Dogs are said to be “man’s best friend”…aren’t they kids best friends too?
Don’t kids and pets go together?
For many years, I told my husband, Michael that he married me because he loved my Lhasa Apso, Tam, who would take lead him on long New York City walks. My husband would always laugh and remark how well Tam was trained to “curb himself”.
For as long as we both remember, Michael and I have loved dogs, in fact right now we have three. At one time, we also had a cat, Tootsie, her given name, definitely not our choice. She was an adoptee from the local humane society, where we went after one of our beloved dogs had to be put down. Unfortunately for Tootsie, she was given to a neighbor when her “birth” family moved away and then her adoptive family had to give her up yet again for unknown reasons. She was a very well fed feline and weighed a hefty 20 pounds when we took her into our home.
The odd thing about the two of us adopting a cat is that we are both allergic to them. We must have experienced simultaneous brain “farts”!
Standoffish was Tootsie’s main trait, although she was very pretty with green eyes and a calico coat, her natural beauty betrayed her caddy personality. My clinical diagnosis for her was “attachment disorder” secondary to being in two, too many homes.
Personally, it has never been a belief of mine that family pets help kids learn responsibility. Our children have loved our 2 Lhasas, 2 Shitzus, and adored our 3 Bearded Collies but not the calico cat. They never really fed or groomed our dogs’ long hair nor did they clean up their many messes…that job always fell to me or Michael.
I know…I know…
It is partly my fault that kids and pets’ responsibility belonged mostly to me, especially when it came to feeding, bathing and caring for their needs. So, I guess you could say my children learned by watching me care for our many dogs with love and affection!
After much thought… here goes my check list of how kids and pets, who coexist in the same family, can influence each other.
Pets learn quickly, who is responsible for their care and kids learn too. So if you want the dog to nudge your children when they have to go out then you have to assign them times to walk or let them outside. You can also add more responsible chores to your pet care list like filling the water bowl, grooming and feeding. As the pet gets used to your child taking care of his needs then your child will learn about bonding with an animal
Identifiable bonds will grow. There will be an unconditional love between your kids and pets. It will be a reward and a joy for your child to see that if he is kind and compassionate to his dog, he will enjoy the love of an unconditional friend, who would lay down his life to protect your child from harm.
- Compassion and empathy
How we treat our dogs and pets models compassion and empathy for our children. Dogs enjoy creature comforts and kindness just as people do. They enjoy petting and gentle words too. They especially enjoy some freedom around the house and being part of family activity. What a perfect way to convey empathy and compassion to members of our own family.
- Positive health benefits
No matter what the weather, how tired or how sick we feel, pets will be at our side and need to be fed and walked every day. Children too will feel warm and fuzzy when their furry friend curls up next to them at nap time or bedtime. But “Fido” will also still expect to go out on time even when the last thing anyone wants to do is go out in the rain and cold. We all need exercise and company…sometimes our pets are more attune to these needs than we are. Schedules are good and dogs know this. So listen to your dog if you want to get healthy.
- Loss and grief
Almost inevitably your family will suffer the loss of a pet whether it is a goldfish or a beloved dog or cat. These sorrow filled times have been our hardest as a family especially when we knew the end was near for our dear and loyal friend. Over the years, we have said our goodbyes to five dogs and one cat. Each one was unique and special…some we have clay paw prints as remembrances along with pictures and many, many joyful and humorous memories.
When our kids were little our explanations of death were simple but our sadness was always shared together. As our family matured, our children went with us to the vet to say goodby to our dog and were present when our vet helped put our aged friend to sleep after he had served us well with his loyalty and all he had to give. We always assured our dog that we would share our love and his space with a new puppy in the near future… that our family’s way of honoring his faithfulness to us.
Kids and pets for our family has been a blessed time…we have shared joy and sadness with our furry friends and we have never forgotten to honor them by never being without a dog in our home!