So we have one rule for all five of our kids: the 30 Day Pet Rule.
Basically, anyone in our home who wants a pet of their own has to make it through 30 days of taking care of our dogs.
30 days of taking care of the pet . . . without us having to nag them.
We classify “taking care of the pets” as:
- Making sure our current pets have food and water at all times.
- Making sure the dogs go outside to go to the bathroom through the day (and night, if needed).
- Take care of other pet needs (tick check/giving a bath/etc.)
If we have to remind the child who is doing the 30 days to do any of the above items, they lose a day. If they have a problem (or give attitude, or have to be told repeatedly), they could go back to day zero. So far, only one child has attempted the 30 days and actually made it . . . and it took her three months!
Currently, our thirteen year old is on her 30 days. But she keeps going back to day zero.
Our 8-year-old actually did a better job at it, which is why she was able to get Gracie. (She also lucked out because she got the dog for free! Someone we know found Gracie dumped on their property. They couldn’t keep her because Gracie had a thing for the neighbor’s chickens. But bonus: she came with a collar and leash!
Kids Learn By Doing
I remember the idea of getting a pet of my own was so exciting when I was a kid. But – kids don’t even know that pets are a big responsibility and require them to do a lot of things they don’t want to do at times they don’t want to do it. I know I never understood that when I was a kid! I hope that by getting the chance to actually take care of a pet first helps our kids understand what it’s really like to have a pet, not just the fun stuff they see on movies.
What are your thoughts on kids and pets? Have you ever had a kid (or were a kid 😉 who begged for a pet and swore up and down they would take care of it . . . and didn’t? Do you think a 30 Day Pet Rule is a good idea? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!