Let's talk about you and me.... well more specifically pets and kiddies!
As a kid, I had a best friend whom I loved more than anything in the world. From the age of 7 through to 18, my puppy Moby (named after the whale because he was so fat when we got him) was my number one pal. He wasn't the most well behaved puppy, in fact he chewed my favourite pair of flare jeans that were hanging on the line and I don't think I was ever as mad at him than I was in that moment. Actually, saying he wasn't 'well-behaved' is probably an understatement - he was an absolute NIGHTMARE. But my god was he cute. And despite the amount of chaos he caused, me and my siblings absolutely adored him. He would wait with a wagging tail at our gate as we walked down the dusty track home from school, and as we grew older he would lay in the sun with our heads on his tummy and allow us to rest our eyelids.
He was the best. He taught us responsibility, he taught us love and friendship. Even though he couldn't speak back, during those emotional roller coaster teenage years, I would go out and vent to him about how my friend had copied my hair style or I'd missed out on being picked as SRC rep or my brother and sister wouldn't let me join in their game. I mean he didn't understand any of it obviously, but he made me feel like I always had a friend no matter what, one of the most precious gifts a child can have.
Pets aren't given enough credit for the role they play in shaping kids. From a young age, you learn to be gentle and what it means to look after someone. You know what it feels like to be loved unconditionally, because your pet is always happy to see you, even if you've forgotten to give them breakfast. And, whilst this isn't something children necessarily want to learn, there comes a time that you learn what loss is. The most heart-breaking thing about having a pet, is that they aren't here for as long as we are.
I'd moved to Adelaide and had to leave Moby behind with my Mum and Dad. The day I moved out for study, I think I cried more over the separation from my dog than I did from my parents. You can't explain why all of a sudden you aren't around anymore, they think you've just left them. Then came the day I got the horrendous phone call from my dad. Moby had had a stroke and had to be put down. I wasn't there. I didn't get to see my best bud once more to say goodbye. I'd never felt more guilty or heart-broken and the weeks that followed were very solemn and filled with tears. I grieved and longed for just one more cuddle, but in hindsight it was probably a good thing I didn't see him as he forever remains a healthy, happy puppy in my memories.
6 months on and I replaced my grief with joy. I bought my own little puppy, Harley, who brought me so much happiness and still does every day. My little cousins absolutely adore him and will run around with him for hours. There's nothing like seeing the smiles on kids faces when they're just care-free, running around with their pets. Or simply cuddled up with them on the couch at night.
If you're tossing up whether to get a pet for your child or not, my recommendation is without a doubt to do it! There can be so many reasons for not getting them, but in the end, the joy they bring to a family's life outweighs any cons. Whether it's a cat, fish, turtle, chook, mouse, rabbit or puppy, the experience of a pet as a child is invaluable.