Today, April 11th, is National Pet Day! Let’s celebrate all of the furry, fuzzy, swimming, chirping and purring animals that our families, and children, love so much.
According to the ASPCA, almost half of homes in the United States have a dog and one third have a cat. Then there are birds, rabbits, farm animals (my step-sister has chickens!), fish (my college roommate and I had a Beta fish named Cora!), and reptiles galore. A friend in high school even had a pet pig, just like George Clooney! With all of this in mind, here are my five favorite things about having pets. Just in case you needed convincing.
1. Having a pet creates memories that will last a lifetime. I still itch to bring home the flower-shaped turnips from our favorite Chinese restaurant for my guinea pig, Brownie. My boys will have hundreds (!) of photos reminding them of how wonderfully patient and loving our dog is. My son always tells people that there are, “three boys and two girls in our family.” They get confused until he mentions Stella. She truly is a part of our family and I know they will remember her beyond her years with us.
2. Having a pet teaches responsibility. I remember Sunday afternoons vividly. I would strap on my walkman (it was the early 1990’s) and make my way down to the garage to clean out Brownie’s cage. It seemingly took hours (maybe 40″ in reality), but I did it because it was part of being a pet owner. When I placed the newly bedded cage in the corner of my room it gave me a sense of ownership and pride. Having a pet and neglecting responsibilities also teaches consequences and cause/effect. Not like that ever happened…
3. Having a pet encourages exercise, play and spending time outdoors! As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we try to walk our dog every day unless there is a polar vortex upon us. We spend more time outside because of her and it is our time as a family to unwind, decompress, and get some fresh air.
4. Having a pet demonstrates mutual and unconditional love. No matter how rough my day has been, I can rely on Stella to meet me at the door, wagging her tail. Same goes for the boys. One of their first words was “doggie” and they always have a smile for her. It’s part of what makes my dog-friendly workplace so amazing.
5. Having a pet teaches important social skills. As a result of explicit teaching, my 4 year old knows to ask a dog’s owner if he can pet them, to let the dog smell his hand, to pet them from the head to tail and what a yellow ribbon on a dog’s leash means (proceed slowly and with caution). We’ve also met a lot of our neighbors while on walks with our dog which makes us feel more connected to our community. Finally, he has learned how to ask questions that he knows will remain unanswered. He still asks, “Stella, how was your day?” although he knows she will never tell (Wouldn’t you like to know, too?)
Happy National Pet Day!
What pet(s) does your family have? What do you love most about them?