Two months after I got married I surprised my husband and TOLD him we were going to pick up our Shih Tzu. Little could I have known that 16 years later this little Shih Tzu would have been my one constant all these years. My Shih Tzu Mellie, who laid beside me as I could barely lift my pregnant body ( both times) from my bed, who kissed away the tears when my father passed away and who for 16 years enriched my life in ways that are hard to articulate.
Growing up with Mellie, my 14 year old daughter and ten year old son have both learned so much about what it means to care for and be responsible in every sense of the word for someone outside of themselves. They both helped me feed her, always made sure she was comfortable in her bed, took turns getting up at 6:30 am each morning to take her out before she had an accident and tried to play with her, although at her advanced age she use to prefer to curl up in their laps and be petted. Caring for a senior pet helped my two kids dig deep for extra sensitivity and love and as a mother watching them made my heart swell with happiness.
Observing them and their sensitivity towards her, I’ve come to realize that our Mellie ultimately gave us so much more than we could possibly ever have given her. And that kind of unconditional love – is not something you can teach a child, UNLESS they have a pet in their lives. This is why I had to bring two other furbabies into our house, a Shih Tzu we rescued from a wonderful group called Louie’s Legacy and who my son refers to as his brother followed by another Shih Tzu we rescued from Divine Intervention Animal rescue. And while my Mellie girl is no longer with us I know having had her and these two creatures currently living among us has enriched my kids and imparted valuable lessons onto them in a way that no other responsibilities or textbooks possibly could.
If you are STILL not convinced that you should consider getting your kids a fur brother or sister here are FIVE reasons why all kids need a pet thanks to Michelle from My Tail Hurts from Wagging So Much!
1. Pets teach responsibility. Whether it is changing water in an aquarium or making sure Fido has a fresh water, giving kids the chore of take care of another living thing teaches them to what it means to care for something, or someone, else.
2. Pets keep kids active. Should a family decide to get a dog, the dog will need to be walked, exercised and played with. This encourages kids to get off their digital devices and get outside to play.
3. Unconditional love. A dog, or cat, doesn’t care what color hair you have, if you are wearing a designer shirt or if you wear glasses or contacts. They love you the same either way. That connection between a kid and their pet creates a bonding relationship that is based on pure love and not materialism.
4. Discipline. Making sure the dog only gets one treat at night instead of the whole box, or the rabbit only gets two baby carrots instead of an entire bag, teaches kids lessons in discipline, because while those cute eyes surrounded by fur may beg for more, they need to learn that more isn’t always good.
5. Education. To properly care for a pet, no matter what kind it is — a fish, tortoise, bird, cat or ferret — a kid, or caretaker, needs to learn about it. Parents can turn this into an educational opportunity, as they read books, research online sources or watch videos about how to properly care for the animal.