Saving for a Dog

We have been slowly thinking about and getting used to the idea/possibility of getting a dog.  It started as a joke between Bruce and I.  Bruce is somewhat fixated on yellow lab puppies.  Don’t ask me why.  He’s had some yellow labs in the past and he thinks they are cute puppies, good looking dogs, and have good temperaments for young families.  So as the ball kept rolling, we decided that it would be nice to have a playmate for the kids.  A little security system.  A running partner.  Another family member to care for.

OoooooooOOOOoooo.... a yellow lab puppy!!  So cute!

OoooooooOOOOoooo…. a yellow lab puppy!! So cute!

I have, at times, not been thrilled about the idea of cleaning up after and taking care of another being.  I clean up enough after three kids and a cat, I’m not too enthused about adding to that list of responsibilities.  But then I think about how nice it would be to have a pet around here to go running with, to throw in the back of the pickup and take for a ride, to have sitting at my feet on a cold night.  I remember how much my childhood pets meant to me.

So, around Christmastime, we visited the humane society as a family a couple times  to see how the kids would react.  We told them we weren’t sure yet, we were just thinking about it.  Well, the girls only ever want to play with the cats or look at the cute little ankle-biter dogs.  But Russell.  Russell is into it.  There is something about a 7 year old boy and a dog.  He would assess the dogs and play with them.  The girls would oooo and ahh over jumpy crazy cute dogs and ask to bring every single one home.  But Russell would pet them and look at them and really think it over.  I’m afraid the day will come when he truly falls in love with one, and that will be the one we bring home.  The kid is very intuitive.

We learned about the adoption fees and costs of pet ownership.  At a minium, for us to become dog owners, we are going to need at least $200. That thought got me to thinking and stressing, as money always does.  My main concerns revolved around the facts that: A. We didn’t really have $200 just lying around to spend on a dog.  and B. That’s alot of money to spend, and there had to be a way to earn it so it would be appreciated. and C. I was not quite mentally ready to have a dog around.  Acclimating a lab-type dog to our house in the middle of winter was a little too much for me.

So I came up with a plan to address my concerns, give the kids some skin in the game, and teach us all a lesson about working together.  It started with the explosion that would happen as soon as the kids walked in after school.  Coats, hats, snowpants, papers, backpacks….they would go flying the second the door opened.  “Moooom! I’m hungry!!”  And in the midst of eating their snack, I would notice that a child or two still had yet to emerge from the mountain of kid-clothes.  Believe me, I’ve tried in the past to correct this problem, but it’s never worked without a lot of nagging.

So, I tried a new approach.  I said, “From now on, if you guys can come in the door from school and put your stuff away where it belongs, you will each get $1 towards getting a dog.  You will only get one reminder, if I have to remind you again, you won’t get anything.”  And like that, I solved that problem.  They came home, put their stuff away, and asked for $1 and a snack.  I’d put the money in a jar on the desk and fix them their food.  Yay for smooth transtions!

For a week, that was the only incentive I had for them.  But the next week I upped the ante.  I introduced a sticker chart on the bathroom wall.  We had been struggling with self-motivation towards personal hygiene.  So I introduced the same concept. Brush your teeth or take a bath, get a sticker.  10 stickers equals $5 for the dog. The kids filled their charts in a week, and I got a break from nagging!  And we were slowly getting closer to our goal!

Counting money with the automatic bank Russell got for his birthday.

Counting money with the automatic bank Russell got for his birthday. And yes, my kids are still in their pajamas…it was a snow day, we weren’t going anywhere!

The incentives and money jar spark good conversations about the dog… and money…and ways to earn it… and chores….and life lessons in general.  We count the money weekly, which makes for a good math lesson.   We created a chart to track our progress.  Everyone is invloved.  When the kids seem to be getting bored with the thought, we will do a little research into available dogs and re-invigorate their enthusiasm.  Bruce and I will dump our pocket change and spare money in on occasion to help out too.

Hazel can't quite grasp the math concept, but she does get into coloring the chart!

Hazel can’t quite grasp the math concept, but she does get into coloring the chart!

It’s been a great project so far.  We’ve re-enforced so many good, real-life concepts to the kids, such as: routine, discipline, teamwork, appreciation, goal-setting, achievement, and patience.  They have realized that they are active participants in this household and that their contributions are important.  All of these things set the stage for us as a family to embrace and take on a new doggy family member.

And yes, we’ve already decided to keep it up after we reach our dog goal.  The next mission will be a vacation!

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