Friday, March 29, 2013

Kids and Pets.... BFFs With (Learning) Benefits


These are my two favorite girls.  If you ask Allie who Sadie is, she will tell you, "Sadie....best friend whole world!"  Sadie, I imagine, does not share the same views, but she's a dog so there's no knowing for sure.  If I were to guess, I would say that Sadie's response would be, "Allie....small human who scares the crap out of me but the big humans praise me big time for tolerating her so I do."

Sadie is our large border collie that Justin and I adopted 4 months after we started dating.  We traveled to North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, NY during rush hour on a friday to find her because my beloved dog, Shiminute, who had passed away sent a message to me to go there to find my next dog.  I know, I know....it all sounds a little kooky, but it's a true story.  Shim gave me Sadie.

Sadie was 6 months old, had been returned to a shelter three times, and was at risk of losing her life if she didn't find her forever home.  She wasn't even "on display".  (Note: if you can ever go to the main location, GO!  Its an amazing experience and so impressive how they help you find the pet that's right for you, while making sure that YOU are right for the pet.)  After spending time with a number of great dogs, I got this feeling that what I was looking for was hidden.  I asked one of the girls if they had "a long haired, bigger dog" somewhere.  They did.  She had been spayed earlier that day and was in recovery.  I asked to see her and when they brought her out, I just cried while I petted her as she leaned against me.  FOUND HER!

They wanted us to come back to get her another day and I told them there was no chance I was making that trek back there and I wasn't leaving without her.  They gave us literature to read about why some people SHOULDN'T own a border collie.  Then they called references at 8pm to make sure we were worthy.  It was a big to-do, I tell ya.  But we survived and left with Sprinkles a/k/a Sadie.    Our first girl.  She had pneumonia and she was fearful, but she was perfect.  Everyone sees how special she is.  Especially Allie!

Here's my thing.  Im an animal person.  I have 2 dogs, a cat, a parrot and a rabbit.  I work with animals all day.  I've been fortunate enough to know people who have shared valuable information with me in regards to behavior and animal care.  And I know that no animal should be trusted 100% with a child.  NONE.

If you think you have the exception to this rule in your life, I ask that you just pretend like you dont.  Animals are unpredictable.  They have adjusted to our world and we so rarely take the time to learn about theirs.  Poking fingers, close little faces, tail pulling and high pitched screams scare animals.  They want to flee from this.  If they don't, they are tolerating it for some other reason.  It's not bcause they love it.  I have a number of reasons why I say that they are tolerating it instead of running from it, but rather than ramble on about that in this posting, if you ask me I will happily share.

Sadie issues a low growl when Allie is getting to be too much.  I tell Justin all of the time how lucky we are that she warns us.  A lot of dogs would just react.  We teach Allie that if a dog growls, it's warning you to back off or there will be repercussions.  We teach her that a lot of dogs wont growl so there is certain behavior that is not permissible around animals.  She pushes  her limits sometimes, so we know that we need to be completely aware and focused when she's around dogs.

Notice that I say "we" followed by action words.  It's OUR  responsibility to know our children and how they will behave around animals.  It's OUR responsibility to be on red alert when there are animals near our children.  Unless you or your child is attacked by an animal without interacting with it first, the outcome is all on us as parents.  (Notice I didn't use the word provoked.... what you consider provoking is what YOU think it is) Your child is too young to be held accountable but not too young to learn.  The animal is an instinctual being and will react accordingly.  If we can remember these things, I think it will be helpful in creating a great bond between children and our pets.