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I Found the Perfect Holiday Gift

Our new family pet, the best alternative for screen time

Happy Holidays

One morning as I went out for my daily run, I bummed into a friend which I haven’t seen for a while. After the first few minutes of catching up on kids and life she said she must run home to her new puppy.

“Puppy?! This is great. We were considering for years on expanding our family and bringing one too. How is it?”

Some words of encouragements, some horror stories, and I decided to follow her footsteps. As the holidays are just around the corner, and Black Friday wasn’t so successful with finishing my holiday shopping, I realized this meeting was meant to be and the puppy shall be our holiday gift.

As opposed to any other holiday gifts which you wrap and store till the right moment arise, this is a bit tricky. The obvious reason, I cannot (and will never) wrap and hide a puppy in the closet. Second, I had to make sure all members of the family are on board (spoiler alert on the gift I know, but I had to make sure).

Are we there yet?

Following some family discussions and many preparations, last weekend we brought her home. Thursday we packed our bags, and Friday after school we hit the road. We made a road trip out of it. Yes, the ride was long. 4 hours there, 3 hours back, but it was so much fun (I can’t believe I am saying that). This is not our first long drive, and it’s usually very challenging. I do not allow my kids to use any electronic devices while we are in the car. So you can imaging the constant fighting, screaming, complaining, and my “favorite” question of all times: “Are we there yet?”. But this ride was different, the level of excitement manifested a positive journey for us all. I hope it wasn’t a once in a lifetime ride, and I hope we will enjoy this experience again.

311 miles (500 KM), and 48 hours later we were home with the puppy. We took her out to of the car, got her to do her business, walked her into the house to explore, and fussed about her every move. The only time their phones were out, was to capture those moment.

Three days in, and we were all sleep deprived (and not because of the phones). She will cry all night. Everyone says, just let her cry… easier said than done! As the sun rise and we only got a few hours of sleep, we barely drag ourselves down to the kitchen, and she is up and excited to see us. Our hearts just melt and we forgot all about last night.

A few days later, and she found her way into my son’s bedroom and from then on, no more crying. They established a bond. It was love at first sight.

Our new love

Yes, having a puppy is very hard but it’s worth it.

More and more researches show dogs can help boost your health. One way is by getting you active. With young children, there are additional benefits, most related to emotional health. To name a few:

  • Dogs give unconditional love. I find it supper important in our day and age where cyberbullying is on the rise. No matter how bad the day was, your beloved dog will jump up and down to great you, will nag you to play with her, and will give you the best kiss ever to show how much she cares!
  • A dog can teach your child confidence and responsibility. My kids understand that if they don’t take the dog out as they get home, an accident will happen and they will have to clean it. In the morning when they wake up it’s breakfast time, for the dogie too, so they should feed her, and take her outside.

If that’s not teaching them to be responsible, I don’t know what is.

  • Your dog will help teach your kids empathy. That’s a big one. Empathy is missing in so many cases with our Gen Z kids. Engaging with a dog enforces the basics in learning empathy. Our children must interact face to face with their dog, and with that learn their behavior — are they hungry? sad? want to play? or go out to do their business?
  • There are more benefits for adding a dog to your family, but I would like to emphasize this one, dog is the BEST screen time alternative. You can’t ignore your dog, no matter how much you try. It will bark, it will cry, it will pull the corner of your shirt, it will climb onto your lap, it will do its business in your home. All to get your attention and drag your face out of the screen, disconnect from all electronics and play with them.

Some will argue that even when you walk outside you can still be on your phone. This is absolutely true, but I am not sure the dog will allow you to do so. I see this with our puppy, she keeps on pulling us over to catch the next flying leaf, the squirrel that decided to stop by, or even just sit there and stare at us with her puppy eyes, and you just can’t ignore her.

By the way, some of this will apply to a pet cat. We have them both at home. We started with a cat and recently added the dog. I love them both, but if you are debating and looking for more benefits, go with the dog. Cats will not drag the kids outside, and if your child is in the mood to play and the cat is in the mode to nap, guess what — the cat will nap and the child will find their device, phone, tablet, or the TV.

My little Device Police helper.

I see it as a no-brainer. Yes, a puppy is very demanding. Yes, I am sleep deprived (and I need my 8 hours of sleep). Yes, I keep on cleaning accidents from the floor.

But ever since she joined our family, I don’t hear myself saying “Turn off that damn phone!”, for me it’s worth it all.

Originally published at medium.com

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