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January 19, 2019

Teaching children how to keep pets

For as long as I can remember Toriah, my second born, has always wanted to own a dog. Unfortunately he suffers from allergies and animal fur is one of the things he is allergic to. I remember once we visited some friends who kept a housedog, by the next morning my poor son’s eyes were swollen almost shut and could not stop tearing.

We realised then that his dreams of owning a dog may never come to pass. Toriah was so disappointed, being the eternal optimist though, he still holds hope that one of these days his allergies will reduce or be eliminated and he will eventually own a dog. Every time he is near a dog or pats a dog and his allergies do not flare up, his optimism continues to grow.

Owning or taking care of a pet has been described by many child specialists as one of the best ways to teach a child responsibility. I remember as a child helping my dad with our guard dogs before we moved to a smaller space and could no longer keep dogs. Some of the activities were fun like cleaning the dog and walking it, while others were quite mundane like picking its droppings and cleaning the kennels. From taking care of Frisky (I know weird name for a dog) and cleaning his kennel, I learnt early that there was no way I would ever keep a house dog. Once we moved homes I tried to keep rabbits but unfortunately it was in the time of my life when I had just discovered boys and my interest in pets had dropped significantly. I put the rabbits on a cage in the store near the fridge one rainy day and forgot about feeding them that day. My mom gave them out when she found them eating the fridge cables about to face death by electrocution. The next time I kept a pet, it was my husband’s cat after marriage.

There are various lessons I learnt though in my stint as a pet keeper. The first and most important was that if I wanted to keep an animal then that animal became my responsibility. I had to make sure that it ate, slept in a clean environment and got exercise when the need arose. I learnt that to keep an animal happy took work and it was not all play and cuddles. Once when we still had rabbits, my brother forgot to latch its door and the little bunnies that were inside were eaten by a stray dog, we found their mother having a heart attack in our vegetable patch where she had gone in search of food. It was heartbreaking! I never forgot the hatch again but like stated earlier I did forget to feed them and my mom solved that once and for all by donating the rabbits to my neighbours.

Back to my son and his desire for a pet; even though he cannot keep a dog or some of those more furry animals, my husband Tony and I are cracking our heads to figure out what other pet option he can have. We both agree that having responsibility for something else beyond themselves will help teach our children the values of putting the needs of others before themselves. Hopefully they will also learn that as in everything else in life, taking care of animals is both a rewarding and a mundane task.

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