Our daughter, an only child, has been around dogs and cats her whole life and could not wait to get pets of her own. We tried hamsters — three died in less than a year. We tried fish — our last fish died three days before moving and we never reset up the tank. We have a hermit crab but it rarely moves. More often than not, I think it is dead but it is still around — just not a lot of bonding going on there. Since the pup and kitty came to live with us, though, life has been a totally different ballgame.

Studies have shown that having a pet is not just a fun thing for kids to have around; owning a pet is actually very beneficial to a child's health. I can't vouch for everyone else's kid but I can confirm things I've read. What experts are saying about the perks of pet ownership is very much true for my own child. Here are some of the realities I have discovered about having our pets and how they have impacted my daughter's life:

Pets Are the Best Friends

Since my daughter is an only lonely (and 8 years old), she tends to get bored when I must work and her dad is not home. With the cat and dog, she has something to occupy her time and someone to talk to. I know the cat has sat through several tea parties and my dog has worn a doll skirt a time or two. My daughter does have many human friends, but now that the pets are always around, she seems a lot more motivated to using her imagination rather than plopping down in front of the television and zoning out.

Pets Keep Kids Active

Since we got the dog, my daughter is constantly asking to go for walks, running around the house, or throwing a squeaky toy. She was getting to the age of vegging out to do nothing, but the pets seem to have made her more active and able to be drawn away from electronic entertainment. I've read reports that state pets help fight obesity. We don't dwell too much on weight around here but we do encourage activity and sometimes we appreciate that one kid and two animals can completely wear each other out. 

Pets Teach Responsibility

Rarely does a day go by where my daughter doesn't learn a moral-of-the-story lesson having pets. There are the reminders of no teasing, responsible care giving, and helping without having to be told (as with feeding and providing water for the animals).

One of the biggest lessons I feel she has learned is to be aware of what is going on instead of walking around with her head in the clouds like she was sometimes (always) inclined to do. Now she must be sure the cat doesn't escape through an open door or that she doesn't step on the little dog. She is finally showing signs she is truly absorbing these lessons by not having to be reminded a hundred times a day. She is also very comforting if she sees the pup run into a wall or the cat fall off a chair. She rushes to their aid and is so sweet and loving.

Pets Are Funny

As a general rule, we are a comical family. We deal with life by "finding the funny" in as much as we can. Of course, chaos in the world and in our daily lives means sometimes no one is in a good mood. All it takes is a few of the kitty/puppy antics to have us all in a fit of giggles. Many nights we have turned off the television in favor of the feline/canine comedy show. They make us laugh a lot and they help us remember that smiles feel good.

Pets Inspire People

My daughter has always been a giving soul. I credit myself for teaching her that other people exist besides herself. But her love of animals has inspired her to donate some of her allowance money to the ASPCA. One time, after seeing one of those commercials, she donated all the money in her wallet — a $10 bill and a handful of change. Her generosity has carried over to wanting to help others in need and she has a better understanding that not every person or animal lives as cushy a life as she does.

I asked my daughter what her life would be like if she didn't have her dog and cat anymore. She replied, "Well, I would have nobody to play with." This was followed by a long, thoughtful pause and then she added, "I would miss them a lot." I asked what she would miss most and she simply replied, "Frankie and Charlie" — the names of her two new bestest friends.

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