Growing up in Uganda, we were lucky if there was a meal on our table. We survived off of foods such as beans and potatoes. So, we did not have animals as companions. I did not grow up seeing dogs in a house or being loved by humans.
I was under the assumption for a long time that dogs were not friendly to humans, and I was traumatized at a young age by being bit by a dog at the age of 5. People in our village used to train dogs to scare people away, so they could protect their family- and that is all I ever knew about dogs.
The thought of having a pet one day was something that never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until I moved to Europe for school, that I gradually learned what having a pet was like. I saw dogs everywhere! People would bring their pets with them to restaurants, shopping centers, and many other places. It was a foreign concept for me to see animals being treated and living better than some people.
Then I moved to the United States and the family I lived with, had a dog named Zeke. I got used to having a dog living in a house with me, and I learned how cool it was to play with them and bring them for walks. I came to realize that bonding with an animal is possible! And it is so therapeutic and joyful.
When I became a foster parent, I learned how much kids loved animals. One day on a walk with some of my kids, I saw how excited they got to pet someone’s dog. The 10 seconds of seeing a dog, and petting it gave them joy for the rest of the day! Anthony loves and enjoys animals so much. He just always wanted to play with animals when I first adopted him. He even gave up getting ice cream one time for a little bit longer to play with one of our neighbor’s dogs. At that moment, I knew I had to learn about what it would take to get a dog. I ask many friends who had a pet, how it all works! Many questions later, I now have two dogs.
Simba and Rafiki are a part of my family, and they are an essential part of my everyday life. Being a foster dad, I have learned so much about how trauma affects everyone differently. But a common factor that can help many is having a pet due to their unconditional love. My dogs can be there for my kids in so many ways. They can play, they can be a silent friend, and they can give an abundance amount of love.
Coming from being a scared little kid from Africa who never even knew what a pet was, to now not being able to think of life without them, is amazing! I see and love dogs in a different way than ever before, and I have learned how much of an impact they can make on someone’s life. Simba and Rafiki are therapy dogs in our house. They provide so much comfort, love, and joy for my kids and me.
They truly are man’s best friend.
Writer Samantha Jordan contributed to this essay.
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