I know this isn’t revolutionary, but I think pets are really good for kids. Especially for single children like the Kid. It’s true that the Kid doesn’t need to share much. She doesn’t have anyone to take her toys and she mostly gets our attention when she wants it. But her whole life, we’ve had to drop everything when it was time to walk the dog. We had to rush out of the house when she was napping (once someone came over to babysit, of course) when the cat had to go to the vet. She’s been dragged to the store because we were out of pet food. So she has to cope with sharing attention.
When Harpo was a puppy, she used to hate all the attention he got. He needed a dozen or so walks per day in the beginning. He didn’t eat on a regular schedule. He had accidents in the house. And we were trying to teach him so many things that I walked around with treats in my pocket all the time.
So she screamed at him just like a big sister screams at her little brother. I’ll never forget the day she was playing with a friend in an apple orchard and Harpo kept going over to see what they were doing. She’d scream, “Mom! Get him out of here! He’s ruining everything!”
I don’t know if acting like an annoyed sibling means that she was learning what one learns from having a sibling. After all, I didn’t make her include him, and I let her call him names all the time. He’s a dog. What does he know? But at least there are a few more-or-less helpless beings in the house who need her compassion, so she gets to practice that.
I have to say that she’s great with the gerbil. He’s not “hers.” I don’t believe in kids having pets of their own. It never works out that way anyway. But it is her job to take care of him, and she mostly does a great job. Just today she exercised him, cleaned his cage and gave him a bath. She makes sure the cat is out of the room before she lets him out of his cage. She makes sure she doesn’t drop him or let him fall off of anything. And she make sure his cage has all the things he likes–enough litter to burrow in, something to chew, and a lot of fresh food and water.
Between my last post and this one, I guess it’s clear. I’m pro-pet. Everyone should get something fuzzy and give it a hug.