Last month I wrote about the newest addition to our family. Not a child, but a dog; Akira the Siberian Husky. It was quite an emotive piece of writing, so I felt I should lift the mood a little this month by talking about the same subject from a different angle, so here it is.
I’ve always praised Capstone as our fostering agency for the high quality of the training and support they provide. Well, Capstone – you’ve been outdone, because this week, we had to have a session with a Dog Psychologist. Yes, that’s a job.
Please don’t freak out – our dog isn’t a psychopath, but she’s a Husky, and so the similarities are there. Akira is beautiful and friendly and intelligent and happy and energetic… but she is also headstrong, and about two minutes after bringing her home from the shelter, it was very apparent that she had never been trained a day in her fluffy little life. Akira is two years old, and, much like a foster child, we know very little about her past or how that shapes her future, so it’s not like we were ever going to have the ease of training this puppy as an empty vessel.
The Dog Psychologist has been a god-send (or dog-send, if you will), but the person who’s had the most success in training Akira is The Boy. Maybe it’s because he knows what it’s like to come into a strange family home and act, adapt and fit in within new surroundings and existing structures? Whatever the reason, The Boy loves the dog, and in working with her he has shown me one or two lessons along the way in patience! The bond is strong, and I wouldn’t change it.
However, not everyone likes the idea of bringing kids AND pets into the family home. I actually had one person ask me if I was scared the dog would attack The Boy. Yes. I have grave concerns that one day the dog will brutally savage him in the kitchen, and that’s exactly why I’ve left them both unattended at the house with easy access to guns, heroin and bleach.
Any pet, whether already in your home or introduced to your family at a later date, will always pose some element of risk, but it’s about weighing up those risks and managing situations carefully – as you would with any contact your child is going to have. In our family, I’m probably less scared of either Akira or Barry (the cat) hurting The Boy than I am about The Boy hurting himself falling over his own boots at football.
For me, pets add a wonderful dimension to any family. They’re non-judgemental (unless you have a cat), loyal (unless you have a cat) and will happily spend their time making you feel loved (unless you have a cat). The focus of attention on a family pet can do so much. It can diffuse an awkward situation or silence, provide unconditional comfort, and teach a child or young person responsibility for the care of another living being. Yes, a cat will take a swipe at you if you push its boundaries, but this in itself is a life lesson, and despite the comments earlier in this paragraph, cats can be wonderful pets, and kids can learn a lot from their resilience.
I don’t know the exact stats, but there are more kids at risk from their own parents than there are those at risk from a family pet. Why else would we need foster carers? So, if you’re put off fostering because you have a pet, or you’re already fostering but putting off the idea of getting a pet in the future, re-think the situation. Weigh up the risks, be vigilant of them, and then once you have put everything in place to ensure that anyone or anything with two, four or more legs is safe in your loving home, enjoy all the benefits that having a pet can bring to your family.
Oh, and take out insurance on your furniture.