#16: Bonding with a pet

A child learning to love and care for a pet is one of the sweetest parenting moments ever.

Photo: Stan Byrne

For two weeks before we brought our new dog home, my toddler would spend his evenings dragging a stuffed dog around the house by a small red leash. I was feeling very confident that the two would be fast friends.

My husband and I owned a dog before Holden was born and we wanted him to grow up caring for and loving a dog friend. A boy and his dog. I had images of them running around the park on beautiful sunlit days, playing fetch for hours and eventually falling asleep on the couch together.

When Bambi finally arrived at our doorstep, just a few weeks after being rescued from a puppy mill, she was scared, confused and willing to do anything for a warm lap. Bambi was open to being friends with a rambunctious toddler if it meant a pat on the head or a hug. She would cower if I made a quick movement towards her, but she was very patient and trusting with my two-year-old.

Holden, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure about her. He was used to our elusive and disdainful cat, and couldn’t understand why this creature needed so much love and reassurance.

And then there were the walks. Bambi needed a little housebreaking when she came to us, and bundling a toddler up to go for a walk in the freezing Canadian winter five times a day didn’t help bring the two of the them closer together. Eventually, Holden would scowl and whine whenever Bambi got too close to him. I was starting to wonder if those beautiful sunlit days were a crazy fantasy.

And then one spring day, it changed. I had started to use the small red leash on Bambi that was previously reserved for Holden’s stuffed dog. As we were leaving the house for a walk, Holden grabbed the leash and wouldn’t let go. I held on to his hand to keep him safe and part of the leash to keep Bambi from being yanked and off we went.

That day Holden walked Bambi all the way to the park. Neighbours stopped us to tell him how well he was dong. Holden was so proud. Almost every day since, Holden has helped us walk Bambi. Although, I am pretty sure he is still a cat person, he loves his dog.  His face lights up when he sees her pad into his room in the morning. Watching him take responsibility for her has been so sweet. I can tell it is the beginning of a long friendship. You never know, maybe one day I will see them curled up and cozy on the couch, exhausted after hours of playing.