It is widely appreciated that pets are very important to us humans. They offer many benefits including comfort, security and companionship to name a few. These things are not only limited to adults, and as new parents, we were asked when we were going to the animal shelter? I thought it was a barking mad thing to ask but some ten years later after succumbing to getting a pet, well three, I now completely understand the why.
Pets help our children understand life, its responsibilities, trials and celebrations. A pet, any pet from a horse to a goldfish requires feeding, cleaning and care. In the early stages of pet ownership with young children, they may not be able to help much but they can watch and assist and as they grow up their responsibilities should increase. Like feeding a family, children learn that not feeding, grooming or walking their animal is not a choice. It has to be done whether we feel like it or not. It is a non-negotiable job and it is important for little people to learn that in life, there are things we have to do whether we like it or not.
Life throws us many curve balls and pet ownership helps prepare kids for some of these. As pets grow with a family the aging process is witnessed. A once playful kitten will get old and have ailments associated with aging and the care they will need will be different. Death too is a really tough concept for kids to understand, but when our puppy was run over and died, my children learned just how hard it was to lose something they loved and that it meant forever.
One of the most valuable aspects of family pet ownership is the friendship and safe space it provides our kids. While a dog will clearly be more engaging and responsive than a goldfish or a rat, they all offer something that kid’s need when they are having a tough time; an unconditional and non-judgmental ear. When kids are really struggling with what life presents to them, it is often their pet that they turn to to tell their worries and concerns. These firmly established friendships are fabulous in happy times too. Seeing the children play “rough and tumble” with the family dog or cat (yes cat, you need to meet my Gorby!) can put a smile on the face of the most miserable soul.
Now I am not saying that pet ownership is a walk in the park, because it is not. It has associated costs, feeding, grooming and vets bills that all need to be considered. The extra work involved is not always shared fairly among the family despite what they promise but I can promise that it is well worth the effort, expense and work when that wagging, panting, wild haired mutt greets you at the door and lets you know that you are the most important person in the world!