I get home from work and walk in the door. Putting my bags and coat down I peek around the corner. My dog lays on his bed and glares up at me, gets up and goes to his crate. My 14-year-old daughter comes racing out of her room and almost knocks me over with a hug and kisses me on the cheek. “Ok, Ok I’m home!”
I announce that I’m going to start dinner and then we will go for a walk. She jumps up and down, clapping her hands.
I finish dinner and call to everyone that it is ready. I have my dog’s dish ready as well. My daughter immediately comes in the kitchen and takes a deep breath in. “Oh it smells so good, I can’t wait to eat!” Around the corner my dog slowly comes in, yawns, and looks at his bowl of food. He walks over to his bag of treats and starts ripping into the bag trying to get one. I sternly say, “No Elvis, after dinner.” He literally barks at me and trots off out of the kitchen. I say louder, “You will not get any if you don’t eat some dinner!”
He finally comes back in and eats one bite at a time out of his dish.
Dinner is done and my daughter is working at the sink putting dishes away in the washer. “Hey everybody, how about we go for a walk. It is beautiful outside and I don’t want to miss out on this weather,” I say. My dog growls and turns around to face the other way. My daughter turns to me and says, “That is an excellent idea! Yes! Yes! Yes! Please, let’s go! BUT, let me help you finish cleaning the kitchen first.”
My dog scratches his ear, dog hair going everywhere. He then rips the dog treats open, grabs a couple leaving the pieces on the floor. He saunters back to his bed in the other room. “You’re going Elvis, you need the exercise,” I demand. I hear him in the other room growling.
My daughter goes over to him and beg, “Please Elvis, come on – you’ll love it!” He sighs, and slowly gets up.
We walk around the neighborhood and my daughter is skipping and picking up leaves she likes. Elvis walks reluctantly behind us. Suddenly my daughter runs to a tree and starts pointing up, “See the squirrels, Elvis?! Right up there, see them?” Elvis slowly goes over and his tail begins to wag. Then, finally the two of them start playing. Chasing each other around the tree. She is laughing and his tail wagging. I sigh with relief and my heart fills up to see Elvis so happy and having fun.
When we return from our walk, chattering on about the birds we saw and a couple of squirrels that got our attention. Elvis trots back to his bed. I say, “Elvis – wasn’t that great?” He grunts a little and lays back down. My daughter says, “I need to shower. Do I have time before I need to start my homework?”
I walk by Elvis, “I think Elvis needs one too! I can smell him.” He growls at me. I laid down on the floor next to him to pet him. He shudders a little at my touch and moves away so I couldn’t reach him. He glances at me. When I caught his eyes I say, “I love you so much, honey!”
When I began thinking about what it would be like to have children that moved through life as our pets do, I thought to myself how glorious that would be. I thought about what that would look like and this short story came to mind. To be honest, if all of us moved through life as our pets do, we would all be happier!
When people tell me that their pets are like their children, I tend to agree and understand that unconditional love for them. However, for me, it still does not compare to the unconditional love I have for my children. Nobody can treat us with such disdain and resentment than our teenage children, yet we still love them with every piece of our hearts.
I still push them to do what is best for them, discipline and provide guard rails to keep them safe. They fight against us, pushing for independence. It is a test our pets do not put us through. It is disappointment, pain, and heartbreak. Our teenagers know not what they do and I remind myself of that daily.
There is a catch to this though. Expectations are much lower for our pets. Think about it…they will never be expected to do chores around the house, learn calculus, make friends and be confident in the world that is rough. Our teens have a lot to experience and there is pressure on them to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. All the while with undeveloped brains not yet capable of handling the stressors of life.
I am learning as well. I have to back off sometimes remembering it will be okay. My job is to filter when to push and when to back off. When to make her go for that walk, because most likely there will be some moments that she lets down her guard and has fun. To be there and get to see that is my daily blessing! Our pets, like my Elvis, is the padding for us when everything else hurts. Thank God our pets love us unconditionally!