How good is a pet dog?

The flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications this week is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a boy and his dog, showing the value or benefit of such a relationship.

I have never really been a pet owner. I have had one or two goldfish and Siamese fighting fish over the years, but nothing for any length of time or anything that could be considered a pet in the real sense of the word. If required to, I could rattle off all the benefits of pet ownership for children and adults but none of these have ever been a strong enough inducement for me to take on the responsibility.

I don’t remember Son ever requesting a pet but maybe I’ve simply eradicated those memories. Or maybe we gave him a little sister when he was twelve instead. Bec, on the other hand did request pets and she had a few at various times. These ones were closer to real pets: guinea pigs, mice and rats; but not the puppy she so longed for. Fortunately, I was required to do little for them other than listen to her joyful stories of their antics and adventures.

I am more than happy for people to enjoy their pets but feel no envy of their special relationship nor any great desire for one of my own. I am happy to enjoy the wildlife that visits my garden: insects, birds, lizards and possums. They can look after themselves and require no effort on my part; a rather nice relationship, I think.

© Bec Colvin

© Bec Colvin

However sometimes I hear a story that indicates a value much greater than the companionship often described, and I view the role of a pet in a new way. One such story is that of Noah, a nine-year old boy who suffers from autism, and his need for a service dog. In order to help Noah get his dog Charli Mills has organised a flash fiction competition. This time the stories may be told in greater length, from 100 to 500 words. While I might struggle with the 99-word limit of most of Charli’s challenges, I am unable to enter the contest as I am on the panel of judges. There are just a few days left to get your entries in with January 31 2016 the closing date. Why not enter the contest, which has great prizes, as well as Charli’s 99-word challenge?

To find out more about Noah, his need for a service dog, and his family, visit The Honeyed Quill, the blog written by his mother Shawna Ayoub Ainslie. You can read about what things Shawna has been up to recently in this post.

Although I am not eligible to enter the contest, I am permitted to submit a 99-word response to Charli’s weekly challenge. Here goes.

The two young males sat on the step. They couldn’t see over the hedge to the park across the road but, from squeals and barks, they knew the neighbourhood children and their pets were at play. Each, with visions of their own participation, smiled as if the reality had come to be. Another life perhaps, but not this one, not now anyway. To an outsider both appeared damaged, confined more by mobility than garden walls. On the inside their hearts were filled with love, acceptance and compassion, happy with who they were, and with each other. Boy, dog; friends.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

29 thoughts on “How good is a pet dog?

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. You know the inspiration for my story, however I can’t believe the similarity to the story you linked to. I hadn’t seen it before but it is really lovely.

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  1. Sherri

    Lovely flash Norah. ‘Boy, dog; friends’ says it all. Dogs are a huge commitment, which is why we only ever had one when I was home with the kids, as they need the family involvement. I could never understand people having dogs and leaving them alone all day. We had to leave our black Lab Monty back in California when we moved, but I brought our two cats back with us. We’ve always had four-legged pets as you know, along with the rest of the menageri, and the way they bring such joy to my daughter especially makes all the hard work worth it. Although sometimes when I’m taking care of Nate Bunnykins every morning now, I wonder if I’m mad… 😉

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    1. Norah Post author

      Nate Bunnykins! Gorgeous name, gorgeous creature. Surely all efforts with Nate are worth it.
      It must have been sad leaving Monty behind in California, but hopefully he went to a good home. There must be different laws for dogs and cats, are there? I hadn’t thought about the impact of an international move on pets. It is good to know that the pets are beneficial for your daughter. You could hardly be without them, knowing that. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Yes…all worth it for Naughty Nate 🙂 It was sad leaving Monty, he stayed with my ex so the kids got to see him when they visited their father in the summer holidays. Pets can travel under what’s called a Pet Travel Scheme which eliminates the need for quarantine thank goodness. It’s complicated (and not cheap!) but I promised the kids that we would bring our beloved cats back with us and it was worth every penny. We still have Maisy, 13 years later, but Willow, being older, died several years ago. That was when we got Eddie, our black moggie, now 9. Couldn’t imagine life without them Norah 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          That’s interesting about the Pet Travel Scheme. I think there are quite strict quarantine laws in Australia. They came under scrutiny last year when Johnny Depp and wife brought in their puppies on their private jet without permission. I’m not sure if it made the news there, but it got quite a bit of airplay here.

