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Parentto Parent


Lessons from a beloved pet

By Betsy Flagler
John Rosemond
Betsy Flagler, who lives in Davidson, writes the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column.

The pieces of wisdom I’ve absorbed as a parent, preschool teacher and columnist all ring true with lessons I learned from an unlikely source: our dog. My family had to say goodbye to our furry girl just before Valentine’s Day, and our hearts are broken. This column is largely a reprint of one she inspired in February 2011.

My husband brought home an orphaned puppy in 2000.

We named her Typo.

I’d like to share a few lessons Typo taught me over the years.

• Trust your gut. For instance, if letting your child “cry it out” doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. If you and your spouse have differing instincts, work to find a compromise.

Typo made nary a peep her first evening in our home. When she finally did cry overnight in her new nest, nobody heard her except me. No way could her new mom let her cry.

• Don’t get caught up in the parent trap of comparing children’s milestones.

Typo, a mix of Australian shepherd and chow, arrived house-trained at 6 weeks old. But unlike her genius canine cousins, she never got beyond the commands of “sit, stay, shake.” At prompts to find hidden objects or fetch, she just stared with her big, brown eyes and cocked her head as if in wonder.

• Recognize that if you use bribery to correct your kids’ behavior, you must be prepared to pay up again and again.

Similar to a whining child who wanted Mom’s attention, Typo was disruptive and barked when I was on the phone in her area of our house. Unfortunately, she learned from my mixed signals that if she barked while I was on the phone, she got a treat to hush her up.

• Set up a routine and train yourself to read your child’s cues before she gets hungry, tired, anxious or overly stimulated.

For our dog, certain barks meant certain things: one for food and several for the UPS truck, for example. She’d pace and bark with anxiety over fireworks, kids coming at Halloween, or the worst – stormy nights. That’s when she always broke the rules and sneaked into our bedroom to sleep. We pretended not to notice.

Now, without her one-woof call for breakfast at 7:15 each morning, we have to set an alarm clock. Overnight, we still look for her dark shadow by our bed, forgetting for a moment her peaceful passing.

Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at or call 704-236-9510

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