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Spring Edition 2017

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A CHILD'S BEST FRIEND by Marina Fogle, co-founder of The Bump Class "With dogs around, you are exposing your child to bacteria, dust and dirt that they benefit from in the long term" I’d been warned that best friends change for seven-year-olds on a weekly basis. But whenever I ask my son, Ludo, who his best friend is, the answer is always the same - Storm. Not a trendily named Siren in his class, but our slobbery, smelly, hair shedding, abundantly loving two-year-old Labrador. My husband Ben and I met and fell in love over our dogs. A meeting while walking our Labradors in Hyde Park quickly developed into romance and when we married, our wedding cake was adorned with sugar figures of our beloved Maggi and Inca. When children came into our lives, we were adamant that the dogs would still sleep on our bed; they would continue to come first, not the little human intruders. Nearly a decade on, I can wholeheartedly say that bringing up our children with dogs has been one of the best things we could have done. There is plenty of research to show how beneficial a childhood punctuated by pets is and I’ve seen this first hand. All of us new mothers reach for the Dettol too quickly. Terrified of illness making an already chaotic situation untenable, we try our best to keep bugs at bay. But with dogs around, you are exposing your child to bacteria, dust and dirt that they will benefit from in the long term. We know that children who have dogs at home not only visit the doctor less than their pet-less counterparts but also have fewer allergies and less incidence of asthma. But it’s as they grow older that the real benefits start. Having a dog teaches small children empathy, something that they need to learn and many struggle with. Children naturally behave like little despots, used to barking orders at their addled parents and having them fulfilled for fear of a tantrum. It’s exhausting for us mothers. But recent research has suggested dog-owning children are less self-centred at an age where most children have only thought of themselves. Having a canine dependent that they love forces children to assume responsibility. As I watched my children gleefully build camps in the pouring rain this weekend, I wondered whether our insistence that we take our dogs for a walk whatever the weather had fostered a toughness that they might otherwise have lacked. Ultimately dogs make us happy. Their presence releases endorphins that make us feel good. The fact that dogs are considered therapeutic in hospitals and schools is testament to this – and it’s a lot cheaper and more ‘on tap’ than other kinds of therapy. It’s probably the companionship, the fact that a dog never gets bored of playing or sitting patiently, not questioning tears or irrational behaviour that makes these animals such popular pets for families. We spent this Christmas relaxing in the Bahamian sunshine, indulging in the need for no shoes and, most of the time, not many clothes either. Cavorting on deserted white beaches, retrieving interesting shells from the sea bed and ice cream every day was heaven for Ludo and Iona. But around week two the tears started, “I just miss my Storm so much”, wailed my little boy. We were seemingly in paradise, but for us, no paradise is complete without the company our beloved dog. 18 19


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