Doodle has a few best friends. There’s Boogie, his almost 6-year-old best girl cousin friend, JJ, his 4-year-old best bro cousin friend, and Ling, his almost 3-year-old best girl friend – these are probably the three that he’s spent the most time with, that he asks about the most, and that he wants to see as often as possible. He does have one other best friend though, one who lives for him and only him.
Ash, our family dog, is almost 6 years old. She was born exactly three days after Boogie, one of the best cousin friends. Jake and I (and consequently Ash) lived with Boogie and her mama (my sister M) when Boogie was still just a wee one for about a year and a half, and then another year and a half after that we brought Doodle into our family. Ash has been the guardian protector for both Boogie and Doodle her entire life. She’s also been perfectly present whenever dozens of other friends and cousins have come over to play. She knows nothing but the love and play from tiny hands that still grab, pull, push, and prod. And she loves it.
Ash is an American Staffordshire Terrier. You might know her breed better as an American Pit Bull Terrier or just a basic Pit Bull. Run in horror real quick people – this dog eats babies.
As you can clearly see, Doodle is in danger at all times he’s around his bud. She’s completely unpredictable. One minute, she seems calm as a cucumber, and the next, with no apparent motive, she turns into a ravenous beast who needs to be muzzled and tranquilized in order to maintain our family’s safety. Seriously, dangerous stuff here. We do try to feed her a few dozen babies or kittens each week to keep her blood lust satisfied, but we can only do so much and we never know at what moment she’ll turn on our sweet boy.
So, aside from my (hopefully) obvious sarcasm there – some people actually think these things. Heck, you, my faithful reader, might even think these things. And that’s ok. It’s not a character flaw. You might have owned a pit bull who completely snapped on your unsuspecting family. More likely than that, however, you heard about somebody who heard about somebody who knew somebody whose loving family dog flipped its lid on a small child who thought they were just playing. Either way, I do want to raise some awareness that while some dogs can become scared or angry and attack someone without apparent provocation, sometimes, just sometimes, any breed of dog can be absolutely amazing.
But that’s the thing about dogs in general. They’re animals. They come from wild animals. Sure, there’s been a few dozen generations between their wolf ancestors and your little Fido barking in the backyard, but the fact should never be discarded that they are animals and they do have the capacity to act on various wild instincts.
Owning a dog, any dog, is a big responsibility. Not only do they need the basics of food, water, shelter, and exercise, but they also need owners willing to invest time into them to properly train them in obedience and socialization and to invest money into them to make sure they are healthy. This is for any dog. And even with all of these factors met, there’s still the potential for any dog to have health, socialization or behavioral issues. Just like people, each dog has a different personality. Some don’t deal with change well, others don’t seem to notice. Some appreciate space when they’re trying to relax, others prefer dog piles. Some get jumpy or anxious when new people come over, others couldn’t care less. Some like to dig under fences, others are completely content in whatever confinement they’re given. They’re all different, some good, some bad, some not at all cut out for families with children. But, overall, there are many dog breeds that, on average, have amazing reputations as family-friendly dogs. And do you know who’s near the top of almost every list there’s ever been? Yep, Ash and the rest of her Pit Bull brethren.
Ash is what we like to refer to as a big dumb dog. (Say that in a dumb dog voice as though it’s just one word, and that’s pretty well everything you need to know about her.) She loves cuddling, but she’s not really smart enough to know the full extent of her size, so she’s terribly awkward. We accidentally taught her the command “be a cat” when she was a puppy. We had cats, she loved chasing the cats, and when they would perch on the back of the couch, she’d perch right next to them. How cute, right? Let’s teach her to do that on command, right? Argh! We had just about no idea what we were doing as dog owners for a good bit of her growing-up-ness. Oops.
She farts, and then looks toward her back-end with this look of curiosity as though to say, “Where in the world did that noise come from?!” She goes to smell something on the coffee table, doesn’t realize where the end of her nose is, and accidentally knocks it off the table after a few nudges, then cocks her head and stares at the object in complete and utter confusion, “How’d that get down there?!”
She loves having her ears pulled and played with, hanging out in the play area with Doodle’s stuffed buddies, chasing the big ball in the yard when Doodle kicks it, and running around the swing set when Doodle and his buddies are playing on it. Never mind that she doesn’t pay attention to the moving swings and sometimes gets knocked around – she’s totally resilient and will just keep on running with that tail a-waggin’.
What’s best of all about her personality, though, is how much she just wants to be close to Doodle. She’ll park right next to him and do nothing but watch his surroundings, mainly toward the front door. If ever there’s a noise outside that she deems detrimental to his safety, she posts up right in between him and the offending sound as though she’s about to kick some intruder ass for getting too near her boy. If he goes upstairs, more often than not she’s right behind him, stopping a little ways away from him but still keeping an eye on him. Even when she lays down to catch a few winks, she’s still facing him, opening her eyes every once in a while to get an updated location of him and moving her head toward his new vicinity.
