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Family

Why Should Children Have Pets?

July 31, 2017 by

bunny and children

“Mommy, my hands need to stroke the bunny again.”

Gwen’s got it right.

Luckily Gwen’s mom agrees with her. But many moms will inwardly groan, “Oh, yes. We all know who is going to end up feeding it or cleaning the cage. Perhaps when she’s older. Not now, not yet. We can’t manage our crazy household as it is!”

That’s one sensible point of view, I suppose. But look at it from some other angles. What can pets bring to our family? How can a pet help my child? Some children have to avoid certain pets because of allergies, and hygiene has its place, of course, but medical personnel can confirm that infants need exposure to microorganisms for healthy immune systems. Closeness to nature, to animals, is invaluable for children. Invaluable equals inner value.

birds and girls

In a world where many adults don’t know what commitment, discipline, or responsibility mean anymore, there’s nothing like the insistent squeaking of a guinea pig demanding to be fed to remind the child what constancy is!

dog with girls

I can’t even remember how many pets we’ve had, and you would laugh at all our adventures. Naming the pets was a saga in itself. At one point the older girls were infatuated with Les Misérables so naturally that litter of kittens bore names like Eponine and Fantine and Jean Valjean. The little ones were more inclined to choose names like Dumpling… and well, that one was a dumpling. We had fun selling kittens and puppies and made friends with numerous clients, with the result that we still hear how Oliver is progressing.

Mozart, the black cat, got along perfectly with Streak, the border collie, right down to sharing the same water bowl. He even survived our nearly-blind Grandpa Hugo inadvertently sitting down on him as he lay snoozing on the couch!

Then came “Puppy Summer,” the year Streak had puppies. Wouldn’t Storm, the pup, get a bee sting on his muzzle the day the family purchasing him was due to show up (swollen as it was, they took him anyways, thank goodness).

dog with girl

I could write a book about the other escapades. Some we only managed to laugh about later, like the morning our minister visited us unannounced, opened the door, and stepped in dog poop as the Westie pup in process of being house-trained tore in one direction while my husband appeared from the other direction, dustpan in hand. I never did dare to ask the minister what he thought of our household, but I did have my doubts about our sanity – why did we ever agree to board that pup for two months?

However, that still wasn’t our last pet. You see, I think animals can be a good introduction to the realities of life and death too. And how do you explain death to a four-year-old? If a person dies and goes to heaven, how come he is still lying here, still, so still, so very and completely still? What is it about the soul, that embodiment of life, that makes someone who he is?

guinnea pig and child

Sure, animals aren’t people, but they can point to truths, realities that are better experienced than explained. I remember the time our guinea pig had babies right in the living room. We didn’t interfere – we quietly moved the center of action away from mommy guinea pig’s cage to give her a bit of peace. She gave birth to three baby guinea pigs, perfect miniatures of their mother. Unlike baby rabbits – those naked little pink things you want to leave alone for ten days – guinea pigs come clothed and ready to run.

And so did these, except, oh dear, one of them was stillborn. He looked just as perfect as the others with long, silky hair, perfectly formed ears and claws, nothing missing. Nothing, that is, except that all-important thing, the breath of life that only the Creator can give. I couldn’t stop looking at that third guinea pig. There were tears from the children, and another grass-lined animal grave under the blooming winter cherry tree in Friend’s Garden, but the marvel of life, the enigma of death, and the dependence on God for life’s miracle were indelibly etched into every heart.

kitten being fed by child

On a more serious note, it’s a fact that in our society countless sixteen-year-olds end up having to care for a baby, one of the most dependent, helpless newborn creatures. I’ve been in the hospital and watched nurses trying to teach the basics of care to a new teenage mom: how to change, how to feed, her newborn. I pray for those babies, and I pray for those mothers. I can’t help thinking that had they had the experience of caring for and loving any living creature, even the smallest pet, they’d be better prepared for the unending round of diaper-changing, sleepless nights, and hungry squalling they are going to be faced with.

So yes, when all’s said and done, I still advocate having pets. Was it work? You bet. But worth every bit of it, and I’d do it again! Take a look at these pictures of those years with the children, if you have any doubts. To any parents who choose to do likewise, may it awaken in your child a reverence and wonder for the great miracle of life and the mystery of death, the inevitable parameters of our sojourn on earth.

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About the author

Veronica Brinkmann and her husband Tobias

Veronica Brinkmann

Veronica Brinkmann has lived in Germany, England, and the United States. At present, she and her husband Tobias live at...

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  • Thank YOU for the beautiful thoughts and photos. They are a refreshing oasis in my days.

    Art Caton
  • If someone does not like pets, he or she can not love a human. I remember when I was little child. My parents had brought us cats and chicks. They were like our friends. I cared their all needs feeding and cleaning of them. We were 3 syblings and we all family loved them. They were sleeping with us in the same room. We had a happy childhood and now we all love our neighbors. We can understand better our brothers and sisters. I try my child to love the pets and play an instrument. Because I believe that if every child could have pet or played a music instrument there would be no war on earth.

    metin erdem