Your child and man’s best friend
I smiled as one mother cooed over a puppy with floppy ears and bright eyes, a lovely dog with brown shiny fur. “But they only look nice when they are very young,” she muttered to herself.
Eyes affixed and her longing obvious, her indecision was clear as she made as if to go, but never taking a step from the young man who held up the puppy at a street corner. Beside her was a boy of about eight years, her son. He looked on, expectantly fists clenched at his side, eyes pleading and mouth slightly open
At long last, he has made his mother to examine a dog. So would she or would she not get one now?
It was a long decision after registering her misgivings; she did indeed moved away with the resolve that they were not ready or did not want a dog in their home. In the end, however, she bought one because her son, who was so disappointed, would not leave the puppy. He stayed put. But she told him that she would get rid of the animal if he reneged on his promise to take care of the dog.
This woman is not the only mother who saw the need to think over the admission of pets into their homes, for many families, taking on pets is a big step although there are benefits in having animals as part of the home.
However, the downside is that they need to be cared for. They cannot be close to human beings if they are not clean. If they cannot observe the rule of hygiene by themselves, the owners would have to clean up the mess after their animals; that is one major reason many of us would prefer to leave them alone.
However, children should be encouraged to own pets because taking care of them is about the first lesson they have in becoming responsible human beings since they tend to take the duty of caring for the animals seriously. The devotion to their pets teaches them early to respect other lives. Their interaction with these animals which do practically all they themselves do – eat, breathe for example, ingrains the feeling of empathy in the young one’s mind. Caring for this thing, which becomes so dependent on its friend and owner, shows the meaning of love and is one example that love can last a lifetime.
Other advantages, researches have shown, are that children who grow up with animals have more self-esteem, are more intelligent and do better in relationships as adults.
But what animals should you have around the house? Would you prefer a crocodile? Should you like a lion perhaps? I can still see in my mind’s eye the lion at Chief Biney’s defunct zoo at Yaba as it stretched out in a characteristic lion’s pose or crouch; a massive thing with a massive head. But at the time, they said that it was a cub. But I was sure it had some of intelligence that I thought was human-I thought it did not like the way people looked him over as it was in a cage. But would it not look nice to see a lion running round your living room with Junior perched on his back?
However, tamed and docile lions belong in the realms of fables and fictions. That is why it becomes a national emergency when one breaks away from the Yankari Game Reserve.
That would leave smaller animals to pamper and spoil. Children would choose a dog out of most animals, many times, I believe. Puppies are adorable and as they grow they become a man’s best friend and a child’s confidant. There is this grown boy I see often with his white rare breed as they run errands together. The dog trots ahead of him and the first to climb the pedestrian bridge because he knows their route.
But there are other animals to consider. Rabbits and guinea pigs for example are ideal for children of eight years and above although they are not suitable for younger children because their small sizes make them easily hurt. They like being touched and spoken to and children can learn to love them.
They need special diets and cages. The cage must have enough rooms to run around in. They eat fresh vegetables as snacks and they need supplements. Rabbits should be trained to use a litter box; to make them most comfortable and feel welcomed, make allowance for food, toys and bedding.Your children can do their share by cleaning out cages and feeding. With time, children of ages nine or 10 can do the work alone.
Birds are good companions for children, eight years and older, because of their temperament. Birds are unpredictable and quick to peck or nip which makes them not suitable for younger children. However, children love smaller birds like parakeets because of the ability to mimic. Birds live long if well taken care of. Big ones are known to live up 50 years or longer and smaller ones up to 20 years. Birds go in flocks, keep up to two so your pet has company.
You may consider a bird because they are intelligent and easily trained. They are good to look at and they make you laugh, like my little canary friends who call out to ‘Patito’ every morning. And I am convinced that they discuss with each other with their “um-um”. I find this hilarious and as a mood lifter.
Buy the largest cage for them. Let them out to fly around the house at least once a day or when you think it is necessary to do so. But birds need a lot of work to keep them around the house. They are messy, so be ready to sweep the dropping; they cannot control their habits. They need vitamins in their feed. They need fruits and vegetables. A child’s responsibility in keeping them is to make them comfortable by talking to them, birds love talk. Listen to these; “open the door. It is five 0’clock”. “Joseph! Joseph!” These were African greys asking somebody to open the door to the fresh morning air at 5:30am. The other one was informing the absent gateman that there was a visitor at the gate.
A child of any age can help to clean the cage. Older ones can handle a tamed bird with guidance.Cats and Dogs- Maybe we choose these animals as pets most of the time because they are loyal to children and are even thought to have a secret bond to children that no parent can equal.
However, a child who is below the age of five would not be able to make the right friendship of his pet because he does not understand that he feels like him.
Choose a pet that should be suitable for the family. Smaller dogs are known to not like small children as much as the bigger ones love to be close to them.
What cats and dogs have to recommend them is their loyalty. Through their unconditional love, your child takes the first lesson in devotion and steadfastness. I had to pay close attention when I heard a girl, a chic rather from Ajah area making a round of phone calls. The distressed girl who lived alone was traveling for a few days. Travel was no problem; the issue was who takes of Billy in her absence. She said that her loving pet would be poisoned in her absence.
Once upon a time, a neighbour traveled for a whole week locking the cat inside the house. There was no way we could let out the poor thing, which mewed and scratched the door.
When she came back, we scampered for safety. And why not? All that time, we were regaled with tales of how deprived, hungry and angry cats would not just scratch badly, the first human they come across- with those same paws that they use to bat the ball or object or give you a tiny warning to leave them alone. The scariest story was that they were very dangerous. We did not wait to see how dangerous, we ran for safety when the cat was finally let out.
These stories are just to remind you that you need not keep them if you are not always at home. They need care and attention. Both animals need daily exercises. A cat wants to play for 15 minutes while a dog needs to be walked at least once a day. They need regular check from a veterinary doctor. Make the child contribute to care by feeding and brushing the animal; children as old 12 can take care of a dog or cat without guidance, the ones from ages five to eight need to be shown how to do it.
Fish and Crabs- They help the child to understand the wonders of nature. Fish can be trained to eat out of a child’s hand. Although goldfish are attractive, but they are not suitable for pets because their tanks are messy and demand a lot of work to keep clean; ask the Vet the right fish you can keep without the children having to do much work.
But the disadvantage is that your child may not be attached to these animals because they are cold to touch and would not turn many tricks for his humour.
Fish and crab live in groups. Have more than one at a time. The tanks need to be cleaned every week. Toddlers can feed them and older children can clean the tank with supervision.
What you need to know: Cleanliness is appreciated by any animal at all, keep the ones you have put in your home well. Be kind to them, too, they have feelings like you. According to Dr. Tope Salam of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, (FIIRO) Oshodi, stripped down to a cell, man has no special feature that makes it different from any other animal. They breathe, eat and defecate -man and animal alike.
But the leverage man has is that he is in control his life, speaks, makes decision once he has taken form. Teach children to use that advantage to be considerate to their pet and other human beings alike.
Caution: You will have to be careful what animal you get, though. Some animals including chicks, kitten and rodents carry infections like salmonella. We are aware that Lassa fever is traced to rats. The Ebola virus went on rampage when a child of two years was bitten by a bat. Caution is the word.