My two kids have been asking for a pet lately. Sometimes it’s a dog, sometimes a cat, sometimes both. But much as I love animals – our dear departed kitty was the best fuzzy friend in the world – I’ve been resisting. It’s been nice spending the last few years without having to clean up anyone’s poop. And the children have to be nagged just to clear their dishes off the table – would they be any different about caring for a living creature?
Kellie Martin would say yes!
The Army Wives and ER star has a blog on Parenting‘s website this week about children and pets. In her view, introducing an animal to a child at a young age encourages not only a love of pets, but also gives them a head start on responsibility.
She had her first dog at age five. “Curly Joe taught me a ton about life,” she writes. “He was my little charge. I had to feed him, make sure he went out to do his business, and, of course, fill his stocking on Christmas Eve.” With her love and care, Curly Joe lived to the ripe old age of 18.
Now Kellie has a five-year-old of her own: daughter Maggie. And while they had a dog and cat long before the baby came into the picture, Maggie is already doing a lot to help care for the animal companions.
“The chocolate lab embraced her immediately (isn’t that what they do?), but the cat, not so much,” says Kellie. “So, Maggie has worked hard to win her way into our cat’s heart. This includes (exclusively) feeding her and not petting her…at all.”
Maggie also has the responsibility of feeding the dog every day – and to make sure the pets don’t get confused, she puts their individual pictures next to their bowls.
These little chores have set the stage for a lifetime of responsibility and caring. “She is learning to be responsible for someone other than herself and is inadvertently learning about empathy. We’ve now moved on to having Maggie help wash and brush the dog. What’s next, washing the cat? Probably not.”
Maybe it’s time for a trip to the animal shelter after all…
What do you think? How old were your children when they started caring for the family pets?
[Photos: via Twitter]
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