Children and Pets

River
River (age 6). I’ll call her mini-me. This is what I saw when I woke up this morning and opened my bedroom door. Three little beasts waiting for me ;)

“In doing something, do it with love or never do it at all.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Is my child old enough for a dog?

Yes, small children can interact with animals, with a few ground rules.  All the animals in the house are *mine*. They are not *ours*. The difference in the terms is that one implies they are a special privilege to interact with, the other implies that they are communal property to be played with like toys. *Mine* means you show it respect (because it’s not yours!) Mine doesn’t mean off-limits, but if you are not acting appropriately with the animal, you are no longer allowed to interact with it.

Eric and River
Eric and River reading to each other. Orion is happily perched at their feet.

I firmly believe dogs and pets are not a right – they are a privilege. If more children were taught this, they may not grow up to be adults who brutalize animals. Adults who leave their “property” to languish in the backyard, or worse.

We are pack. We are family. But my children both know that having a dog isn’t something they deserve merely because they are children: this is something they earn, for our pets are living, breathing creatures, capable of feeling pain and love.

river2

A child is a child, remember.  They are called “children” and not “adults” for a reason.  No child should ever be put in charge of an animal’s health or welfare. It’s a living creature; please don’t make it the responsibility of someone who still believes they are going to be a princess when they grow up, or that Minecraft is a valid career as an adult.   It’s not the child’s responsibility to feed the animal and make sure it has water.  It’s the adult’s responsibility to make sure that the pet is cared for.  Sure, your child can feed them and walk them (with supervision).  They can be present for the vet trips.  There are a lot of chances to learn many life-lessons when a pet is added to your family.  They can help your child grow and understand compassion.  However, the compassion and care starts with you.

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