How my dogs are better parents than me….

Are you a believer that pets are good for kids? We certainly are. We are blessed, or cursed some may say, to have enough space for a whole load of them. To date we have; four horses, six dogs, six cats, three guinea-pigs, two turtles, tank fish, pond fish, chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. Oh and there are usually a few pigs roaming around too. You’d think that we live on a farm, if only! We do have a fair amount of space though. This mixed with an aversion to the word no, has led us to the menagerie that we have.

We really do love our animals. They are part of our core existence and the ethos in which we like to live our life. We genuinely feel that the benefits that we get from them as a family, especially the kids, hugely outweigh any negative factors…such as the HUGE feed bill every month! We see time and time again, the way they help our kids to develop and grow, and they are a constant source of examples to demonstrate certain things to the kids, in a way that they can relate to. Mix this with an endless source of fun, amusement and companionship and we really seem to be onto a winner!

One of our over-riding fears when we first ventured into parenthood, was that the kids would grow up hating animals (or be allergic to them!) I am relieved to say that, at this moment in time, it isn’t the case. They love our animals. Antihistimines deal with the rest!

Sometimes though, even our friends think we are mad, to have so many animals. But our animals really unite us as a family and serve to draw us closer together. In this series of blogs I want to demonstrate the positive benefits that I see each of our animals bring to the kids and the family as a whole.  I am going to start with our dogs.

As I say, we have six dogs. Two of these are working police dogs; Vic is a general purpose police dog – he bites and tracks and finds property. Diesel is a drugs dog – he finds drugs and weapons and cash. Alas he has never found us any of the latter. We then have four pet dogs; Locke is a retired police dog. Sophie is a failed police drugs dog – she could find drugs, and cash, but couldn’t find weapons. She was required to do all three. Jack is a pet, just a loveable fluffball. Last, but not least, the youngster Buddy. He’s the rogue of the family.

What follows are the things that make me proud that our kids learn from our dogs. The lessons they learn, they can, and do, apply to life because they are able to see, feel and interact with them in such a way that the lessons become part of them. Whether they realise it or not.

Physical fitness – as a family, we take the dogs for at least two walks a day. It doesn’t only provide us with exercise, but more importantly, it’s a chance for us and the dogs to let of steam, run around, play and have fun. The kids really look forward to the walks and they’re an integral part of our day. Of course it also means that the kids are out, whatever the weather, and not stuck in front of the TV.

Bonding – the time we’re walking the dogs is a real chance for us to bond as a family. It’s a space for us to chat, laugh and catch up on the day we’ve had. The dogs don’t care what we’re chatting about, they just love to be included.

Respect – the kids have really started to learn respect for the dogs. They see them as friends, but especially with the police dogs, have seen the power that they have. They have been quick to realise not to take this for granted, but to treat their friends with the respect and courtesy they deserve and, in return, they get unwavering loyalty. A lesson for all of us.

Personal space – the kids have a huge awareness for personal space. They seem to know when enough is enough. If the dogs are sleeping, or have put themselves away, you leave them be. They’ve earned their rest. They have seen that if they badger the dogs, they soon lose interest in playing with them. In return, if they’re busy they expect the dogs to leave them be.

Fun – there’s nothing quite like playing with the dogs. Their boundless energy and love for life has the kids, and us in turn, in fits of giggles as they leap for the ball, or chase their tail. It teaches them to love life.

Good behaviour – the kids see that the dogs don’t get what they want by being pushy, or rude, or aggressive. Instead they see that by behaving well they get praise and to play and have treats. They are starting to realise that this works for them too!

Responsibility – the kids argue over who gets to feed the dogs, walk the dogs, groom the dogs, wash the dogs. They seem to appreciate that with the fun, comes the work and the care and they treat this with equal vigour.

Loss – at some point, sadly, we will start to lose the dogs. Most of them are getting on now. We have spoken to the kids about this, but nothing can quite prepare you for that huge sense of loss. It does however give us a platform to explore death with the kids and how to manage grief and loss. Something that we can’t avoid in life.

Selfless love – our dogs have the biggest capacity for love. They demonstrate this in their unwavering loyalty to us and the kids, and they ask for little in return. They are always there for a hug and a play. There is little that beats the sight and sound, of our kids using the dogs as a pillow, when they are watching the TV or something, the contented sigh that they both release never fails but to warm my heart.

Our dogs never get caught up in the insignificant stuff. They are never too busy, or anxious, or stressed to play or lend an ear. Their time is yours, their love is yours. It is never doubted or hidden with an angry word. The dogs are always happy to see us, they are also very forgiving. Their loyalty really knows no bounds.

This is why sometimes I think the dogs are better parents than me. You see, it’s not only the kids that need to learn from the dogs. Sometimes, just sometimes I could do with taking a leaf out of their book….couldn’t we all.

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Time to expand the family?

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I hope that you like the gratuitous shot of Wil herding or pigs, which are long gone for sausages I’m afraid. The pigs, not Wil. He’s a keeper. The picture is supposed to represent the amazing life that we have to offer a child, in our opinion.

It had come to the time that we were starting to think about expanding our family, with kids, not pigs. We loved being Dads, and Wil was going from strength to strength. He had really cemented us together as a family and though it had been a tough start with the press intrusion, we were ready to do it all again!

Ivan and I are both from large families. By that I mean the amount of siblings, not how big we are!  Ever since being a parent had not only become an option to us, but a reality, we knew that we wanted more than one kid, before it would be complete. When Wil was a little over a year old, we started to take steps to expand our family.

