One dog, four birds, 20-plus fish, and a tadpole. That’s the current count.
This is far fewer than the menagerie of critters I grew up with. Our family pets included horses, dogs, cats, ducks, geese, peacocks, guinea pigs, hamsters, and a rabbit. My little family’s current collection of creatures can’t even compare.
Why We Say Yes
More than a few of our friends think we’re nuts. We’re certainly outnumbered. But, in our family, the benefits of furry (and feathered) friends outweigh the poop that we are almost always scooping.
- Our pets are beloved companions. They are a part of our family. We had our last dog, Lola, for 12 years. She bought our first home with us (though she certainly wasn’t a whole lot of help with the mortgage). She moved across the state with us. She was there when we brought our sweet baby home from the hospital. She was his first friend, and she was a beloved family member. When we said goodbye to Lola just over a year ago, all of our hearts were broken. The love that we experienced for and from that sweet pup was invaluable.
- Caring for pets can help children to learn responsibility. There are many jobs that a child can do to help care for a family pet. Children can feed pets. Children can help walk pets and clean up after them. Of course, it would be irresponsible to entrust a child with with duties beyond his capabilities or even willingness. But, with proper guidance and involvement from a willing parent, children can learn a lot from caring for another living thing.
- Pets help us learn important, often challenging, life lessons. These include some deep and sometimes tricky lessons. Fish have babies (Eeek!). Fish eat other fish (Yikes!). The more common, and perhaps more meaningful, teachable moments come from putting the needs of others before your own. Sometimes the dog needs to be walked even when it’s raining. What you want might have to wait until the family pet gets what he needs. Caring for pets mean that sometimes children will have to do for others, will have to show patience, and will have to show grace and forgiveness. Our new puppy ate many, many unattended toys in his early days. But, our son learned that the dog was more important than a toy – and he learned to put his toys away.
- Pets offer children (and grown ups) the opportunity to love and to be loved. I firmly believe every living thing a child learns to love deepens her heart and strengthens her soul. Every opportunity to experience love builds our character and brings light into our life. This love stays with us for a lifetime and makes us better. It helps children to become the kind of grown-ups we want them to become.
Pets certainly aren’t for everyone. If you don’t like animals or aren’t fully committed to providing a loving, nurturing home for a new pet, then please say no. But, as for my family, we’re very happy to live on our own little animal farm.
What kind of pets does your family have?