We have been blessed with many pets over the years, including dogs, cats, little crabs from science class (which seem to live forever!), fish, a snake, a guinea pig, and horses. I’ve written before on how we manage the desire to incorporate the right number of pets in our household (see my post Pets in the Household) because if you’re like me and love animals, it’s hard to say no.
There are several advantages to having pets in the home. Your kids will grow up with some confidence and knowledge in handling animals, they will understand the responsibility associated with the care and feeding (and clean up after) of animals, and they will also learn to be compassionate to those creatures who do not have a voice and depend on others for survival.
Our animals bring such joy to our household. Interestingly enough, they have become more “valuable” to our family harmony as the kids become teenagers. I have jokingly named our daughter’s horse, “Get Me Through High School” because his role includes being a therapist, best friend, shoulder to cry on, and steadying presence during the tumultuous high school years. And despite what events may rock a household, animals can be a calming presence. I recall vividly a time when tempers flared and we’d reached an impasse with a teenage son when the dog happened to walk in the room and pass gas. Talk about comic relief! Suddenly, everyone was laughing and the tension dissipated.
We have also had to come together and rally around a sick or dying pet – giving us a shared experience that is not soon forgotten. We laugh daily at the antics of our pets and our love for them is one of the things I can say truly helps bind us together.
Animals teach us unconditional love. Watching them progress from young, full of energy, excited balls of fur to “adulthood”, to more advanced stages of life and eventually death is an important life lesson for children. Even when these stages are cut short, learning to handle the loss is a step in our life journey.
I know pet ownership isn’t for everyone – they can be a huge responsibility and cost – but we have found they are well worth it. (But think twice before allowing a kid to bring home a crab from science class). Seriously, I can’t imagine life any other way.