If you have kids old enough to communicate, you have likely been on the receiving end of some serious pet begging. Perhaps you have been waiting for the kids to reach a certain age or to prove a certain level of responsibility before getting a family pet.
If you Google “kids and pets” you will see pages of ridiculously-adorable memes of cuddly kittens and roly-poly puppies. The appeal of baby animals is undeniable, but the workload is extraordinary.
Last weekend we held a birthday party for Murphy. He’s 4, and he’s our dog.
Canine celebrations are not the norm in our household, but it was a three-day weekend and my kids caught me at a weak moment. We invited (dog) guests, made a cake (for human consumption), bought (dog) presents, and sang an enthusiastic rendition of the Happy Birthday song to the pooch. I think he was more confused than impressed, although he did appreciate the play date and dog treats.
As I reflected on the event, the planning and prep made me truly appreciate our four-legged family member. He is usually swept along in the tidal wave of daily activity and not regularly the center of attention. Besides, grade-school aged boys don’t often look beyond themselves and this party — begged for and implemented by them — was a tangible display of empathy on their part and a reminder of the power of the pet.
Laura Follis, public-relations specialist for the Seattle Humane Society, urges families to consider adopting adult and even senior pets. Unlike puppies and kittens, older animals are usually housebroken, they have outgrown chewing issues and other destructive habits, they have reached their full size, and are often less hyper.
Timing is important, too. Adopting at the beginning of summer is smart. The weather is better, so more time can be spent outside exercising, training, and bonding with your new pet. And if the kids are going to follow through on their promise to care for the new family member, they will have more time to establish a routine without a school commitment.
Where do Seattle Humane Society animals come from?
Most animals the Seattle Humane Society receives, Laura says, are owner surrenders or transfers from other shelters in Washington state. Upon arrival at the shelter, the animals are given a thorough medical exam then behavior-tested by specialists to determine their temperament. Can the animal be touched while they’re eating? Are they comfortable with gentle tugging on their ears and tails? Do they play well with other animals? These questions and more help the specialists determine the animal’s level of socialization as well as the recommended age minimum for children of prospective families.
Once the animals are spayed/neutered and up-to-date on their vaccinations, the Seattle Humane Society’s adoption specialists take over. These trained matchmakers look at the daily routines, space, lifestyle, and wishes of prospective families and help match them to their perfect pet.
Kids and pets: Are you ready?
What do you need to do if you think you are ready to bring home a dog? Laura recommends reviewing and completing the Seattle Humane Pre-Adoption Questionnaire before coming to the shelter. Determine if you are allowed a pet at your residence if there is a size limitation, how many hours a day the pet would be home without you, the types of activities you would do with your pet, and your tolerance for certain pet behaviors. Then gather your family together and head to the shelter.
The adoption benefits for the pet are obvious: a home, loving attention, food, and exercise. The benefits to you and your family are equally powerful. A pet will bring laughter, joy, devotion, comfort, a reason to exercise, a shared family focus, a possible boost in kids’ immune systems, an increase in empathy, and an excuse to throw an additional birthday party!
Need more persuading? Here are “102 scientific benefits of having a dog” from the website Fluent Woof.
Originally published June 2016
More on kids and pets in Seattle’s Child:
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