Dogs, responsibility, and aging

Usually parents buy children a pet, and it becomes the parents’ pet. In our case, our dog has become our son’s dog – or rather, our son has become our dog’s boy.

When my son was young, our yellow lab was a very patient companion. She let him pull her tail without whining and try to ride her like a pony without growling. She would gently nose his cheek when he fell asleep on the couch.

Now that my son is 10 years old, he takes more responsibility for our dog. He gets her water, feeds her, and helps take her on walks. He is learning to take responsibility for someone else.

But a funny thing happened. Whenever our dog wants something – food, water, a walk – she doesn’t come to us anymore. Instead, she goes to our boy (her boy?) and noses him when he is trying to read, play games, or do homework. She barks a warning-bark and then pay-attention bark. Our dog, once so patient with our son, has become more demanding.

As I age, I hope that I show more restraint and understanding when my son is caught up with his own life, and I look for a measure of his attention. It’s always hard when we need to keep up with changes in our relationships – when our children need us less and when we need them more.

This post did not turn out the way I expected it to. I started off writing about responsibility and the changing relationship between our dog and our son, and it has turned ended with a glimpse of the future, when a care-giver may become a dependent.

Did you have a childhood pet? If yes, who really took care of your pet? And why do the words “caregiver” and “caretaker” mean the same thing – someone who takes care of another?

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