About three years ago we lost our beloved Tucker. He was the most obedient, protective dog I have ever encountered, and my husband’s best friend. Even though I was seven months pregnant at the time, I still couldn’t eat for days. A part of our family was gone.
We tried adopting a rescue that following summer, but he was not the right fit for our us. We halted our search, and waited until the right one came along. Last November, Bingo joined our family.
At first glance, he looked intimidating (he’s a Staffordshire bull terrier) but his gentle nature quickly became apparent to us. After greeting us, he rolled right over onto his belly for some “lovin”. When my husband and I saw the kids laughing and playing ball with him, we knew he was the right one.
Maybe you are already a pet lover, maybe you are grieving the loss of a recent pet, or maybe you are even debating whether your family should welcome one in. Well I want to encourage and remind you about the role pets can play in children’s character development.
Besides the obvious benefit of teaching responsibility, caring for pets can help release stress, make us more mindful, and teach children empathy.
PETS TEACH RESPONSIBILITY
I love it when my five year old decides to fill the dog’s water bowl, when he notices it is empty. Though he can barely reach the sink, he sees the need and he feels empowered to meet that need. The research shows that growing up with a companion pet can have a significant impact on children’s perspective taking ability and cognitive development.
PETS HEAL CHILDREN
I have seen it with my own eyes. As a school counselor, I have had therapy dogs in my office assisting students for many years. Anecdotally, I can tell you that I have seen dogs accomplish things that humans could not do. I have seen children with school phobia, transition into school in the morning without a tear, when greeted by a dog. I have also seen children who did not speak, confidently give commands to a therapy dog.
Somehow, they break down the walls, and make people more open to share. They also help children take risks.
PETS TEACH EMPATHY
I loved this little exert from ripplekindness.org
“The way pets are treated in the family is incredibly important for teaching empathy. If pets are constantly caged, never walked and played with, children can actually learn to disregard the needs of others. By learning to understand how much pleasure the dog gets from playing fetch and that the cat doesn’t like to be chased, kids can start to understand that everyone has different needs, planting those first seeds of empathy in their learning brains.”
So cool right. I will leave you with this quote.
“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love and loyalty. They depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.”— Erica Jong
While this post focuses mostly on dogs, I believe much of this to be true of all pets.
I would LOVE to hear your stories about how your pets have impact the lives of you and your children.