Posted: Feb 19, 2014 6:00 AM
 
Our dogs might bring a few hassles — namely occasional barking, toilet paper messes and a random uncontrolled bladder mess now and then. But mostly, they bring companionship to our children and joy to our home. They are Family's Best Friend, and I can't imagine life without them.

For as long as I can remember, we had a dog growing up. There was Buffy, Hansi, Lizzy, Teddy, Shelby, Moe and Brindle — each of them granting my childhood and adolescence with stories that are now retold at family gatherings. Remember that Christmas morning when Buffy was our present? Remember when Moe couldn't see anymore and he walked right off the ledge of the porch? Each dog lived through its era in our family history, and each dog's loss was greatly mourned and slowly healed through welcoming another dog. But one thing remains true — our childhood was magically enriched by the constant companionship of Man's, Mother's and Child's Best Friend.

Our childhood was magically enriched by the constant companionship of Man's, Mother's and Child's Best Friend.

With two beloved dogs as characters in my own kids' childhood books, I'm well aware of the many benefits a family dog brings. Our Sophie and Latte might give us our share of eye rolls when they bark at the mail truck or slip out the door for a neighborhood sprint, but I can't imagine these early motherhood years without them.

My favorite perks of the family dog:

Vacuum

I can't even remember the last time I used a broom, and this is coming from a home where three times a day, an 11-month-old sits in a high chair and eats. And by eats, I mean throws everything on the floor. Having dogs makes cleaning up after babies a heck of a lot easier, and I don't even have to summon them for their duties. It's like they're psychic. The minute you begin to even think about feeding time, the dogs magically appear beneath the high chair, on their mark, alert and ready, reporting for duty. Which completely makes up for the times I have to clean up after them. Well, almost.

Protector

There's an understood ownership that has transferred to our dogs the moment we brought each baby home from the hospital. You're mine to protect. I've caught our dogs huddled next to the crib, sidled up against car seats and growling when intruders get too close to "their" baby, and I have to admit — I love it. It takes a village to raise a child, and our dogs are very much a part of our village.

allParenting Kelle Hampton family dog

Entertainment

Perhaps my kids' favorite perk of having a dog, the entertainment possibilities are endless. In these cases, our dogs aren't just pets, they're friends. They sit through stories, ride in wagons, get wrapped in blankets, pushed in strollers and carried into blanket forts. When my kids are bored or needing a little extra companionship, they can always find friendship and connection with our dogs — and I probably have a hundred photos to preserve these moments.

Mood lifter

Over the past 10 years of having Sophie and Latte in our home, I realize how wonderful they are at providing consistency and comfort for the ups and downs of life. During uncertain circumstances, their constant presence and companionship has reminded us that life goes on. Like children, their need to be taken care of, to play and to be loved doesn't change. There's something very grounding about that, no matter what's happening in the world.

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