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Sad but beautiful flash. Ah, pets. Yes. I’ve never had a dog. I imagine the responsibility would be enormous. I love all animals but, as far as pets go, I’m a cat person. My beloved furchild is gone but we called him the oldest child in the family. The first born.
    🐱❤️

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  3. Sacha Black

    Lovely flash Norah. I have done my best to promote and tweet the comp every week so hopefully you have had lots of entries. Good luck with judging 💖

    I was surrounded by cats as a child and a few dogs too loved and sill love animals 💖 Very fond memories for me

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    1. Norah Post author

      Nice to hear you love animals, Sacha. I do too. Just not as pets. 🙂
      I hope the competition drew lots of entries, but I hope the judging is not too difficult! However I’m fairly sure the standard will be quite high. Oh dear! At least there is some good criteria to be used. 🙂

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  4. MENTALLY ME (@stuckinscared)

    I remember yearning for a pet as a child… my sister had severe allergies as a child, so pets were out of the question… fair enough, though I doubt ‘fair-enough’ entered my young-and-yearning mind. 😉

    My Nanny had a dog. His name was Chum, an apt name…he was my most loved Chum. I was lucky enough to stay over at Nans almost every Weekend and have such wonderful Chum filled memories, not to mention Nan (the best Nan ever) filled.

    As an adult, Iv’e had pets in the house off and on through the years… currently we have a dog, a Guinea Pig (guinea pigs are my favorite), and fish. Our dog isn’t a trained therapy dog, but she is therapeutic (as is the guinea-pig) to have around. Therapeutic for me, but especially for Littlie.

    We have talked about (and briefly) looked into therapy dogs for special-needs/disabled. Something, I think might be good for Littlie later on… Later-on being when Cookie is no longer with us mind… one dog at a time is more than enough 🙂

    Lovely post, lovely cause, great flash! I hope you enjoy your judging role, Norah.

    All the best. Kimmie x

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your experiences, Kimmie. How wonderful that you had your loving Nan and Chum to visit on the weekends. You must have many wonderful memories of those times. In some ways having Chum at Nan’s would have meant you got to have all the fun but none of the responsibilities. Not a bad arrangement on some accounts. Though I’m sure you would have liked to be with Chum full-time.
      People do tell me of the therapeutic benefit of pets and I’m pleased to hear your support of that theory. Guinea pigs are rather cute, though I must admit that our one guinea pig experience (Bec’s first pet) was not a pleasant one. It became quite ill not long after we got it and we had to take it to the RSPCA to “look after”. We were quite sad about it.
      I will be interested to hear about a therapy dog should you get one in the future for Littlie. I’m sure you’re not in a rush for anything to happen to warrant that.
      I am looking forward to being a judge, but I do also feel the weight of responsibility in the role.
      Have a good week. Hugs. xo

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  5. Pingback: A Boy and His Dog « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Charli Mills

    I’d be happy to be dog-less at times, forgoing the responsibilities. But, as Geoff indicated, they are incentives for walks. In my case, they get me away from my desk and outside. For not having any particular attachment, you wrote a compelling scene of two “males” sharing a similar lack of mobility, desire to participate and contentment with each other. And I’m so pleased to have you serve as a judge for this contest, especially knowing you won’t have a breed bias. 😉

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charli. As the submission date draws near I’m starting to get a little excited. I haven’t judged a writing contest for a long time; and never for adult writers. I’m looking forward to the experience. I have a lot to learn. 🙂

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  7. julespaige

    Mine was a BOTs… But I don’t put that in the post all of the time. As sometimes the post is fiction. I have seen on different shows how helpful service animals can be, dog, or otherwise. Once I think I did see a monkey.

