Like many kids, I always wanted a puppy when I was growing up. My mom told me “no”– which made me miserable at the time, and has stuck with me ever since. Now that I have my own kids, I wanted their experience to be different than mine.

We eventually made a German Shepherd — Borg — a part of our family. Along the way, Borg has taught me a few things about what it means to love a dog, and how special their breed really is.

1. It’s worth the wait to find the right time to make a dog part of your family.

It wasn’t until last year that we got our wonderful pup, and I must say: it was worth the wait!

When my two boys asked if it was okay to get a dog, I was as excited as they were. Our Borg came to us when he was only two months old, and that meant that we all had to adjust to each other and set some boundaries. Luckily, my family today has a small house and a large back yard, which helped Borg integrate into our life.

I’d always heard other people talk about the unconditional love of their dogs, but Borg has shown our family what that actually means. It doesn’t matter if we are angry, sad, grumpy, or smelly – he wags his tail and tries to jump and lick your face because he’s always so happy to see us.

Feeling that kind of love changed me, and the fact that my boys feel it too makes me happy.

Related: Brave Dog Saves Girl From Rattlesnake Attack

2. Part of building a loving relationship means getting to know your pup’s health needs.

Borg is purebred, which means he can get sick more easily than I would like. The first time he got seriously ill, the sad look in his eyes was enough to break my heart. At that point, I began to learn about all the details of German Shepherds’ fragile health, and after lots of worrying about his well-being, today I am prepared for pretty much anything, including giving him special flea medicine, allergy medicine, heartworm preventative, and everything in between.

Now, I’m also prepared to take him to the vet whenever he seems to be sick; he is like a child to me, and I treat his health with just as much care as I would my children’s!

3. Training is the first step for both dogs and humans learning how to live in each other’s family.

Borg, like many German Shepherds, has a lot of wonderful qualities. He is incredibly loyal and protective. He comforts our family when he notices we’re sad. And, because he is so lively and active, my boys are always outside playing with him.

However, he likes biting and nipping, so we worked on training him to redirect some of his energy. (for example, we trained him to chew toys instead of our fingers). Borg is exceptionally intelligent, so training him was rewarding — for both him and us.

Related: These Photos of Dogs Catching Treats are Amazing

I will never be able to change the fact that I grew up without the companionship of a dog. But, I did change something for my children: I helped them understand how wonderful it is to love another living being, and to be loved so much in return. The lesson about devotion and love of a dog is something you need to experience in order to believe it, and it is something I, and my kids, will never be able to forget.

Related: This Lost Dog Traveled 111 Miles Through The Woods To Find His Family

Header image: Soren WolfCC BY-ND 2.0

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