We have had Olive for 2 weeks now. My biggest challenge has been keeping an eye on her with Jason, who is 22 months old. One of the first days we had her, I went into the living room to check on them and found Jason with both hands gripped onto the fur around her eyes. I quickly went to him and told him to let go. “Gentle with the doggie, we don’t want to hurt her, ” I keep repeating.
Olive has tolerated Jason well. A few times she turned her head to him as if to say, “Stop” but most of the time she is wagging her tail and licking his face. It’s a good thing she is not a small dog. A small dog would not be a good fit with a 28 pound, active, energetic, larger than life toddler.
Walking Olive, even at night, has been an unexpected enjoyment. It has given me a few minutes to step outside alone, get some fresh air and view the stars. I don’t feel burdened by the added responsibility of having a dog. I also know that the experience of caring for the dog can be very therapeutic for my daughter and because animals bring her such joy, it is a pleasure to be able to do this for her during what has been a tulmotous time for her.
The larger challenge is caring for Olive despite the demands of my daughter declaring she is “her dog” and she will take care of him. I have made it clear that we took Olive on as a family responsibility and I do not mind caring for her. I also have not expected my oldest son to care for her other than checking on her when we leave him alone with her. He was less than thrilled at the idea of having a dog, and his initial acceptance wore off about day three. His tolerance for having a dog living in our house has increased recently. Or maybe it is just because of his new iPod touch and celebration of his thirteenth birthday. Despite his “big brother” ways, he knows how much his sister loves animals and on some level can appreciate how much having Olive in our home means to his sister.
Watching Olive with our cat, Peanut continues to be one of my favorite aspects of this experience. Olive will just wag her tail with excitement when she sees Peanut but has learned that getting too close is not a good idea. Peanut is an inside only cat but has her front claws. Peanut seems to tolerate Olive. The unfortunate thing is that if Peanut were still a kitten, she might actually enjoy having a dog in the house as a playmate. I remember how different her reaction was to my sister’s dog at our house when she was still a kitten compared to when she was past a year or so of age. At least she gets exercise with Olive chasing her and maybe she is really enjoying the game of hide and seek. She only needs to hide in one spot briefly and Olive will spend most of her time sniffing and waiting in the spot where her scent is even though she has moved to another location. She walks about the house with an aire of confidence “this is my domain and I am the queen”. And Olive is just happy to see her, us, anyone really.
Reading the book, I, Jack, has given me a better appreciation for the possible thoughts of a dog. I, Jack, is a wonderful book written by Patricia Finney and told from the perspective and voice of the family dog, Jack. I read it years ago with my oldest child and recently checked it out of the library again and read it with my 8-year-old daughter. We both enjoyed reading it together before bedtime and she even read ahead without me because she was enjoying it so much. I was glad I had read it before but really enjoyed it as much the second time.
And so here we are two weeks in and wondering still if this is temporary or permanent. It is a funny thing to all of a sudden with less than two weeks notice have a dog, and have your neighbor’s dog who is your daughter’s “Best friend” (her words). I think the suddenness of it all has been an adjustment for her maybe even more so than for the rest of us. Change is not easy for her and having our wonderful neighbors move was a big enough change let alone taking in one of their dogs. No matter what the outcome of this experience, I am grateful for this time we have with Olive for my daughter and for all of us. It surely has made the sudden move of our neighbors an easier transition for my daughter who would have been heartbroken to have to say goodbye to Olive.