From the moment I brought him home as an infant, he was a terrible sleeper. Wait — actually, he was a terrible sleeper since he came out. I thought newborns were supposed to sleep 90 percent of the time. My eldest son was in the 10 percent that wouldn’t.
In his defense, he had issues breathing through his nose shortly after birth. This led to many ear infections as a baby and toddler. All these issues made him wake up frequently throughout the night. As the years went by, I kept telling myself he would grow out of it. I hoped he would grow out of it.
When we welcomed our second son into the family, things just got worse. I knew it was a form of jealousy. My eldest felt he wasn’t getting enough attention with the new baby occupying so much of my time. He would sneak into my bed in the middle of the night, or he would insist that either my husband or I needed to stay with him at night. This continued on for a few more years. I was beginning to fear that I would someday have to share my bed with a teenager and my husband.
I did notice that sometimes when our dog would hang out in the room with him, my son would be more likely to stay in his own bed. However, Scout was an older dog and preferred the comfort of his bed in my room, next to me. When Scout passed away, my son was overwhelmed with grief.
Naturally, he spent more time in bed with me and my husband. Things were getting worse.
Even though we were working through the grief of losing our beloved pet, I decided to take the plunge and get another dog. My son insisted that he didn’t want another; he just wanted Scout back. But that changed when we met Rocky.
Up until this point, we had met with several dogs. My son didn’t seem interested in any of them. I thought we’d never find the right one. I happen to see a hound mix available for adoption that seemed perfect, so I set up a meet-and-greet. When we first met Rocky, my son seemed standoffish. Rocky made his sniffing rounds and played with my younger son for a bit. He seemed like he would be a good fit, but I couldn’t tell with my older son just yet. Then, when we got home, there was an immediate change in my son. He took Rocky outside and they ran around for a while. I figured it was his shyness that kept him from engaging in Rocky’s foster home.
When they came back in the house, they settled on the sofa to watch TV. Yep, my son had a new TV partner. Rocky snuggled right in next to him and went to sleep. It was perfect. The true test came that evening. As I tucked the boys in for bed, I anticipated the dreaded, “Can you stay with me, Mommy?” request. Before he had a chance to ask, Rocky hopped into the bed with my son, then burrowed under the covers with him and went to sleep. I kissed my son goodnight and asked him if everything was all good. He said it was perfect.
My son did not sneak into my bed that night. In fact, he’s stayed in his bed ever since we got Rocky. We even acquired another dog three weeks after Rocky came to live with us, and we foster dogs. My son insists that they all sleep in his room with him. I know this isn’t a permanent fix. The dogs are just a substitute for my husband or me. Yet, there’s something special about a bond that kids have with dogs.
Dogs help build kids’ confidence. They can help soothe and calm them down if they are stressed. Dogs live in the moment. They do not judge and they love unconditionally. Since we got Rocky, he’s definitely become my son’s dog. He’s always by his side and I hear my son reading and talking to him all the time.
Rocky is the best confidence builder for my son. I don’t know what the future will bring, and I don’t know if my son will ever be 100 percent confident. But I do know there’s nothing like a boy and his dog. For now, that works for me.