The Dog Is the Only Sibling My Only Child Needs

Kid with dogThe front door opened, and the dog began barking because that's what hyper boxer/hound mixes do when anything moves. Walking in from an overnight, my daughter put her hands on her hips and shushed the barking beast. "Livvy, you know me," she said. "I'm your best friend."

Trade "best friend" for "surrogate sibling," and you've got the relationship between my kid and the dog. To the outside world, I'm raising a lonely only child. Inside my house, I'm raising a kid who has everything she needs from a "sister" with four legs and boundless energy.


Yes, I just called the dog my kid's sister. I would be embarrassed in that "oh God, I'm now one of those crazy pet ladies who calls the dog her kid" sense, but I promise you I have yet to knit her sweaters to match my own.

Dressing her actually falls to the kid, who -- it turns out -- didn't need me to push anyone out of my lady parts in order to find a "prince" to her "princess" during dress-up. As the picture above illustrates, a cape tied 'round the dog's neck does just fine. Her only complaint? Paws don't hold silk-covered foam swords very well.

Such is the relationship between a girl and her constant canine companion. They are best pals one minute, and the next she is shrieking for Mommy to come here this instant because "Livvy just wrecked my LEGO city!" or "Livvy ate the rest of my grilled cheese!" or "Livvy won't get off my blanket!"

Sound like any other relationship you know? Because it sends me right back to the days when I was living in a house with a real live little brother who liked to wreck my own LEGO cities and claim my blankets as his own. And now that you mention it, he was a bit of a food thief. But I loved him anyway, forgiving him just as quickly as my girl does when she's donned her snowpants and is ready to tackle the white world outside with someone as joyous as she about bounding through the snow.

Raising an only child is scary. Every time a stranger -- or not-so-stranger as the case may be -- issues a warning that only children miss out on so much by not having sibilings, we are sent back down the path that led us to the decision to stop at one. Even though we put a lot of time and careful consideration into it, there's nothing like the threat that you're going to screw up your kid to make a good parent waver.

But it's our dog, the crazy, loud, bouncy dog, who rights our listing ship. In our daughter's six years of life, she's been teaching her empathy. She's been teaching her how to share and why LEGO cities need to be confined to one corner of the living room so there is space for people (and dogs) to walk. She's given her soft ears to wipe her tears on and recently the responsibility of having to feed her daily.

There are drawbacks, of course. The recent death of our cat only drove home how finite the time we get with our pets is. But we've already pondered the downside of adding a second child to our mix. This wins. This is our best option. And you know what? It's a pretty darn good one. Just look at those two faces and try to tell me differently.

What's the relationship between your kids and their beloved pet like? Is it like siblings?


Image by Jeanne Sager

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