I don’t know anybody who had a “perfect” childhood, but like (hopefully) most people, I can look back on mine and pick out some things my parents got absolutely right, and one of those was allowing my sister and me to have pets in our lives. I know that some people have financial constraints, or allergies or other health problems that preclude having animals in the house, but if it is possible, I [warning: unsolicited parenting advice to follow] strongly recommend letting your kids have pets. They are a wonderful source of companionship and unconditional love.
My dog is now 14 years old. I adopted her as a puppy from an ASPCA (off of “doggie row”) and later that day an extended family member thought she was so adorable (which she was) that he went and adopted one of her litter mates. That dog passed away from “old age” a couple of months ago, which is hard for me to think about, so I try to repress it. I’ve thought of modifying her trick repertoire, such that in addition to “Sit” and “Shake!” my commands include “Don’t die!” She’d obey if she could.
My dog needs to get up at least once in the middle of the night to pee (usually 2 or 3 a.m.) and of course that is kind of a drag, but I’m grateful that she is otherwise quite healthy. Last night she lay stretched out on her side, with her feet against the wall, and her toenails made loud clacking noises when she started running in her sleep, as she is wont to do. She wants to be by my side, no matter what. Once she injured a paw by unexpectedly trying to climb on a treadmill with me. She and I have walked many miles together, since walking is a pastime we both love. She would lay down her life to keep me safe. She almost did, once.
My cat is only five, but he just went through a difficult bout with kidney stones and bladder stones. Hopefully he is permanently recovered. He is an odd cat who takes no interest in his own personal hygiene, so he needs to be brushed and bathed frequently, and I have to keep a supply of diaper wipes on hand to keep his private parts clean. (I also have a diaper wipe warmer, because I am a frigging humanitarian.) But on the upside, no one ever told him that cats are supposed to be aloof either, and he is one of the most affectionate creatures imaginable. He will even sleep back to back with the dog if no people are available to demand attention from. His motto is, “I’m a pet, so you should pet me.”
You can see where one of his legs was shaved, to accommodate an IV. He had to wear one of those “cat from outer space” collars too, to prevent him from chewing off the IV. Cripes did he hate that.
So anyway, when I called my mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day this morning, I thanked her for so generously providing pets when I was growing up. The resultant love of animals I have is a gift that continues giving to this day.