Finding a Therapeutic Outlet with the Family Dog

  • by Frank Conaway, DMD, MAGD, DMD, MAGD
  • Mar 12, 2018, 15:12 PM

I am a dentist with 30 years’ experience and I wear many hats. I serve on the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners, am president of my AGD constituent and also serve on AGD’s Communications Council, among other things. I am married, and I have three children and one grandchild.

Having said that, I’ve decided to start this, my first AGD blog post, with a really heavy topic.

My family recently brought a new puppy in the house! My children have all moved out, so my wife and I have an empty nest. I had this idea that when the empty nest happens, it’s time to take some trips or find new hobbies. I was wrong. It apparently means the children must be replaced with animals.

Her name is Dixie, and she is a miniature dachshund. This little puppy is an all-consuming venture. We need to take her outside every 20 minutes to keep the carpets clean and plan to train this beast to use the grass when nature calls. We have to put the food down and then pick it up so the two cats won’t eat it. This usually means we then put it back down because the dog is excited and can’t decide what’s better — food or toys or chasing cats. This experience is a lot like having a newborn who requires your full attention. As parents, we gladly moved through the days of diapers, diaper bags and strollers. With age comes less dependence and more freedom for the parents. However, I’m back in the terrible twos right now.

At this time, Dixie is 10 weeks old and weighs a whopping four pounds. She is our third dachshund. Peanut, our last dachshund, stayed with us 17 years. Those were some very important years of my dental practice. Did Peanut have a role in my practice? In a way. On those days when everything didn’t go as planned, it was nice to come home to family — including Peanut. She had the ability to comfort everyone in the family. My turn would come after all the children went to sleep. She was a chair hog and insisted on having her section of my recliner right by my side. My stress would be relieved by petting her, or I was pleasantly distracted by playing with her. Or we would just sit, watching whatever show was on television. Having a pet is having another family member and a therapist that will listen intently and never judge you. I miss Peanut, but now I have Dixie. It is fun and a lot of work going through the puppy stage, but, in a few months, I’ll have another therapist by my side to listen to me when I have rough days.

Always keep the channels of communication open. Even if it’s your pet, it is good to talk about what is happening in your practice and in your life.

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