Family life is hectic for everyone. Kids, work, school functions, sporting events…the list goes on and on. Add a family pet into the mix and it’s enough to make you wonder how it all gets done.
Angela and Rick Bennett of Bellevue have one such family. With four school-age children, they faced a question: “Is a dog one member too many?”
A few years ago, the Bennetts were looking for a dog to bring into their family. “We needed a dog that didn’t shed,” explains Angela. Two of her children, James, 12, and Julia, 7, have allergies. “We had a list of very specific breeds and thought we were going to have to look around for a while.”
As luck would have it, the family stopped into the Nebraska Humane Society on the same day that a Lhasa-Poo (a cross between a Lhasa Apso and a Poodle) puppy was put up for adoption—and his name just happened to be Lucky.
“In the beginning, the kids promised to do a lot of the work,” recalls Angela. For the most part, she says that they have kept their end of the bargain, with everyone taking turns cleaning up after Lucky, feeding him, and walking him.
She shares that her husband, Rick, made sure that each child had his or her own responsibilities in caring for Lucky, allowing the new family member to bond with everyone. Angela admits that it was difficult in the beginning. “When we first got him, he wasn’t nearly as easygoing as he is now,” she says. The Humane Society identified Lucky as a family-friendly choice, but the screening process can sometimes be an imperfect science. Lucky’s adjustment to his new home took some work. Angela says that he had a hard time getting used to the kids.
“When they would touch him, especially when he had some food in his dish, Lucky would bite them,” she says. Concerned by this behavior, Rick started to wonder if they might need to give the dog away. “We wouldn’t have given him away just because we didn’t want him, but obviously we didn’t want the kids—or their friends—to get hurt.”
In an attempt to save Lucky, 15 year-old Erica closely observed the dog’s behavior and came up with a list of ten rules, written in Lucky’s voice, that each family member should follow. A copy was hung in each child’s bedroom.
Rules such as “Don’t bother me when I’m eating or have my bone,” “When I’m asleep, leave me alone…I’m not in the mood to play,” and “If I walk away, don’t grab me or keep me back” topped the list.
“I think it was mostly due to Erica’s rules that [we were able to keep] Lucky,” says Angela.
Anna, age 10, reminded her mother of another helpful hint: “Close the zipper on the trampoline, and don’t leave a stool out there when it’s open.”
After making a few other adjustments, such as crating Lucky during meals so that he wouldn’t beg for food, things are running smoothly at the Bennett home.
“Lucky is pretty laid-back,” says Angela. “He loves to sit at the door and just look out. But when he sees another dog, he gets a little crazy.”
Though Lucky is rather territorial, he does enjoy playing at the dog park. “Once he’s off his leash, he gets along with the other dogs. He’s never gotten into a fight with another dog at the park.”
The idea of bringing home a new dog is always fun and exciting. But soon reality sets in and difficult issues need to be worked out. Will the kids follow through on their responsibilities? How will Fido interact with the children?
“It’s a big commitment!” says Angela. Thankfully, for the Bennetts, they were able to find a way to resolve these unexpected issues within their own home and keep Lucky as a part of their family. “It was a little touchy with him [at first], about how he reacted to the kids,” says Angela. But she offers this advice: “Pay attention to the dog’s personality and be patient with the interaction between the dog and the kids.
“This is really corny, but we always said we were ‘Lucky’ to find him,” says Angela.