“I want another dog,” I told my husband. My dog had died and I was feeling the desire to have another companion.
I got Coquina after I graduated high school and she died just before her 16th birthday. When my husband left a month before me to start training in Florida, Cokey and I drove from Nebraska to Tyndall AFB. I sang to her and talked to her to keep me occupied during the long drive. I was especially grateful to have her to talk to during a flash thunderstorm in Florida.
But still I was late to get her to the airport so she could stay with my mom during the few months we’d be there. As newlyweds we couldn’t afford to book another flight so I drove like a madwoman on the slippery roads to meet the deadline. Stress would have to wait.
She was there to greet our oldest when we brought him home from the hospital. And when our daughter arrived, she knew the drill. She moved with us each time and took the trek like a champ, even though she hated car rides.
Even at the end of her life, she still barked at my husband when he kissed me.
She was MY dog but she had been a part of my children’s lives for 10 years.
Now I wanted another pet. In the interim, my kids had worked to earn themselves gerbils. They too wanted a pet but initially I wasn’t ready for another dog. My son really wanted a snake but since I would be the one home with it and I’m petrified of snakes, I put the kibosh on THAT idea.
When we moved again, there were no pets allowed in the rental house. Just like a child, when you can’t have something, that’s when you really want it. After a few months in the house, I wanted another dog. And as much as I wanted a dog for me, I wanted a dog for our family.
Why I Said Yes To A Family Pet
Having a pet is a constant in a military child’s life. No matter where we moved to, the kids would have their mom and their pet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, a cat, a hamster or a lizard. What matters is that the child has something to either call his own or has a stake in. Years ago, that’s what I thought.
And it turns out I was right.
A study in 2009 showed that children with pets were less worried about a move than those without. A pet provides children with “comfort, support, and stability.”
I like to think that it really has to do with giving them an immediate friend wherever they are. That friend doesn’t talk back and understands what they are going through. It also gives them a job to do during the chaos we call “unpacking.”
There have also been studies that show that pets help military children with stress and give them a coping mechanism too.
We know that petting a dog or horse has a calming effect on people but there are benefits to owning any animal. Not only is their pet a constant in their lives, but that animal also listens to them as they work out problems in their lives.
Having an animal gives the child a topic of conversation when meeting new classmates. That to me is another positive to animal ownership.
We bought a dog even before we knew about these studies. We actually got two; one per child. We adopted them in the summer after we moved so the kids had time to walk them every day. They explored their new neighborhood and met the people who lived there.
It also gave them a chance to bond with each other. They were 10 and 12 at this point so they weren’t spending time together like they used to. Now they had a common gripe – chores associated with an animal.
For the record, there are reasons to not get a family pet. For some, the cost is an issue. Dogs and cats are notorious for their vet bills. On-base vet clinics alleviate some of that cost but it still has an impact on your pocketbook.
For others, there are allergies to contend with. We know there are ways around that roadblock but that depends on how badly you want that animal. Just remember that dogs aren’t the only animals out there.
We found that having a dog was perfect for our military family.
The benefits far outweighed the negatives. Even though we moaned and groaned each time we had to stop during our cross-country move because the dog was going to be sick or the kids hated sharing a back seat with said dog, we were happy once we reached our destination.
And even when I complained that the flea and tick medicine was insanely expensive, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Our pets are part of our military family and that’s all that matters.