My sister Lorna had been amazing in giving us the gift of a son, in Wil. But we had always known it was a one time offer. We considered kidnapping her and making her watch re-runs of Sister Act, until she agreed to provide us with another child, but figured that such a level of torture was unfair. And besides, to have been given the opportunity once was as much of a gift as anyone could ask. The first time had been so simple and so fuelled by love and trust, that we knew that it wasn’t something that could be forced. We also knew that if Lorna could, she would in an instant, despite her initial ‘one time offer’ statement. It was only a change in her circumstances that meant she wasn’t in a position to do it again.

We considered looking for another surrogate, but decided that if it wasn’t going to be Lorna, then that wasn’t the route for us. For as much as we loved the idea of another baby from birth, we also loved the idea of adopting a child equally as much. The thought of adoption appealed on so many levels. We knew that we could parent. We knew that we had a lovely home to offer a child. We knew that Wil would get a lot out of a sibling. But not only that. We knew, from our roles as Police Officers, that there are so many children out there that desperately needed a family that can care for them. We truly felt that we had the life-experience, the love, the understanding, and the time to offer a child the best start they could need. It certainly wasn’t a selfless act, driving it forward was our desire to expand our family. But if we could do this, and help a child that needed it? That’s pretty exciting stuff!

In terms of timing, it felt right to us too. We were recently married. Wil was still a baby. The idea of having children, close in age, absolutely appealed.  I love babies, but they are hard work. Even when they’re as easy as Wil. They require time, and attention, 100%  of the time. And I don’t always want it to be about the  kids. I love being a Dad, and it’s at the forefront of my life. But equally I need some me time, and some Ivan time. I want that highly dependent stage to be out of the way ASAP! I want there to be some me, and some us time, outside of the ever so important kid time, and family time too. And I wanted it to be while we are still young enough to enjoy it!

Of course there were also practical reasons. I was close in age to my siblings, and I loved that we played together, and wanted to do the same sorts of things. We could share rooms and clothes and toys. For me and Ivan, It didn’t make sense for us to wait.

After some in depth research and recommendations, we approached Bournemouth adoption agaency, who were hands down our first choice. I rang up, full of excitement, and booked us onto the next available information evening.

We turned up on the evening, full of nerves and trepidation. I scanned the rest of the room. There were about 10 couples there. Old couples, young  couples, black couples, asian couples. It was a positive melting pot of diversity. With us there as the gay couple I think that every box was ticked that evening! It was great to see. What else was great to see was that we weren’t overdressed! Most of my afternoon had been spent concerned that I wasn’t going for the right look! But I need not have worried.

The beginning of the evening gave us a chance to mingle Everyone was clearly as nervous and unsure about what to expect as we were. We made sure to push ourselves forward and chat to the other couples. The nerves showed themselves in the badly timed laughter, and the stilted conversation at the start. But it didn’t take long for people to realise, as diverse a bunch as we were, that we were all in the same boat. We began to relax and start to chat properly.

The information passed that evening was brilliant! We had a power point presentation, which introduced the agency and the background of adoption.  We heard from the adoption team, from people that had adopted, and also people that had been adopted. There was also plenty of time to ask questions, to make sure that we had all the information we needed to make a decision as to whether we moved forward down the adoption route or not. After all, they didn’t sugar coat things. We knew it would be a tough journey. A journey that wouldn’t be for everyone. Looking at Ivan though, I knew that he thought, as I did, that it was a journey for us.

With a smile on our face, we filled in the form saying that we wanted to proceed.

Yes! Yes, we wanted to proceed.  We wanted to be Daddies again! We have so much to offer; love, laughter, stability, a home. The evening had well and truly inspired us. Excited us! We wanted to get started, we wanted it to happen now.

We signed the form and thanked them. Then we left and eagerly awaited the call to start the journey.

But you know what they say about want.

Little were we to know how hard reality would hit soon, and just how gutted we’d be….

My dad’s struggle: My strength

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I thought it about time that I gave you some background on myself. An insight into what makes me tick, and maybe a bit of an understanding why not failing as a father means so much to me. You see, I want you to understand what the real driver is behind me wanting to be the best dad I possibly can.

Of course I can’t deny that a large part of me wants to prove a point.  To show the haters and the disbelievers out there that we can do it, and do it well. Gays can be good dads. But if I’m honest, I know that this is more for my benefit than theirs. Because come on, lets face it, my children could invent a cure for cancer and the haters are going to find something wrong with that. I also know that, despite how competetive and stubborn I am…

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Pub walks rule, ok!

Pub walks rule, ok!

We had an absolutely stunning afternoon in the New Forest. With a combined run, ride, walk, push we made it to the pub, where we had burger and chips.
Great time, with a great friend who also has two adopted children.
Funniest moment when Herbie the pony decided he wanted to trot home, with his little rider on board. Far from being scared, she loved it.
Great, great, great start to the weekend. Hope yours all go as well. Lots of love, S X

I promise you Son

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For a moment my breath catches,

Stilled by the sight

And I remind myself to breathe, just breathe

For before me, so vulnerable, so perfect, so small

Lies the key to pure love evading us all

So trusting, so giving. I present you my son

And I realise right here is where life has begun

I promise you now, as your father I’ll be

Whatever you need, at that moment, of me

I’ll be your rock if you need it, or your shoulder to cry

Whatever you ask of me, son, I will try

But son if I fail, I ask that you take

Just a moment to tell me, before its too late.

For now that I’ve got you, my son you must know

As your father we’re bonded too tight to let go

Steven Ponder

6th June 2014

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