Some people are dog people, some people are cat people and some people are no pets at all people. I am a pet person. I always had pets growing up: cats, dogs, guinea pigs, fish and even a turtle. We were practically our own pet store. Most of the pets were considered the family pets, but some were 100% my responsibility. I had to make sure they were fed, clean and cared for.
Now that I am a parent, I understand even more the important lessons I learned while having a pet, and I want my own kids to learn those same lessons. Which is why my husband and I decided early on that we would always have a pet in our house. When my kids were born, we already had a small dog. It took some adjustment for our dog to learn that the kids were here to stay, and we had to teach our kids to be gentle and nice with our dog. But now they have the sweetest relationship with each other that I love watching develop.
Having a pet with kids takes a lot of work. After changing two sets of diapers, the last thing I want to do is pick up dog poop. Pets can also be expensive. Vet visits, food, dog litter (in my case) and grooming can all add up. And they can sometimes make messes or destroy furniture, but the benefits you get in return outweigh the negative. Here are some important life lessons your pet can teach your whole family.
Having a pet is a great way to teach responsibility. If you do not feed or take care of your pet, it can get sick or possibly die. For a kid, this might be a lot of responsibility at first, which is why the parent is there as back up, but the longer they have a pet and the older they get, the easier it is to remember to fill the food bowl and brush the dog's hair.
Taking moments to teach about how animals need exercise, water, food and love to grow in a healthy way teaches your child the importance of proper nutrition. Just as his pet would not be happy or healthy without the proper food and exercise, he (your child) would not grow and develop properly without eating the right foods and being active.
For me, the best part about having pets is the love they give you. They don't care if you are grumpy, angry, sad, or upset. They don't care if you are old, young, fat, thin, sick or healthy - they just love you for you. Pets do not hold grudges, play hard to get, or have an opinion about what you are doing. There is no greater way to teach a child about loving someone without strings attached or conditions than to have the example of a pet's love. Having a pet helps your children practice unconditional love.
My kids have learned they need to be gentle with their dog and that he does not like having his tail pulled or being squeezed too tight when they hug him. They are learning how to be caring and kind with something that cannot verbally tell them how he is feeling. This is a lesson that can be used with people we interact with. It is important to be kind to everyone, no matter what they look like or how they speak. Love is a universal language that can span culture, race and even species.
My dog always knows when I am upset and comes and sits on my lap or wants me to pet him. Pets are so good at giving compassion and love that they are used in hospitals and care centers to visit the sick and lonely because of their calming presence that helps people genuinely feel better. Not only are they great examples of giving compassion, but they also help people learn to be compassionate. When an animal is sick or dying, it can be extremely hard to witness but teaches what it means to love someone through the good times and the bad.
When a pet does die, it is one of life's hardest trials to overcome. I remember each time an animal died in our home. We cried, we hugged each other and then we spent time remembering the good moments with our pet. We learned about mourning a loved one, and we learned that the pain gets better and the hurt fades. We also learned that the love we received while that animal was in our life was far greater than the pain we felt when she died.
Some people think a pet is too much work, not worth the time or money and brings too many complications. But I will always be grateful to my parents for letting us have pets. I have a lot of great memories with my pets; like telling them my deepest secrets and wishes, going on adventures and road trips together and feeling that instant love from the moment I met them. There are always good and bad moments in every relationship, but I know one thing for sure: I will always have a pet.
Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in Anthropology and a masters in Psychology. Contact her at Meganshauri@gmail.com