“No more pets and that’s final,” my husband and I kept telling our children and ourselves.
Five goldfish, a dog, and one rabbit seemed enough for our busy family. Another pet in the house would definitely mean more responsibility, cost and cleanup. And remember who usually ends up caring for a pet? Parents!
But there was something beyond the physical care of animals we had forgotten. It became apparent when the second-grade teacher asked us to provide room and board for the classroom guinea pig one summer. Reluctantly, I approved this temporary guest, as long as our son promised to look after Minoo’s needs.
In a few weeks, the short-eared, short-tailed rodent had brought something important to our home. The children cooperated with its caring and feeding and showered the chubby pet with love. They insisted on having Minoo’s cage nearby when they played. They devised a sunshield for the cage during hot days and constantly checked his water supply.
The guinea pig responded to all this affection with squeals of delight whenever the children appeared. Soon, even I was talking to the little guest.
Just as Minoo returned to school in September, a friend offered the children an eight-week-old kitten. This time we thought twice about saying “No.” We had seen the guinea pig be more than another chore around the house. He provided a laboratory for love – a chance to express kind and tender actions. Minoo was a companion who was much smaller than the children, giving them a glimpse at being in charge in a world where most everything else is bigger than they are.
So the request for a kitten was answered with a warm “yes.” Pussywillow brought out all the fatherly and motherly qualities from the children. More training in pet care was needed, which called for patience, but everyone welcomed the addition. Pussywillow’s antics provided comic humor, and the children’s ingenuity brought forth homemade toys for him.
Sharing is another joy of having a pet. A nearby family with three children, but no animals, was happy to have a resident kitten on the weekends we were away. And the kids loved sharing experiences of their rabbit and kitten during “show and tell” at school and at the local library Pet Show.
The children have proved that they can handle the increased responsibility and rules that accompany a new pet. Each one in the family shared in the work as well as in the pleasure. Although a child’s toy shelf may be filled with stuffed animals, which seem very real to them, toys don’t replace the lessons and enjoyment of owning a special pet.