I'm a big believer in having pets. I grew up with dogs, and we currently have two cats in our house. Since we live in the country, many of our friends and neighbors have numerous pets and animals, which gives us a diverse experience when it comes to our furry friends. Despite the added responsibility, pets really transform a house into a home, and barring allergies, most people love them. Thursday February 20th is Love Your Pet Day, and a good time to not only love our pets, but maybe give them a little more on their special day.

There are many ways to accomplish this. There are a variety of edible treats that we can give to them to make them feel special, and they always love a new toy to play with, which you can either make at home or purchase in the store. If you have a dog, walk him a little longer, or take him to a fun and exciting new place to frolic around, and maybe even make some new friends. A special meal is a nice idea, one which will always be appreciated, and there is always room for an extra hug or snuggle.

In the end, there are countless ways to let animals know you love them, and of course, this shouldn't be limited to just one day of the year. Take every opportunity to express your affection for your pets, because let's face it, they are members of our family and deserve it.

Besides, pets give us more than just companionship. There are a number of special things that pets bring to our lives. Here are 6 of them.

1. They teach responsibility.

Every child benefits from learning about being responsible, especially for another living creature. Responsibility teaches kids about reliability and diligence, not to mention compassion and empathy, which are all valuable qualities that make us decent and caring people.

2. They may help our immune systems.

The presence of pets is linked to the "hygiene hypothesis," which suggests that modern children grow up too clean, and that a little exposure to a dirt and germs, including the ones from pets, helps our immune systems develop and reduces the incidence of allergies and autoimmune disorders.

3. Their love is unconditional and without judgment.

The modern world can be a chaotic place, fraught with stress, loneliness, and angst. Children and adults can find refuge from these turbulent waters in the loving acceptance of their pets, who will always be there for them, regardless of how others may treat us.

4. They teach lessons about love and loss.

One of the toughest lessons in life is learning to say goodbye to a loved one, but such losses are a fact of life. When a child grows up with a pet, saying goodbye is difficult, to say the least, but will help them cope with such losses that will occur throughout their lives.

5. They can help kids learn to read.

Studies have shown that there are tangible benefits to learning when children read aloud to the dogs. The reason for this is because children feel more at ease around dogs, who are patient and non-critical. As a consequence, children don't fear being judged and become more confident readers.

6. They may save our lives.

There is a growing body of evidence indicating the pets, particularly dogs, can detect life-threatening health episodes in people, especially ones involving seizures, cancer, and diabetes.

In the end, most of us don't need encouragement to love our pets, because it is something we do every day. Nonetheless, it's nice to take a moment and think about all the wonderful things they bring to our lives, and maybe give them an extra hug or treat because of it.