    But now all I’ve got are plants and I’m trying to narrow that amount down too. Once I am able I would like to travel with hubby without having anyone have to come in while we are away.

    We’ve two friends with children, now adults with autism. ‘They’ now are in ‘group’ homes.
    They constantly advocate and tell all what a blessing their children have been and are.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I agree that it is nice to have a bit of freedom to suit ourselves now that the children are grown. A pet, and needy plants, would certainly curtail that somewhat.
      Thanks for sharing that your story is a BOTS.

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  8. Annecdotist

    I love that you can spout the benefits of pets but decide it’s not for you. Going back to a previous conversation, it puts you at the pre-contemplation stage of the stages of change model: you don’t see a problem so you don’t rectify it. I’m with you on that.
    I loved your flash which captures the friendship between the boy and his dog beautifully – the dog transforms the boy’s exclusion into a shared retreat. I hope you enjoy judging the contest. I wonder if you’ll feel any differently about dogs when you’ve immersed yourself in them!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your support of my non-dogginess. I like that: I don’t see a problem so I don’t need to rectify it. It’s not always a good thing though. 🙂
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. At least I won’t favour a story about a particular breed of dog when I am judging. 🙂

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  9. TanGental

    I’ve had times with and without pets and they both have their benefits and their lack of something. At the moment the lack of a dog companion to excuse my almost insatiable desire to walk and to use him/her to procrastinate and think would be near intolerable but then again the freedom not to have to consider another creature (Linda apart) before doing anything, has its merits. Neat and nicely turned flash, Norah.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Sometimes I think having a four-legged friend that needed to be walked would be a good incentive for me to do so. I wish I could just make the effort for myself! Your desire is insatiable. Mine is non-existent! Just as well I get into the pool in summer! 🙂
      I’m pleased the flash worked. I was worried tackling one about a pet, particularly a dog! Particularly when it was required to be uplifting! 🙂

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  10. Steven

    I concur, a nice and apt story. You must feel honoured to be selected as a judge; it surely must be a difficult but rewarding task.

    In my younger years when we lived in a rural suburb, we mostly had a dog as pets. We did also have other less common pets from time to time, including a rabbit, ducks and chickens. I don’t know what extent of a benefit dog ownership gave, although two things come to mind. Excercise from play and an introduction to life/death. Although it sounds morbid, I suspect the death of a pet allows for a controlled experience of the life-cycle, hopefully allowing for a learning experience on the subject before an anthropoid one.

    Unfortunately, now living in city suburban units, the closest mine have gotten to is goldfish. There isn’t really that same level of attachment to a fish. You can’t really play with a fish and so there isn’t that same level of love with the pet. I suspect that when their fish die, it may be more an emotion of “deep disappointment” rather than “despair”.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Steven. I think disappointment is right. Sounds like your children have the same pet experience as mine mostly had, though Bec had a little more with her small mammals. It was certainly tragic when they died, but not so much for the fish, more disappointing, as you say. I think it is important for children to be gently introduced to the notion that death is a part of life. An understanding of lifetimes is an important part of that. Sadly some children suffer the loss of a loved one at a very young age. I don’t think there’s any preparation for that.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  11. thecontentedcrafter

    That’s a lovely story Norah! I was fascinated to read about your contentment living sans pets. I have nearly always had pets of the four legged variety in my life. Every one of them has been different and been loved and missed when they have gone. I can’t imagine my life without a cat and or a puppy in it. Vive La difference! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Definitely. I didn’t have pets as a child and didn’t find the need for them as an adult. My children decided otherwise as adults. Childhood experience don’t always determine the adult response. Thanks for sharing yours. 🙂

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