I love animals, I really do, and so does my husband, but ...
The pets have become an issue. The hubby doesn't like finding fur on his clothes. I find myself doing a lot more cleaning and pet care than I bargained for. However, I've always felt that having pets is a valuable part of family life, and children's learning.
Pets help children develop their ability to love something beyond their own comfort. In a sense they learn a little bit about a parent's heart from caring for a pet. By providing food on schedule, cleaning up after them and attending to their emotional and health needs, they begin to discover their own ability to put the welfare of another before themselves. Caring for a pet is a valuable tool in helping a child to
mature and learn responsibility.
Some parents wonder when is the best time to get a pet? Is my child old enough to take responsibility for a pet? My viewpoint is, the earlier the better. Surprised? The reason is because, just like adults, children can become set in their ways, routines and habits, so it actually becomes more difficult to take on pet care as they get older. Every child is different and some may adjust more easily than others. What sometimes can happen when a child doesn't experience pet care while they are young, is that they long for a pet but develop unrealistic assumptions about what it will be like to have that beloved pet.
This happened to both my sons. My younger son begged for a dog for several years, so one day I took him to the local animal shelter to see what they had. He wanted a dog so bad that he didn't really care what kind it was. We found a really cute Pug that was begging for attention, but I was still skeptical about my 10 year old boy's ability to take care of the pup. We did already have one cat and some fish that I was the primary caretaker for.
adoption. I said, "you have to feed him twice a day, walk him twice a day, and bathe him once a week, and if you can't do this, we wont keep him." I made it very clear that I was not going to be the primary caretaker for this pet. He agreed and was sure that he could do it. I told him he had 6 weeks to prove it.
What do you think happened? He was overwhelmed because it was such a sudden change in his life and in our family. Little by little others began to pick up the responsibility out of pure concern for the dog. My husband, daughter, older son, and myself would say, "I'll do it this time but he's your dog." Finally I said, "Okay, he's the family dog and we will all take care of him, but you still have to walk him once a day and bathe him once a week, and this is still a trial period."
After another week of struggle my son finally confessed to me that he didn't like the dog, that it was the wrong type of dog for him. I could sort of understand because Pug's are very demanding. We had a problem though, because by this time my older son, daughter and husband had all fallen in love with the dog, but the cat and I were not happy (the fish could care less).
A turn of events changed the dynamic and caused us to make a painful but necessary decision. Summer was ending, my older son was going off to college and my daughter was busy with high school and clubs. Then I was offered a job that I couldn't refuse, but I would be working long hours away from home. No one would be home for 8 to 10 hours a day and you just can't abandon a Pug like that. They are really people dogs and have very specific needs. We were all sad including me (but not the cat).
Research allowed us to find a Pug Rescue Society which led us to a good home for the dear little pup. With a lot of farewell fanfare and tears we took the little cutie to his new home where he would be with other Pugs and a loving family. It was hard, but we had to do it for his own good. A lesson learned the hard way.
So from this I give you my pet tips:
1. Research the type of pet that will fit your family's circumstances even if things change a little.
2. If you like having pets, help your kids learn to care for pets early, 4 years old is a good age.
3. Cats and fish are easier to care for than dogs and may be a good starting point, but it's still important to teach children how to care for them so they don't take them for granted and leave all the care up to mom or dad.
Are you wondering about the rabbit and guinea pig?
Well that's another story for another day. Tell us your experience with pets in a comment below.