Kids and their pets have a bond we all can admire
“Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.”
Among the many joys of morning drop-off is when a family approaches the front of school, and there’s a dog in the car. Similarly, when a parent and child walk to school with a dog on a leash, there’s a completely different dynamic than if it’s only a parent and a child. We know that drop-off will take a few moments longer while administrators ooh and ahh over the dog.
Afternoon pick up can have the same feel when there’s a canine waiting for her best friend. Now please don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that children are unhappy to see their parents at the end of the school day; however, there’s an alternative glee when the family dog greets the student after a full day of school.
As someone who grew up in a home filled with multiple dogs and cats, and whatever creatures snuck out of the Kentucky woods and into the house, animals were an integral part of our lives. They provided companionship, constant and unquestioning love, and many happy childhood memories.
What are the tangible and intangible benefits for children of having pets? According to a January 2019 article in the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry called “Pets and Children,” domesticated animals help children and teens in a variety of ways.
For example, taking care of a pet can promote self-esteem and self-confidence. Children can also learn how to build trusting relationships through their caring for a pet. Having a dog or a cat, or other animals for that matter, can also teach children how to communicate non-verbally, and to have compassion for others.
In addition, a pet can be that friend to tell secrets with no fear of them leaking. Children can learn about the cycle of life from birth to death. It may be obvious, but it bears stating that having an animal in the house forces children to learn real world responsibility.
More broadly, animals connect us to nature and other living things. In the process, children learn that they are part of a wider world where humans and other living beings exist in relation to each other. When we love an animal, and when we grieve the loss of a pet, we connect ourselves to something larger than our immediate beings and at some level find our place in the larger world.
When our family moved to San Antonio, we had two older cats. In less than a month, I had to put both down due to cancer. Even though I had dealt with euthanizing older pets many times before, it was still extremely sad. At that moment of grief, I was reminded of the unique relationship we form with our animals.
I realize that pets are not for everyone for a variety of reasons, and respect every family’s decision on having animals in the house. If you do bring your pet to drop off or pick up, though, please excuse us if we become over exuberant. We enjoy saying hello to the canine members of your family, and we appreciate seeing how close your children are with them. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.