National Pet Day: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Family Pets

It’s National Pet Day – a day meant for loving and appreciating all pets.

So, today we salute our pets!

Did you know there are approximately 86.4 million cats and 78.2 million dogs living as pets in the United States today? Then, of course, there are bunnies, hamsters, snakes, fish, turtles, hermit crabs and more – there is a type of pet for every family.

I grew up with pets, living in a home where my mom could turn away no homeless animal that happened to find its way to our doorstep. So it was only natural that I would want a furry friend to love once I was out on my own.

As it would happen, long before a toddler and newborn ruled our house and our lives, I fell victim to the love of a sweet little doggy named Dory. My life has never been the same since. 

National Pet Day 5 Lessons I've Learned from Family Pets

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from having family pets as a child, and now as an adult:

1) You still love them, even when they’re jerks.

Before Dory came into our lives, we had a temperamental cat named Jack. He was a mean cat who liked to nip at the back of your knees and hiss. He was a jerk. But he was my jerk, and when he went missing after his billionth time escaping out an open door when we weren’t looking, I was so upset. I spent days looking for Jack, scouring our neighborhood and hanging up posters. Many years later, with no luck finding Jack, I still find myself thinking about him from time to time. I prefer to assume he found a new family to bite their knees and hiss at.

2) You love them like they’re your own child.

Case-in-point above. Jack and Dory were my first (fur) babies. There was a point in my life when I was having trouble getting pregnant, and I wondered if they would be my only babies. Dory sleeps on my bed every night, glued to my side. We include her in our family Christmas card. She licks our kids’ faces. She is so happy to see us when we get home for the day, and I am always happy to feel her snuggled up next to me.

3) Sometimes they’re actually harder than having human kids.

If you need to go away for a weekend, its almost always acceptable to bring your kids with you. Kids can go into restaurants and stores, or on airplanes and buses. Dogs, cats, bunnies, and fish…..not so much. If you’re going to be away, you have to find someone to watch your pet. Alternatively, you can pay a small fortune to board them. If you ARE able to take them with you, it’s a struggle to make pit stops along the way because you can’t leave them in the car for too long, especially if it’s hot or cold outside. And if you’re staying at someone’s house, they aren’t always thrilled to have your pet as a house guest, too. 

4) Pets may not be able to talk, but they can sure communicate.

Dory has gone through bouts of jealousy, and will occasionally show us with “accidents” during the day. She knows how to get our attention if she feels like she’s not getting enough love. She knows when I’m at the end of my rope, and if she growls enough, I’ll cave and give her a treat. 

5) “Pets may not be our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” 

Pets have been proven to lower stress levels and anxiety. They can calm you or a child down when upset, and they can sense when you’re sad and in need of some snuggles. Pets can be a lot of work, and can sometimes cause frustration, but I can’t imagine my life without a furry friend in it. Our life may be crazy, but Dory makes it whole. 

National Pet Day 5 Lessons I've Learned from Family Pets

Pets, whether it be cats or dogs, bunnies or turtles, are great for teaching kids about nurturing and responsibility. They become a part of your family, and hold a special piece of your heart forever.

What pet are you celebrating on National Pet Day?

Post a photo of your family pet in the comments below!

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