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C'est la Vie: Who Is The Real Pet Owner??

Some of you know about the great dog debacle that is now a black smudge on all childhood memories for our children. On a fairly regular basis I hear my daughter whine about how she misses the dog that lived with us for thirty days. At about day 12 I was ready to have a complete mental breakdown, but forced myself to give it a solid month before making a decision. The dog had to go. That was two years ago.

Shortly after, there was no avoiding the desire of our children to have a pet. Truly, it was our oldest who had her mind set on caring for an animal in our home. She promised and crossed her heart that she would do everything. After doing a bit of research, we decided on a rabbit. We found a breeder and purchased all of the necessary equipment for bringing this little critter into the family. It was a fairly smooth transition and it's been over a year since "Buttercup Muffin Hallock" joined the Hallock crew.

During that time, we've come to realize that there are three fairly simple things that have to happen to keep our bunny alive": give her food, hay, and fresh water every day. That's it. She doesn't need to go for walks. She doesn't have to go to the vet or take heartworm medication. She enjoys being pet or take a little romp in her fenced play yard. Ready for a big surprise? (Please note the sarcastic tone.) The child who begged for the pet still can't remember to feed the bunny.

Nearly every day for the last 15 months I have had to be the alarm clock to make sure the bunny makes it another day. Which has me thinking about being a pet owner. I think a lot of people get a pet for their kids, but how many of us consider the time it takes for us to care for the pet? Sure a five year old thinks they will feed the pet and walk the pet, and although I think they are physically capable I don't think they have the maturity to understand the gravity of the responsibility. And I'm all for giving kids responsibility.

At what age can a child truly be responsible for a living thing? Here is a rough guide I found at the Best Friends Animal Society website:


Birth to six months: A quiet time for the animal/child interaction. No small child should be left unsupervised with an animal.

Six months to a year: Keep pet food and feeding areas away from crawling and toddling children. A child of this age will grab at whatever is in his or her path, so ears and tails are a target, and children have to be carefully supervised around animals to avert any unexpected reactions.


1-3 years: A time of exploration and for putting things in the mouth. A dog or cat who is possessive about his or her toys and food can be potentially dangerous to a child. The child is eye level with a medium to large dog, and dogs can see that as a threat. This age group is especially vulnerable to a biting dog.


4-6 years: By now, a child has mastered quite a lot of language and can understand more about how to interact with another living being, but a firm eye on the situation is still needed.


6-10 years: Your child can now help look after a pet - feeding, cleaning up, walking, and playing with a cat or dog or any other animal in the house.


Teens: Just a warning about this group. At some point in the teen years, your child may develop other priorities in his or her life, such as sports, band, boys, girls, existential philosophy, or shopping. Pet care chores can suddenly and dramatically go onto the back burner. Parental supervision is a must.


Do you have ideas that helped your children to be responsible with pet care?

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