Kids And Dogs – A Match Made In Heaven

I am moving to Disney in 6 days –I’m so not ready- and I won’t be around my doggies for several months. So every post I think of, I start, and then realize I should save it for my dry spell. Like a blogging camel.

So I have works in progress about dog health, behavior, and just why they’re awesome. In addition, I’m hoping to do some work involving animals other than dogs while I’m away. If it’s anything interesting, you’d better bet I’ll tell you all about it. (Hint: I’ve already requested to shadow caretakers at Animal Kingdom!)

Anyway, I had a post written before last weekend, but didn’t have time to post it before rushing off to Tallahassee to watch my boyfriend graduate (congrats to him!!). But, here we are, finally a post! (Complete with some atrocious pictures of my sister and I as well as some adorable pictures I have gratefully borrowed from Pinterest. Each image links to the website from which I borrowed it. I take no credit for the images. If you are the rightful owner of an image, let me know and I will gladly give due credit or remove the photo.)

ImageMy good friend Shalini just wrote a response to an awful article some sad excuse for a human being wrote about why having kids made this woman stop loving her dog. I’d give you the URL, but I’m sure she’d be thrilled to get more views. (If you really want it, you can find it in her post.)

When I read the original “article” (an awfully nice term for that pile of crap), I feared for the woman’s husband. For her children. If she stops loving her dog when she has kids, does she really still love her oldest kid and her husband? But Shalini brought up a point I never even thought of – what is she raising her kids to believe?

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Be nice, the ugly little kid was me.

That animals are expendable. That these kids are the center of the universe. That everyone around them should change their lives for the sake of the soon-to-be-spoiled-brats. Fantastic. I was just thinking we needed more people like that.

I am not the mother of a human. And I’m not saying I could do a better job. But… I could do a better job. Seriously. I’ve seen animals be better mothers. Especially dogs. Again, I have major respect for most parents – your jobs are hard and you rock for doing what you do. And I know you don’t want to listen to a “non-parent” give advice, but please hear me out: If I ever have kids, I will still have pets (and obviously will still love them, too). There are more reasons than I could ever list, but essentially, dogs and children just go.

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Dogs are great for Trick-or-Treating!

Animals teach children about unconditional love. When kids go through that awkward I’m-a-teenager-and-absolutely-insufferable-to-be-around phase, their dog is there for them. If a kid is bullied for being heavy, handicapped, a reading level behind, pale, gay, whatever, their dog is there for them. When they experience their first heartbreak and don’t want to talk to their parents about it, their pets with listen without judgment, and kids know it. I have no shame in admitting that my parents’ dog was my best friend by the end of high school.

Pets teach kids to care for someone, whose only possible gift in return is gratitude. They teach responsibility. Stability. Long term commitments. If you choose to rescue, kids can witness the inside of a shelter, and what it means to save a life.

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Me (left) Desi (middle) and older sister, Kristyn (right)

Pets exemplify the circle of life. Kids can experience, in a comparatively short time period, the playful puppy, the confident adult dog, and the needy senior. As sad as it is when a pet dies, at some point we’re all going to experience life and death, and understanding it is probably important.

Pets can teach kids about diversity. Different animals have unique appearances, behaviors, and personalities. And whether you have one dog or a pack, living with animals can help children grasp the complicated ideas behind social orders. Hierarchies exist within the dog world as well as the human world. Observing how every individual falls into place within a family or pack can show kids a concept that is difficult to explain, and even more difficult to comprehend.

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The black blob in my arms (left) is a bunny. The black spot in Kristyn’s hand (right) is a gerbil.

Pets can teach kids about work ethic. Tell a kid a search and rescue dog’s job is to find missing people, that seeing eye dogs hold the lives of human beings in their paws, or that horses helped to build this nation before cars and trains, and surely they have to feel some sense of awe and respect. If that’s too big of a concept, just showing them how eager dogs are to please their owners with tricks can demonstrate work ethic.

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Juno, a Malinois saved from death row, and the young boy she serves, Lucas, who suffers from Sanfilippo Syndrome.

Dogs are caretakers. True, they should be supervised with children, but many a dog has saved a child’s life. When I was little, our Labrador Retriever, Tinker, saved my sister and I from a snake. Didn’t you know? All snakes are deadly. Years later, I wrote about her in an essay contest with the theme of loyalty and I won a $300 scholarship to college. Her fidelity stuck with me.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: My parents put in a lot of hard work raising my sister and I, but the animals we were around helped to raise us, too.

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Tinker, Kristyn, and me.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I sincerely hope parents think twice about abandoning their animals after having children. If you do, not only are you hurting your animal, and the animal who has to die to make room for them in the shelter, you are teaching your children that pets don’t matter. That family isn’t permanent. That your love is not unconditional. And you’re taking away a million chances at life lessons that kids with pets learn early on.

Dog is man’s best friend. That includes kids. That’s just a fact.