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I was a dog mama long before I was a people mama.

The fur-baby that stole my heart was 165 pounds of Blue Merle muscle–a majestic Great Dane named Roscoe.

Roscoe was more than a dog–he was a full-on family member. He got me through several moves, a difficult divorce, and countless single nights when every creak and crack in my big empty house kept me up at night.

I knew that my beautiful behemoth of a dog was special, but I never truly appreciated his full worth until he became a watchdog for not just me, but for my baby boy, as well.

When our little bundle came home from the hospital two years ago, Roscoe didn’t complain–even when he got moved from his cozy living room corner to a bed in the heated garage. (It was the baby’s turn to nap in that nice warm spot by the fireplace, you see.)

So, he let him.

Somehow from day one, Roscoe knew it was his job to watch over that little boy, and watch over him he did.

For two blessed years.

Sadly–we just buried our almost 12-year-old, geriatric gentle giant a week ago, under a big cottonwood on the family farm. I know his spirit will keep on watching over all of us–especially Hank, who over the last two years had become his very best friend. Those two sweet boys taught me some pretty big life lessons–one of which is how meaningful animals can be to little people.

I hope that as you read along, you nod in agreement because your little ones have a furry friend to love on like Hank did. But if you haven’t gotten a pet for your child or children (yet!), dear reader, here are five reasons why you may want to consider it.

1. Companionship

Our big dog and our little boy were two peas in a pod. Anywhere the toddler went, the dog was sure to follow. And vice versa. On the swingset, digging in the dirt, playing ball on the lawn, picking strawberries– these two adored each other’s company. We couldn’t go for a walk unless Roscoe came with us, even when it meant he had to give up his beloved afternoon nap.

If Hank could have slept on Roscoe’s dog bed with him every night, he absolutely would have.

2. Responsibility 

From the time he could walk, our toddler helped me with all of our dog chores. He understood the first thing we did each morning was let Roscoe out, and he looked forward to it every day. He helped me fill his food and water bowls, and he even helped me clean up the “land mines” in the yard. (He was the “locator,” and I ran the shovel.)

Having a dog taught our toddler a world of responsibility, and most importantly, it taught him how to care for a loved one.

3. Teachable Moments

From learning a universal nickname for dogs–“Coco”–to learning that dogs will do almost anything for a milk-bone; our gentle giant was also a wonderful teacher for our little boy. He taught him dogs don’t really like to be ridden like horses, even if they are the perfect size. He taught him “woof” means “come open the door please.” He taught him that Great Danes make wonderful pillows for naps on the lawn. He taught him it is important to hold still when you are getting your toenails clipped. He taught him that sometimes when we get old, our bodies just can’t keep up anymore. He taught him that even though saying goodbye is scary and hard, it is something we can get through.

He also taught him the true meaning of the phrase “loyal friend.”

4. Protection

Our huge dog kept an amazing eye on our little boy. Roscoe was Hank’s shadow, never venturing more than 10 or 15 feet away from the tornado toddler, even when that meant a LOT of getting up and laying back down! I loved knowing whenever I watered flowers or weeded beds in the yard, I had an extra set of eyes on Hank while he played.

Roscoe truly loved his “job,” and Hank loved having his own personal watchdog.

5. Lifelong Memories

Even though he is gone now, Hank still talks about his big buddy “Coco” everyday. Any dog we see gets a chubby little finger point and a loving “Coco!” exclaimed with a huge smile. Whenever I tear up or mention how much I miss Roscoe, Hank grabs his stuffed puppy and gives me a kiss with it. I have countless amazing pictures of these two together, and I will never forget their two years filled with those special moments. Their relationship–although much too short–gave all of us a lifetime of heartwarming memories, which I thank God for every day.

There’s nothing quite like the magic of big dogs and little children.

So please, if you have a family dog, let your little ones climb all over him, even when he’s a little bit muddy. Let them snuggle up to him and get those trademark slobbery dog kisses, right on their little faces. Let them help carry the water bucket, even though it splashes all over the garage floor.

I promise– it’ll all be worth it.

And if you don’t have a family dog?

Then someday–if only for your kids’ sake–I hope you’ll change your mind.

 

This post originally appeared on the Tired Mama Project.

Erika Wilson

Erika Wilson is a writer, artist, and author/illustrator of children's books living in Big Sky country, Montana. The only "she" in a family of six, she is never without inspiration for her writing or her artwork! You can find all of Erika's work and her blog at her website ErikaWilsonBooks.com.

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