I grew up in a household that included three brothers and two sisters. From the earliest that I can remember, we had pets. Usually, we had several!
You name the type of animal and while growing up, the Balzer family had it one time or another. Dogs, cats, rats, mice, snakes and yep, a squirrel. I will never forget the day I got off the school bus and came home to a baby squirrel. We named him Peanuts.
Now, I know this is hard to believe – often when I tell people about Peanuts they figure I am confused with where he lived. Surely he lived outside, or surely he lived in a cage is what people say. Nope, Peanuts lived in our house and had the run of it. Of course, he did have a cage – but most of the time he ran freely and went where he wanted to. I remember often sitting in the den watching TV and in Peanuts would scamper. He would jump onto the sofa and then jump onto my shoulder to nap nestled there snug as could be enjoying the warm sunshine coming through the window. It is hard to imagine it all now but he was treated like any other family pet!
We even had chickens once. My youngest brother, Tommy was quite persuasive when he wanted something. (Maybe he should have gone into politics!) He convinced our mom to get chickens so we could have fresh eggs everyday – I guess he saw this as a great value kind of thing. (Of course, he is also the brother that once charged admission to neighborhood kids and moms to watch him walk the telephone wires!) I don’t remember getting many eggs but we sure got tons of complaints from the neighbors from their noise!
The chickens didn’t last long…
Life with pets
Having a family pet livens up your homespace. I will never forget George. He was my cousins’, the Purvis family’s pet duck. My cousins, Shell, Tony and Andy lived at the beach (Sandbridge, VA). I loved our visits with them and it was great fun to watch George running around. He was nonstop entertainment!
My Step-grandson, Austin has a pet turtle named “Spike”. For months and months he had begged for a turtle. His dad, Brent and my daughter, Sammi told him that once he began to show responsibility enough to have one, they would try to get him one. Austin set about doing anything and everything to prove his responsible side. That made Sammi start to fret over how they would get a turtle as they aren’t the easiest pets to find. One day Austin’s dream came true and what joy for me to get to witness it.
I happened to be visiting them in Charlotte and Sammi and I took a nature walk on the greenway. Out of the corner of her eye Sammi spied a baby turtle. I just happened to have a small box handy in my purse (don’t ask why, my lips are sealed) so Sammi reached into the water and scooped the turtle up. When Austin got home from school that day he got a surprise! Since then Spike has gotten bigger and bigger and Austin has been able to learn more about life as he has cared for him each day!
Pets teach life lessons
Without a doubt I believe that having pets in your homespace broadens your education and impacts you in a multitude of ways. I know it did for my siblings and me. I feel for kids that grow up in homes that don’t have pets. I think they are missing out on learning valuable life lessons. Here are a few life lessons I know having pets teach us:
- Pets give you someone to constantly love and nurture. They never get enough and love in return unconditionally.
- Having a pet gives you companionship and can make you feel less lonely as you always have someone to talk to, to touch and be touched in return.
- Pets encourage and create times of laughter in us. We find humor in playing with them and love watching them for entertainment.
- Pets teach children about responsibility. Helping to take care of the family pet is often a child’s first chore and responsibility as part of the family.
- Pets teach us to love and also how to accept loss. The loss of a pet is sometimes a child’s first experience with death. Though extremely difficult, coping skills and the process of grieving are learned.
- Pets teach young adults how to “parent”. Young adults and young couples often bond with their pets in a way that plants the seeds for later parenting. (I believe that it is no coincidence that many pet names these days are what are normally human names such as Maggie, Hazel, Gretchen and Duncan.)
- Pets often help get us exercising more, particularly dogs. Pets needing exercise give us a chance to do the same.
- Pets can lead you to more social contact. People very often interact with other pet owners through their pets. How often have you known someone as Moe’s Mom (or whatever the pet’s name is)?
- Pets relax us and can help reduce stress.
- Pets become part of our families.
Spread the love
Interacting with animals impacts us all in many positive ways. I say spread the love in every direction you can with your pet. Share your pet with others that aren’t fortunate enough to be able to have one. One way to do this is to visit folks that live in Assisted Living Facilities. As often as we can we Balzer siblings take our pets to visit our mom at Richfield where she now lives as I discussed in a recent post, Creating Comfort In An Assisted Living Facility. She loves interacting with them and so do the other residents. Another way to spread the love is to visit shut-ins with your pet. More often than not elderly folks and those that are confined to their homes love playing and visiting with pets.
Pure and simple, pets open our hearts and open our minds with their unconditional love.
Enjoy the love…