Our two children constantly begged us for a dog.
Over the years they asked for a dog for Christmas, for their birthdays, for Halloween. Just about anytime they had a chance, they asked.
Then this past summer, we decided we would finally make their dream come true.
Our daughter had just turned 11 and our son was 8. We thought those would be the perfect ages to add a furry friend to our family. They are old enough to do the "dirty" work of taking care of a dog, yet still young enough that we always know where they are, in case nature calls their pet.
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We found two very cute mutts. Yes, I said two! We figured that if we got them one dog to share, the question would always be whose turn it is to "scoop the poop." So we let each of them pick out one puppy from the same litter.
My daughter picked a black-and-white female and named her Patches. My son picked her dark brown brother and named him Rocky.
We wanted to make sure they knew taking care of Patches and Rocky would not be all fun and games.
So to make sure the puppies are properly trained, we enrolled them in classes at Petco at Concord Mills. There, we met dog trainer Wally Wimmer.
"I have always loved and cared for animals," Wimmer said. "I guess the reason ... would be that they have the ability to understand, care and love us unconditionally, as well as the ability to recover from almost any adversity in their life."
Wimmer does not train the dogs; he teaches owners how to train them. The dogs attend class, but my husband and I watched with amazement as Wimmer taught our kids how to teach their dogs to sit, stay and come. It was like having our very own Dog Whisperer.
"As far as obedience training and its importance goes, that's simple," Wimmer said. "If you don't provide leadership for your dogs, they will take it upon themselves to be the leader in the house.
"Basic training can give owners the tools they need to have a peaceful and happy home for them and their best friend."
Although Wimmer has had other jobs, including serving in the Army as a chemical, nuclear and biological weapons specialist, he has always found time to work with dogs.
He has worked with animal rescues and shelters, has done specialty training with the military and disabled and has trained attack dogs. Now he teaches a variety of classes at Petco, including the puppy, adult, intermediate and CGC classes, which prepare you and your dog for the American Kennel Club's "Canine Good Citizen" test.
Rocky and Patches graduated from the six-week puppy class and were awarded certificates to prove it.
If you'd like more information about the classes and programs Petco offers, go to www.Petco.com or stop in at the store, right across from the mall. Look for Wally; he is always happy to offer advice or answer questions.