The importance of bonding
When I was growing up, I remember we had a few pets at home (a few goldfish and a couple of birds) but sadly none of them lived very long nor did I manage to develop any significant bond with them. My parents were never really conscious of the real benefits pets can have on the emotional development of their children since they never grew up with pets. I think they got them for me and my siblings as some form of companionship because they were both working long hours. We were not involved in choosing our pets, nor were we ever taught the responsibility to properly take care of them. Our babysitter would end up taking care of them in addition to taking care of us! So, I basically had to learn everything about having pets when my husband and I started our own little family.
Choosing your family’s best friend
Although I really like animals in general, the idea of having a pet never entered my mind until our kids were born. Apart from not having any first-hand experience in handling animals, I also didn’t know what kind of pet would be most suitable for a family with young kids. For many years our eldest daughter has been asking us frequently if she could have a dog. I didn’t feel confident taking care of a puppy while my only experience in animal care was to sprinkle food into a fish tank! But our little girl was persistent with her request and one year, right before her birthday, she wrote us a long letter sincerely asking for a puppy as her birthday present. In her letter, she explained why she wanted a puppy, researched several breeds of dogs that are most suitable as family pets, and how she would do her share to take care of her new friend. My husband and I were so touched by her maturity and determination that we gave in and started our search for our new furry family member.
Anticipate any unexpected reactions
On our journey to finding our pet, we looked through the list of breeds our daughter suggested and narrowed it down to the one we liked the most. To learn more about the nature of this breed of dog, we found a friend who has one and we paid him a visit to see his pet to let the children interact with him. Five minutes into our visit our little daughter’s eyes were swollen shut and her nose wouldn’t stop running! My heart broke when I saw our elder child cry because her dream of having a puppy was shattered by her little sister’s allergy to this breed of dog!
Happily ever after
But we did not let one allergic incident deter us from finding the best pet for our kids! We would like to see if our little daughter was allergic to all dog breeds, or only some of them. So, armed with some antihistamine in my bag for our little one (just in case), the whole family went to a dog adoption day organized by a dog rescue association. We let the girls play with various puppies until we found a really sweet 10-week-old puppy that we all liked the minute we saw her. Our younger daughter was holding the puppy and petting her while we observed, looking for any allergic reactions triggered by the puppy. To our most pleasant surprise, there was none! Just to be safe, the dog rescue association suggested we foster the puppy for a week to make sure our little one truly has no allergic issues before we formally adopt her.
Pepper has been with us ever since and she’s the princess of the family! Our elder daughter has lived up to her promise and takes excellent care of her. With proper guidance and preparation, I think having pets can definitely help our kids to be more empathetic and caring. For me, it feels like I get to have another chance to truly bond with our family pet and that it is never too late to learn how to take care of one!