As kids, most of us were excited by the prospect of someday getting a dog—a loyal companion during those long walks in the woods or around the neighborhood.
Many youngsters, even those living in urban apartments, still dream of having a cute pony. Other children are quite happy with a kitten, a guinea pig or even a frog.
But acquiring a pet entails more than just the idea of owning something over the summer. And deciding to adopt a living thing for the rest of its life requires more than just providing food and shelter.
To those who are willing to accept the responsibility of caring for a pet, a lot of rewarding lessons can be learned.
Accepting a new pet, regardless of whether it is a hamster or Great Dane, teaches responsibility.
As a new owner begins to consider the pet’s well being, time and money will be allocated to food, exercise and play time. Some planning skills are required.
The instinctive act of nurturing is honed when one starts caring for a practically helpless creature, such as a puppy.
Oddly enough, the caring instincts are revealed in both directions, too. Observing how some dogs care for disabled owners is priceless.
Seeing-eye dogs, for example, have the trust of their blind owners and will guide them with great care around a busy city.
Some dogs even warn owners with epilepsy if a seizure is coming. If they only had hands, we’re pretty sure they would do the laundry, too!
According to one BBC science report, dogs among all animals are particularly good at picking up on human cues.
Their domestication dates back some 15,000 years, so they’ve had lots of time to practice and develop their talents.
Bred from wolves way back when, dogs are innately pack animals. They love interaction.
During walks around town, let a dog dictate the route and its natural behavior will invariably veer towards sociable situations.
You’ll notice dogs visiting other dogs, friendly or otherwise. They can teach us a thing or two about the value of interacting with people and provide the perfect icebreaker for starting new friendships.
Dogs, cats and other animals have been used by some well-meaning organizations to help alleviate or speed up recovery of individuals suffering from illness.
Pets just seem to emanate good vibes. Caressing a cat or dog can have a therapeutic effect on humans and relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
Pets make great listeners, too, giving their owners full attention for nothing in exchange. They can often sense when owners are depressed and will snuggle or cheer them up with their antics.
Of course, the value of a pet depends largely on how attentive the owner is. Those who have the prerequisites needed to care for a pet may discover that they are cared for even better in return.
Alfablue, December 2012