Dogs often get the short end of the stick (or no stick at all) when a child enters a family. In that new parent's sleepless, hormonal fog the precious, helpless infant seems so very vulnerable, and dear fido, previously viewed as a harmless goof, is suddenly seen as a germ ridden, slobbering, dangerous beast with big teeth. Many good dogs end up in shelters (or worse) in the first few weeks after a new baby arrives.
We were fortunate that our dog, who came to us from an animal shelter in Oakland, reacted with gentleness and acceptance to our children from the day they were born. She is invaluable for cleaning up under high chairs, and for providing endless amusement for the kids as a walking aide, face licker and hide and seek partner.
As well as this, Geekydog is now an essential in my parenting tactic armory. You see Monsters, which lurk in the darkened house across the steet, are afraid of dogs. And Geekydog is an expert monster sniffer outer. And bugs (particularly those daddy long legs ones, which can sometimes fly into the face of a small girl, inciting terror), are delicious to dogs. If a little girl is afraid to go to sleep because there might be a leggy bug lurking behind the curtains, Geekydog can be summoned and will 'eat up' the offender.
I have taken advantage of Geekygirl's love of our dog in a new way, too. At the moment she gets angry, when things don't go her way, when her sleeves are too tight, or a puzzle too tricky. And her way of dealing with the anger is to hit out at the nearest person, or to scream ear penetratingly loudly. Screaming is preferable to hitting, I suppose, but it is not ideal. We're working on an emphatic "I'm angry", a foot stamp, or another satisfying yet PG rated exclamation.
When she screamed this morning because her socks were uncomfortable, Geekydog came running, anxious about the noise. I was inspired, and said "Look at poor Geekydog. Dogs have very very sensitive ears, sensitive enough to hear those bugs flying in your room. Screaming really hurts her ears. Much more than it hurts a person's ears. Look how worried she is about your screaming, I think her ears hurt." Geekygirl was instantly contrite, and hugged the dog, stroking the offended ears. I'm hoping for a breakthrough on the screaming. And I'm thinking other ways to use her love and respect for our dog to our advantage. After all, the beast needs to earn her keep, the amount of hair I'm swept up from the floors this week!