Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dogs, cats, chickens, and lizards! Oh my! 5 reasons to add pets to your family

Mom2MomEd Blog: Dogs, cats, chickens, and lizards! Oh my! 5 reasons to add pets to your family
In a past life I worked at a veterinary hospital. I was a vet tech, and it fulfilled my need to be around animals and made me question myself daily--why had I never gone to veterinary school?

I love animals.
My kids love them too.
My husband does not.

He views them as work, a nuisance, something else we have to schedule into our day and make time for in our already crunched schedules. He loves our dog, even our cat, but he could also happily live in a pet free house.

I could not--I need animals in my life!

At last count we had a bull mastiff, a black tuxedo cat, three chickens, and a bearded dragon. I could probably go for another dog and a few more chickens, but I'm in trouble for getting a lizard without asking so I better be on my best pet owning behavior for a while!

When I met my husband, I had a dog and a cat of my own and we got our bull mastiff together, knowing that he would be the dog that would grow up with our kids. The dog I brought into our relationship was already 14 years old at the time, so sadly he didn't get to spend much time with our children. We had our bull mastiff for about a year before our son was born. Immediately, our dog and son were best friends! Our pup was calm and patient and just what we had hoped he would be for our growing family.

Since I've never actually lived in a pet free household, I can't speak to how nice it would be to not have dog hair everywhere or additional mouths to feed and potty schedules to coordinate. However, I can speak to the benefits that our family has experienced from having pets.

Here are just a few:

1. Our kids immune systems are tough as nails.
Knock on wood....our kids never get sick. They were and are always covered in dog hair, giving dog kisses, getting kissed, running outside with the dog, walking him, and so on and so on. They are also often found with their face on the cat kissing him and trying to chase him around so they can cuddle him. I have no idea if there is any correlation between excessive dog hair and immune systems, but I can't help but think there is. I promise I do clean.....in fact I do it a lot--just ask Malea! It's just impossible to keep up on it when you have a 140-pound dog that sheds non-stop!

2. Our kids have to worry about something other than themselves.
It's no secret that kids are egocentric. They want something and they want it now. The world revolves around them, right? When they don't feel like running errands and we need dog/cat/chicken/lizard food they have to go. It's non-negotiable. I wouldn't expect them to just not eat one night because I was too lazy to go to the store. They also need to learn that when you commit to taking care of another life, you are exactly that--committed. There's no "sometimes" allowed. It's all or nothing and nothing means no pets. End of story.

3. They are not easily grossed out.
This is a big one for me. Despite some things that petrify me, I'm seriously pretty hard to gross out. I think that is true of a lot of moms. We've seen it all right??? Anyway, my kids have to pick up poop, clean cages, rake chicken coops, and collect eggs that are sometimes covered in poop. They know how to clip wings, handle cockroaches, hold reptiles, and clean dogs ears. They've helped clean wounds, give baths, and trim toenails. My kids are 6 and almost 4, and I think that's pretty darn good life experience through being exposed to some less than lovely situations!

4. They get to build and grow relationships where they are the leader.
It's fun to watch your children gradually take on more and more responsibility. Once they do, their relationships with animals naturally grow! They then become the caregiver as well and essentially another "master" for their pets. I love watching my kids run outside and for the chickens to run right up to them because the animals know that the kids feed and care for them. I love that my kids have a level of trust with our dog that is based also on the fact that they care for his basic needs. It's pretty cool to watch.

5. They learn first hand about the circle of life.
We've had to put one of our dogs to sleep and we recently lost one of our beloved chickens to a raccoon. It was sad and very hard. We used those situations as teaching opportunities and talked about how life works. My kids have  seen our dog return to our home in the form of his ashes and learned that we can't control wild animals and that those animals need to eat too. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes dinner is someone's pet.

Most of all it's amazing to teach our kids that they are the part of a larger picture. I hope that their love of animals will help them to channel their interests as they get older and will provide them with an outlet that is positive instead of participating in some other teenage behaviors.

Do you include your children in the care of your pets? If so, what do they help with? If you don't have pets, I'm curious to hear your take on the things that kids can learn from having them or how you teach your children the above lessons in a pet free home. Let us know your thoughts!
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