Changing a Pet’s Life Means Changing Yours, Too
By Dasha Peipon
Getting a pet is life-changing. It comes with certain big commitments. Your care for the animal will certainly be reflected on your bank account. Your home will regularly be in need of a little extra maintenance and cleaning. You will have to get up earlier to feed and walk your puppy. Or you will have to get your kids up earlier to do that. Not sure which one might be harder.
But what are the advantages of having a pet? Why do people choose to take up on the responsibility for a living creature? Why get a pet if you have small children at home to take care of 24/7? I decided to talk to an expert, Susan Huff from DeSoto Animal Shelter, who sees firsthand the impact of pets in people’s lives. And most importantly, in children’s lives.
What a pet can teach your child
Susan says pets teach children responsibility, since they require daily feeding, exercise, and basic care. Children who grow up with pets learn basic respect for others (not disturbing the pet when he or she is ill, eating, or sleeping). Children can learn compassion and empathy. They learn to recognize when their pets require basic care and kindness. If your child learns to identify and read the animal’s needs, such as when he is hungry, cold, frightened or tired, the child will gain valuable ability to read into people’s emotions and feelings better, too. That is a very important skill to master for a social being. Pets can teach children patience, too. Even just playing catch with a dog teaches a child to take turns and to include others in play. Most importantly, a pet is often a child’s first best friend in life.
What about the physical aspects of caring for a pet? Susan shares: “Children who own pets are often most physically active when they play with their pets. Tug of war, a game of chase, fetch, or going on family walks together are some of the favorite ways to play for both children and their pets.” Not to mention, the benefits of walking or running with a dog for adults. We can all use some motivation to get that cardio in.
The best tutor
A pet can increase a child’s self-esteem by showing unconditional love and by being completely non-judgmental. Did you know pets can help children succeed academically? Susan explained: “Reading dog therapy programs have been very successful in helping early readers gain confidence and develop better reading skills. When children read to the dogs, the animals are happy to listen and make no judgements if the child mistakes a word or skips a sentence.” What better tutor can you ask for?
Pit Bull Lucy’s Story
Susan deals with rescued animals, many of them recovering after violence or a serious trauma. Nothing brings her more joy than to see an animal get transformed by the love and care of the new owner. Susan shared one of those success stories with us.
“Our little pit bull mix named Lucy was surrendered by her original family, and stayed in our shelter for almost 5 months with absolutely no local interest. Our staff and volunteers absolutely fell in love with this little girl. She was everything you could ever want in a little companion: she was pretty, smart, had no bad behaviors, was housetrained, and had such a great personality. She was a little clown with a chirp instead of a bark. One ear permanently stood up and the other ear laid down. Finally, we decided to try and transport her to upstate New York and to our happy surprise, she was adopted by a wonderful family within hours after her arrival. Since being adopted, she has earned her diploma from Obedience School and was even chosen to be in a live production of “The Nutcracker”. Her new family sends us photos all the time and it makes our hearts smile with each new update. She loves her human family and fur siblings, loves to dress up in anything (she was a Peacock for Halloween), and keeps her new family smiling all the time!”
Dasha Peipon’s cat Max played hide-and-seek with her. She regretted teaching him the game, when she was busted when trying to hide from her parents.