And how does Doodle feel about his dog? He can’t get enough of her. He absolutely adores giving her nice touches, knows full well not to ever hit her or pull her hair (or anyone else for that matter) and would give up any amount of playtime to simply cuddle with her on the couch. He wants to help feed her and give her water anytime he notices us doing so, and he lets her out back as often as he thinks she might want to go potty (so long as we help him with the door if it gets stuck).
He’s very kind to her when he accidentally steps on her or knocks a toy onto her, as well. He gives her this amazingly remorseful, “I’m so sorry, Ash. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I love you,” as he proceeds to give her head the softest sweetest nice touches he can muster up. Throughout the entire ordeal, Ash has either barely noticed that anything has happened (bigdumbdog) or is licking Doodle’s face with a thousand kisses.
Speaking of kisses, it started as one of those disgusting habits that I frantically tried to do away with when he was little. She was never really a licker before him – I mean, sure, she’d kind of lick us, like on our hand if we were petting her head or on our chin if our faces got a little too close to her face. But, when Doodle was little, she’d straight up go out of her way to give him a full-face slobber kiss at any available moment. We were obviously concerned that
she’d develop a taste for him and gobble him up he’d think this was just how you interact with dogs and we’d never be able to stop it.
Well, while he was learning how to properly open-mouthed slobber kiss us in his first few months, he decided that she was part of the family too and she deserved the same kind of kisses, so that just perpetuated her love of full face licks which in turn further perpetuated his open-mouth kisses. I finally gave up. That’s just how they share their love, and it boosts up his immune system anyway. Luckily, he doesn’t instigate the open-mouthed kisses anymore, but he does still grab her face and give her smooches right on her lips, to which she happily responds with a few good licks across his face. Giggles follow, and then a nice squeeze or chase around the living room ensues.
So, as he in an only child and I am a stay at home mess, even though we do play with many friends frequently, Doodle spends most of his time at home with boring old mom, so his dog is his favorite company. I just adore their love for each other. He’ll get her set up on the couch with a pillow, blanket, and stuffed buddy so she can take a nap, he’ll ride on her like a horse, or he’ll put a hat or basket on her head so she can play whatever super hero or birthday party game he’s playing. And she eats
him it all up.
But my absolute favorite is when he specifically wants to sit on the couch with her so that he can watch a cartoon with her. He’ll ask me if he can go to sleep with her, then he’ll just cuddle up to her however is comfiest for him based on how she’s laying, and he’ll zone out on his show, scooting closer if she adjusts at all. And she’ll place her head on him or shove it between his body and the couch and doze off. And there they’ll stay, probably for hours on end if I kept the cartoons rolling or didn’t remind him to go potty occasionally.
There’s really nothing I can say to emphasize completely how grateful I am that we were blessed with such a kind-natured dog as Ash. As stinky as her farts are, as annoying as her snoring is, and as irritated as I may get with her when she won’t stop jumping on people who come over no matter how much I work with her on it because she’s so darn stubborn or when she needs to go outside for the billionth time in the last hour even though she’s already done all of the business she could possibly need to do AND has patrolled the backyard at least a dozen times and nothing has changed and she’s just going to want back in after 13.45 seconds of being out there anyway, she really is such a sweet girl and our life would be much less rewarding without her company.
As far as Doodle is concerned, having a family dog (other pets too, but especially dogs) is ridiculously beneficial to children in the realms of education, health, and socialization. Seriously, check it out here, here, or here, or go look it up yourself. Children with dogs in their families (or access to dog reading programs like this one) even tend to learn to read fluently easier and enjoy reading more by having a furry friend always willing to sit and listen to a book without correcting mispronounced words or telling kids they skipped a page.
He’s learned more about remorse, sharing, and forgiveness from her than he has from any other friends of family members. He knows to be kind to all things, creatures and people alike, because we have been able to stress with him the importance of caring for her with love and respect, but also giving her space when necessary. He will likely grow up with an open mind regarding many myths and stereotypes once he’s old enough to realize the common (and some legislative) views of dogs like his (among other things). Granted, by that time she’ll likely not be around anymore, but hopefully we will have provided him with ample time and opportunity to make amazing memories with his wonderful dog. And, by that point she will have also taught him her final lesson – about grieving and loss.
Above all, though, he’s got a best friend who whole-heartedly adores him. Happy, healthy dogs tend to love with a fervor that knows no bounds. No matter how long it’s been since she’s seen him, how many times he’s taken food out of her bowl, how many times he’s closed the back door accidentally leaving her outside when she wanted in, or how many times he steps on her as he tries to get down from the couch (because if she’s not up on the couch with him, she’s likely parked right below him waiting for him to get down), she’s always ecstatic to see him, kiss him, chase him, and fall asleep on the couch with him. She really is a boy’s best friend.