What a difference a dog makes

He’s got a floppy ear, a bung eye, boundless energy and an unbroken record in stick tug-of-war. He is Peanut, a kelpie/bull terrier rescue dog, and he has transformed our family.

Growing up in London, the only pet I ever had was a gerbil, so I knew nothing much about dogs. My kids had wanted one for a very long time, and my husband and I eventually succumbed to their ‘We’ll feed him, we’ll walk him, we’ll pick up poo’ wear-down-the-parents strategy. Peanut joined our family 3 months ago and life has been transformed in more ways than I could have imagined.

Let’s go to the beach
If I had said to my children, ‘Let’s get up at 6 am and go for a walk on the beach together’, they would have looked at me like I was crazy, or worse, had been reading parenting websites again. Since we have had Peanut, my 13-year-old son walks on the beach with one or other parent every morning – of course, he doesn’t see it as a walk with Mum and Dad, he’s just walking his beloved dog.

Responsibility
Much to our surprise, the kids really did do all the things they had promised, and the responsibility has rippled out to other areas. It may be sheer co-incidence, but they are also getting better at other chores; my homework-resisting son has done some school work before being nagged  and my daughter cleaned her room without a fight – two significant firsts !

Talking to adults
Talking to adults is a skill with which many teenagers still struggle and it’s one we have always tried to develop and encourage.  Wherever you take your dog, there is always conversation with other dog owners – exchange of dog names, breeds, and characteristics –  and I have quietly glowed with pride at how my son has talked confidently and with maturity when chatting about his dog.

Run with me
I work mainly from home, a solitary pursuit, until Peanut joined our family. He’ll happily sit alongside me as I write, without ever once complaining, asking to play x-box, or saying he’s bored and hungry. I love to run and he’ll run alongside me – and in front of me, behind me, into the bushes, covering about 3km for my every one. He doesn’t mind how fast or slow I go; he’ll just tag along for the love of being with me.

The joy of transforming a life
Peanut is a rescue dog, and we don’t know anything of his former life except that it was spent in the country. His injured eye and ear, and an irrational fear of brooms suggest an accident or even cruelty. He certainly didn’t know what to make of the ocean on his first trips to the beach, and retreated as the waves advanced, thinking they were chasing him. To see this beautiful, elegant creature running like a thoroughbred racehorse along the sand, barking for sheer joy is the best gift I could imagine.

I believe that we have transformed Peanut’s life, and he has certainly transformed ours.

Carol Benton is a business writer and communication consultant, specialising in proposals, tender responses and web content. See more at www.words2win.com.au.

She and her family adopted Peanut from the Australian Animal Protection Service shelter at Keysborough. www.aaps.org.au