Dogs. Cats. Birds. Fish. Hamsters. Rabbits. Lizards. No matter the species, having a pet is a rite of childhood. It’s a symbiotic relationship – the bond between a child and his/her animal. I loved the crap out of my first pet, a handsome tan-colored hamster who went by the name of “Old MacDonald.” He taught me responsibility at the age of four – and also about unconditional love. Now that I am thirty-one and I understand the nature of… hamsters, I am pretty certain that my little fur ball couldn’t have given less of a hoot as to WHO filled his food dish and water bottle, but back then it was a very important job – and it was all mine.
Old was a good sport. He loved [tolerated] my incessant four-year-old chit chat, and truly enjoyed [survived] “walks” in his clear plastic hamster ball. I was devastated when my furry friend kicked the bucket, but I learned from the experience and appreciated my next furry friend [an identical hamster named Sparkles… um, yeah] all that much more.
We got my first dog when I was about ten years old. Jake, a mixed-breed from the local SPCA, changed my black and white only-child-world to Technicolor shades of awesome. He was my buddy – my BFF. Kept me company when I played outside. Listened when I needed to talk. Snuggled me to sleep every night… It’s because of my wonderful friendship with Jake (and other furry friends along the way) that I’ve always planned to make animals a part of my kids’ life.
It’s amazing to watch our baby girl grow up with our boys – one Golden Retriever, Parker and one Jack Russell, Rocky. The [canine] boys have loved our tiny human from day number one. When we brought Nora home from the hospital, she became “their baby.” I’ll admit, I was slightly nervous as to how the initial introduction would go down, but our boys made us proud. They have been nothing but gentle, patient, and protective of our sweet girl.
It’s been a wonderful and very deliberate process, teaching our baby girl to handle her canines with care. I swear, for the first six to eight months of her life, Nora probably thought both of her dogs were named, “gentle.” She has never shown any kind of fear toward or related to either of them, and they have always been very respectful to her. Even when I catch her pulling Rocky’s tail, sticking her finger in his ear, or using his harness to man-handle him – the Napoleon complex in that Jack Russell goes right out the window, and he is putty in her baby hands.
I’ve read that children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop common allergies thanks to early exposure to certain bacteria. That’s an awesome benefit to having animals in the house (said the mom who is allergic to ev.er.y.thing.), but it’s so much more than that. The bond and constant companionship I notice between my 14-month-old and her dogs is just amazing. They look out for her and keep her company, and she showers them with love, attention (sometimes more than they would prefer), and endless table scraps. I’d say the scales of symbiotic appreciation are well balanced here at the Stager residence, and all parties involved are happy and blessed to have found one another. For that, we are very thankful [people and pet] parents.
Katy Stager, proud mom and wife, is a fan of all things "active." She's a marathon running, swimming, cycling, hiking, art loving, community volunteering, book reading, Instagraming, Animal Kingdom shopping kind of mom who does it all with her little girl in tow. A Bloomsburg University grad, she now studies homemaking, successful childrearing, and thriftiness through the school of life's successful parenting program.
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