A Family’s Best Friend

The bond between a man and his dog is unquestionably strong, and it appears there is a biological argument why:

“The scientists found that dog owners experienced a surge of oxytocin when their pets gazed into their eyes, a dramatic effect that was mirrored in the animals themselves.”

“The same hormone has been shown to spike in mothers’ brains when they look into their children’s eyes. The physiological response drives maternal caring and strengthens the bond between mothers and their babies.”

My dog Ace, a wonderful and sweet Labrador retriever, is no exception. I didn’t need a study to know there exists a deep, biological bond between a man and his dog. It is obvious from time I first saw him and it continues to this day.

Except, the reason he will always have a place in my heart has less to do with me and my biology and more to do with my family and especially my boys. My experiences with this dog reaffirms my belief that every kid, and family, should have a dog – preferably a big, cuddly Lab, of course! He is a loyal companion, the most comfortable security blanket, and my boys’ best friend. Ace, despite months of puppy training, is still a puppy at heart despite being six years old and is still able to keep up with the boys long after I can! His excitement for life is energizing and his unconditional love is inspiring.

So, what’s the story? Well, my wife, facing my imminent deployment for an unknown length of time to an unknown place (that’s the fun way to tell it), decided it was time to finally get a family dog. No better time for a puppy, right? As my deployment was immediate, we weren’t able to get Ace until after I had left, so Ace filled a void in our home and comforted our family while we were living on opposite sides of the world.

The conditions of our situation were nowhere near optimal, but having a new puppy in the house certainly made life more bearable for my family living in a new city in a long-term hotel while our life was in limbo. Ace clearly picked-up on the emotional world our family occupied and he happily became a de facto therapy dog, ready and willing to assist in lowering stress and anxiety of everyone as only a dog can do. He took care of my family’s well-being when we needed it most.

And then there are the boys. Due to his integral his role in this family, Ace has had an effect on my children beyond my expectations of a boys’ companion. Their bond is unbreakable. Every stuffed animal had to be a Lab, each one named a variation of Ace: baby Acey, Daddy Acey, Mommy Acey. Perhaps unoriginal, but clearly done out of incredible love for our family pet. Even my best friend’s kid had a baby Acey at one point! At times I feel bad for the poor dog as he has become a captive audience for the boys. Playtime includes Ace. Dressing up as knights or cowboys includes Ace. Blanket forts in the house include Ace. He is the victim, so to speak, when the boys play doctor and he is rewarded handsomely when the boys drop food all over the house.

I could never have asked for a better dog for my boys as they grow up. The emotional bond between Ace and my family will be something I cherish forever and the quality I’d expect all future dogs of our household to aspire to (assuming dogs aspire to anything more than being cuddle monsters). A simple article about my dog certainly doesn’t do this beautiful beast justice for everything I owe him. I wouldn’t even know where to begin paying him back for being there for my family when I couldn’t – there certainly aren’t enough dog treats in the world! But I do know that all he wants when I walk in the door this afternoon is a hug and to play a little bit. It’s not much, but to him – and me – it is everything.

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