When I was growing up, I had two dogs. One, a sweetheart of a girl named Boots, was a beagle that was loyal to the bone. She went outside with me when I played in the back yard and stood guard at the corner of the house - sometimes for hours.
The other dog I grew up with was Ebony, a cocker spaniel that acted more like a cat than a dog and really didn't care one way or the other what I was doing. As long as I pet her when I sat on the couch, she was content with my being there.
There was a Saint Bernard in my life, too. Though she passed away when I was four or five. I remember her being my trusty steed, my pillow to lay my head on, and my friend. According to my parents, she took it upon herself to guard the nursery from anyone she didn't recognize or know was allowed in there. She treated me as her own puppy.
I see a lot of the qualities of Boots and Inga (our Saint Bernard) in Rocky. Rocky is a mutt we adopted when he was six months old. He's 8 now, and he has proven on occasion to be very protective of children and extremely gentle when he needs to be.
Our other dog, Apollo, is a lot more like Ebony. He doesn't really care one way or another who comes and goes. As long as his belly is full of food and there is a sun beam to lay in, he's happy.
There is no question in our minds that our dogs will take to and love our child. They identify family members, treat kids with a playful nature, and show respect to adults.
There was one incident when we took them, along with our then six-year-old nephew, to the local park where dogs are allowed to run around off leash. As we were walking to the designated dog area, Rocky saw a man doing pull-ups in the exercise area off the path.
He took a stance between the man and our nephew and gave a low, grumbly growl. It wasn't ferocious, but it was intended to let the man (who was a good 30 feet away and totally oblivious to the situation) know that whatever craziness he was up to wasn't going to fly if it endangered Logan.
We kept walking and Rocky went back to his peaceful, playful self. We realized at that moment that Rocky is protective of children - at least the ones we like.
This could, of course, cause an issue down the line if we have a babysitter or someone else he doesn't trust around, but having never had the opportunity to correct him before, we believe he's still very trainable.
I guess the more important question is whether or not the child we're bringing into this world will benefit from them.
Our dogs can be a handful sometimes, and Rocky loves licking everything and everyone. It's almost like having OCD, but instead of obsessing about locking a door or cleaning the counter, he has to lick everything in sight at least once.
My wife, unlike myself, is very cautious about germs. She doesn't let the dogs lick her hands at all - even if she's standing a foot away from the sink and was going to wash her hands a few seconds later anyway. To her, dogs are germy and should stay on the floor and not lick anything.
I, on the other hand, am not as strict. I grew up with dogs in a house where they slept at the foot of the bed (over the covers of course) and played all day long with me. I believe in washing your hands regularly, but if the dog licked our child on the foot, I wouldn't rush them to take a bath immediately.
Several major studies have revealed that children that grow up with and around dogs and cats have better immune systems than the ones that don't. Immune systems need practice, and dogs give them that practice.
Perhaps the most important consideration when deciding if a dog is good for our child is the fact that dogs are friends. In a single-child household, you have the mother and father and the baby. The baby doesn't have anyone "on their level" to play with. A dog helps there, a lot.
Boots was my best friend when I wanted to play with someone. She was my adventuring partner in the back yard, the person I talked to when I was playing make-believe, and in many ways my guardian.
Can Rocky and Apollo fill the roles for our kid that Boots and Ebony filled when I was a child? I hope so.