The phrase “in for a penny, in for a pound” comes to mind when I consider taking on the responsibilities of caring for a pet with my kids, or when I’m coaching a customer of My Pet Garden through this particular adventure. When our daughter asks (again) if we can take in another rescued pet I have to remind myself what I signed up for when I became a parent.

I think it’s deep in the genes of mankind to want to be around animals. Virtually every study that comes out testifies to the healthful influence pets have on people, from Alzheimer sufferers to folks who have always wanted a kitten or puppy of their own.

Koko & All BallWhen I say “man kind” I should emphasize “kind” when you think of the famous gorilla Koko and her own pet kitten she named “All Ball.” Koko enjoyed the responsibility of taking care of her kitten, just as we (despite our sometimes protestations of having to do one more thing) enjoy taking care of our own pets.

Joining our customers in the joys and sometimes sorrows of their pets is one of the chief pleasures I experience being such an integral part of our pet store.

A common weekly occasion (if not daily) is when some one chooses to get a pet “for their kid,” which then becomes my jumping off point when working with them. The first thing I try to accomplish is to get the parent to realize and accept that it is THEY (the parents) who have just signed up to have a pet.

Unfortunately, however, it is just a set up for failure (and a pure joy killer) to take on a pet in order to teach responsibility. Of course responsibility can be taught this way, but my experience is that it is best accomplished if not approached head on.

Just Two Tips:

Tip #1) Create a delegation list of what it will entail to take care of Fluffy, Badger, Cornpone or Butters. This way if the child is falling behind on walking the pup or cleaning the cat litter box, you can say, “Wow it looks like you need some help with that for a bit.”

Then you (in for a penny, in for a pound) can JOIN your kid on that particular chore for a brief period, whatever the task is. The time together becomes a shared experience, whether joyful or painful, which is much better than the guaranteed pain of saying, “If it’s OK with you that Beefy dies of starvation, then it’s OK with me!” or any variation thereof.

Believe me I’ve done both and that’s exactly why I can say that the first approach yields better results for my daughter, myself, AND for Beefy.

Koko & All Ball 2Tip #2) Fake it ’til ya make it. Even if you have never in your life wanted a pet, now you should be obsessed with it. Read all about this new critter with your child, collect pictures of that kind of pet, shop* for the bowls, food and treats together (hopefully before Bumps, Sniffles or Crinkle come home).

*Of course I’d love for you to shop at My Pet Garden, but even if you don’t shop with us, please consider shopping at an independently owned pet store. Odds are you will spend between 10-25% less then any of the big box stores (they’re big but not less money) and you will get so much more help and information.Once home, spend time (more pennies) with the little critter and see if you can let them weasel their way into your heart. Who knows, other than having your own children, it could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

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