Friday, April 1, 2011

Sex Ed

Anyone I ever spoke to who grew up on a farm was very matter-of-fact about sex. I attributed this to the fact that they grew up surrounded by animals annually courting, mating and giving birth and--let's face it--the farm is no place for modesty.

Contrarily, I grew up in a strict, Christian household that believed in Heaven, Hell, God and the stork. Needless to say, in my house, sex was the "s" word, and was therefore never discussed. As far as I knew, babies came from married people through osmosis and fervent prayer.

Now our home is not quite so conservative, but neither is it a farm. Yet along with our new pooch, I think my kids are getting a bit of an education about sex lately too.

The sexual tension in the house is high since we got a second dog. True, both dogs are male, but this actually seems to be adding to the problem. Luckily for us, Bailey is bigger than Flash, because the reality of, er, size has naturally settled the issue of who is the top dog. While Flash would love to step in and take over, run our house the way he ran his old house, Bailey is having no part of it. Apparently, male dogs try to dominate other dogs by mounting them. When Flash first moved in, he tried to mount Bailey. This happened exactly once. At least Flash is a fast learner.

Before Flash came along, Bailey had also worked out his own little system for what to do when he feels like sowing some oats, so to speak. He grabs his bed by the scruff of it's neck and dominates *it*. Flash, though, having learned Bailey is not a willing partner, just walks around the living room humping the air.

Ben has watched this quietly before. The other day, though, he called to me when he caught Flash doing it again.

"Mom, come look! Flash is doing his Victory Dance!" I didn't correct him.

Then this morning on the way to the school bus, Ben asked his dad, "Dad, what's that pink thing sticking out under Flash?"

"That's his penis, Ben," was all Dad said. Silence ensued as Ben studied the dog from a distance until the bus arrived.

I laugh at how the kids glimpse different actions by watching the dogs, get questions answered by us and then try to put it all together with what they know about their own bodies. But I also know that it will make understanding more complex concepts a lot easier down the road. The biology of it all is being given to them piece by piece as they grow, thanks in part to the dogs. The emotional and social aspects of love and responsibility will come later. It's just nice to know that "the talk" in our house is already going on, one long conversation that will evolve and grow as the boys do.

Of course, we are all learning since our pack has grown, and not just about sex. Bailey has learned how to beg and hover by watching Flash. Flash has learned to ignore me when he's called by watching Ben, and how to play with his squeaky toys by watching Bailey. Both dogs have learned how to touch each other's stuff by watching the boys, and David and I have learned how to break up fights and discipline the dogs by watching the children.

Lumped into all this behavior are the natural instincts of males, acted out by the dogs and learned by the boys. It's silly, funny and strange, but opens up the lines of communication between us all so that even I have to admit to this unforeseen benefit of pet ownership. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

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