Before we had our human children, my husband and I poured our love into our first “kids,” our pets. I acquired Bailey, our cat, in 2004 when I found her hiding in the wheel well of a friend’s SUV. She was only a few weeks old and scared because she somehow lost her momma. I took her in and she’s loved me from day one, but she takes a long time to warm up to anyone else. Our dog, Wrigley, a shepherd mix, joined our family in 2009 when a friend adopted her as a surprise for her mom who decided she just couldn’t keep her. Wrigley has never met a human she doesn’t like.
Until our son Lukas was born, Bailey and Wrigley received much of our attention. Wrigley was taken on long walks and regular trips to the dog park. Bailey would curl up on my lap and fall asleep while I watched TV and rubbed her ears. Life was good for them. But I must admit that they’ve taken a back seat to Lukas and our newest son, Julian. Having a new baby saps your time and energy and there is rarely much leftover for the pets. If you’re not a pet owner already, I’d highly suggest waiting until all your children are out of diapers!
As our toddler gets older (He turns 3 in a week! Where does the time go?), having a pet has been a great learning opportunity about responsibility for him and has taught him about caring for others. Every morning Lukas helps me let Wrigley out in the back yard so she can go potty, which has helped in his own potty training. It’s a reminder that the first thing we do every morning is go potty! He knows if we don’t let the doggy outside she’ll have an accident where she’s not supposed to, just like he’ll have an accident if he doesn’t go potty right away. For breakfast and dinner, Lukas opens Wrigley’s food bag, fills the one cup scooper and pours it into the dog bowl. Over the past year he’s gotten better at getting more food in the bowl than on the floor, but this act of feeding the dog was also helpful in developing his fine motor skills.
Thankfully, Wrigley is the most patient dog in the world, allowing Lukas to climb all over her and play with her whenever he wants (although we still have to remind him not to pull her tail!). She’s taken a special liking to Lukas and now sleeps on his bed every night. Our cat, on the other hand, has always been very standoffish towards the children, and has taught Lukas another valuable lesson: not all animals are friendly and we need to be careful before approaching any animal we don’t know.
Having a pet can be a wonderful thing. Our family wouldn’t feel whole without our animals, even if they aren’t front and center these days. As an added bonus, our dog helps in the housecleaning department, especially during dinnertime. And what working mom doesn’t appreciate a little help around the house?
Do you have a pet? What have your children learned from owning a pet?
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