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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pets can teach kids life lessons

Graci and Randi show their
dwarf hamsters
A dog, a bird, two fish and two dwarf hamsters is what we now have in our household as far as pets are concerned. I never would have imagined I would have so many little creatures in my house. I wasn’t one to have pets growing up except for a dog. Today the pets actually outnumber my kids three to one.

Our first pet in our house was a dog that my husband and I got when we first got married. He was our “kid” before having our two girls.
The other pets started arriving as our girls could talk, probably at the age two or three.  Our oldest daughter, Randi started out with a beta fish as her first pet. It’s a good thing because they are pretty easy to take care of. The only real issue with fish is cleaning their water every month. Other than that, you feed them a few pellets of fish food a day and they are fine.  You do have to be careful the little ones don’t overfeed the fish.
The first time the fish died. It was traumatic for our girls. I think Randi cried for whole day. We actually had a ceremony and flushed the fish down the toilet. The next fish that died wasn’t a big deal. We were expecting it to be, but our girls didn’t think twice about it.
We did have hermit crabs somewhere along the line. I think we got those when the girls were about 4 and 5 years old. The hermit crabs weren’t hard to take care of, but their cages would really smell. One of the hermit crabs was pretty good at getting out of his cage. One night we heard a big thump and the hermit crab was out of his cage and in another room. It was funny. We nick-named him Hercules. The hermit crabs lasted about a year and they ended up going to a cousin after she babysat for them while we were on vacation.
When the girls were 5 and 6, the dog they had know since birth passed away unexpectedly. It was hard on the whole family, especially our girls. We decided after a few months to get a new dog. We thought it would help them with their grief. It did help.
A bird was something my oldest daughter Randi wanted for awhile. My brother-in-law raised Cockatiels and told us that would be a good bird for Randi. He gave us a cage and information about the bird. Randi got him for doing well on one of her report cards when she was 7. Randi loves the bird, but it is not the easiest animal to take care of. Not only do you have to feed the bird, but the cage needs to be cleaned each week. The bird is pretty messy and his seeds and feathers fall around the cage. Right now, I wouldn’t say it’s the best pet for kids her age.
Just recently we got our latest addition to the household. Both girls have wanted a hamster for a few years. My husband and I didn’t really want more animals, but we told them if they could convince us about why they wanted the hamsters, we would think about it. We told them to do a report. In the report they needed to tell us the origin of the dwarf hamsters, the cost to purchase it including the cage, what the hamsters eat and how they would take care of them.
We thought the report would take a few days for them to do and would keep them busy for awhile. Well, about 3 hours later, they had a full report with all the information including photos in a notebook. They both took turns presenting different parts of the information to us. We were so impressed we couldn’t say no to their request.  The following day we were at the pet store getting the dwarf hamsters. Just our luck that day the hamsters were on a one day sale for half off. We couldn’t beat that.

My husband and I try to use the pets to help our kids learn responsibility. They have to feed their animals and clean their cages. It’s not always easy for them to do alone. I am usually helping them with the cleaning of the cages.
The pets are fun to have and our girls do love them. I think we are at our limit of pets though. I don’t have time to clean any more cages. Overall the pets in our house have been pretty good. I’ve found them to be a wonderful way to teach kids responsibility and life’s lessons. 

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