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I live in Los Angeles, where I write and blog under the California sun.

The Power of Pets: 10 Reasons To Get One

I can't believe I'm writing on this subject. Honestly. Those of you who know me will testify to the fact that I wasn't raised with animals unless you count hamster sitting for a cousin for a week (who bit me) and budgerigar for friends who we left out overnight and got gobbled by the neighbors cat Marmaduke.

We were not what you call an ideal family for caring for pets. Come to think of it, not many years ago we looked after the family of stick insects for our friends and they didn't make it either.

Furthermore, at an early age I was attacked by a dog on an innocent walk home from school. Since then I have an inherent dislike of Alsatians and most likely always will.

Watson is Libby’s dog through and through.

Watson is Libby’s dog through and through.

So what happens if as a non-animal lover, your first born is bent on being a vet and worse still, says she can't live without something to practice on?

One of the things I love about my now 16-year old daughter  Liberty is her unconditional love of really everything that moves. And she has tried very hard for a very long time to convince us of the benefits of having a pet. Longer life expectancy, lower blood pressure, less chance of strokes... etc etc.

But being parents who needed LOT of convincing, her requests were always met with a firm "no."

We resisted her for years, holding fast to the claim that if she was serious about practicing medicine, she should do it on humans. Be a doctor I said.

"No!" she said.

So when we told her we were moving to LA, Liberty jumped on the chance of bargaining with her Dad. Bearing in mind she was only 12 at the time, she said something like, "I'm not going unless you buy me a dog."

Two years later, Dr. Watson appeared. A European Basset Hound puppy from WA state. A stubborn sweetheart. Which roughly translates as an untrainable love bug. He's like the irrepressible fat kid in the play ground who wants to be everyones friend, but doesn't really get it when he's told perhaps now's not the time.

What was a childhood favorite,  The Tale of The Two Bad Mice became an adult nightmare…only in rat form. Ah, that micheiovous Hunca Munca has nothing on the terrifying tree vermin of LA.

What was a childhood favorite,  The Tale of The Two Bad Mice became an adult nightmare…only in rat form. Ah, that micheiovous Hunca Munca has nothing on the terrifying tree vermin of LA.

Not long after moving into our ranch we quickly realized that we had an impressive rat problem. For three years we listened to the scurry onf tiny claws above our heads in the attic each night as I imagined a scene akin to a Beatrix Potter book. A few feet above  our heads the tree rats were busy chewing wires, and moving stuff around that presumably was to make tables, beds, heck even rat couches!

So after 3 years of paying the exterminator we decided to get the most effective exterminator of all---a cat. Or two.

But justification of pets as predators aside, here's why I really love our pets:

1. They make great birthday gifts. And in our case ease the trauma of a transatlantic move.

 
Liberty Alice with Moriarty, one of our Maine Coons.

Liberty Alice with Moriarty, one of our Maine Coons.

 

2.They say goodbye when the kids go to school which sets them off with a warm heart.

 
Wiggins follows Mathilda everywhere. Even to the driveway before a 7.30 am pick up.

Wiggins follows Mathilda everywhere. Even to the driveway before a 7.30 am pick up.

 

3. They say hello when they return home.

 
Watson leaps as best a Basset hound can towards Libby every afternoon at roughly 3.30pm.

Watson leaps as best a Basset hound can towards Libby every afternoon at roughly 3.30pm.

 

4. They are a great distraction when Mathilda comes in (from napping in the car) in a funk which would otherwise last half an hour. Somehow the cats sense her unhappiness and rush over for a cuddle and she's drawn out of dwelling on how she feels in the moment. This is worth a lot to all of us because it is otherwise an miserable time of day.

 
Mathilda naps on the way to school, at school and on the way home.

Mathilda naps on the way to school, at school and on the way home.

 

5. Pets provide opportunities for chores. I'm all about that!

 
Breakfast time for Hopkins and Magnusson. Both trailer park rescues.

Breakfast time for Hopkins and Magnusson. Both trailer park rescues.

 

6. Pets have made us LOL every day. They take the focus of any one individual and are the butt of family jokes creating lifelong memories.

 
Watson and Liberty–

Watson and Liberty–

jail-birds. Halloween 2013.

jail-birds. Halloween 2013.

 

7. Our pets normalize the nap. And when someone in your family needs several sleeps a day to be functional, the fact that the pets join in is enormously helpful in taking away the weirdness and shame .

 
“It’s nice to know that pets understand me because they sleep a lot.”  Mathilda with Sherlock.

“It’s nice to know that pets understand me because they sleep a lot.”  Mathilda with Sherlock.

 

8. They encourage you when your flat out on your back and even help with writing.

 
The Professor suffers with chronic back pain and sometimes needs to work horizontally. Watson is a giver. Can’t ask for more than that.

The Professor suffers with chronic back pain and sometimes needs to work horizontally. Watson is a giver. Can’t ask for more than that.

 

9. They normalize illness and taking medication. Watson has a serious form of Epilepsy would you believe! He hates taking his meds but every morning, he, the Professor and Mathilda take their medication at the same time. It actually helps that what would otherwise be an isolating moment particularly for Mathilda. So taking 3-5 pills every day is a family affair.

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10. And, for the Professor and me...they deal efficiently with the rat problem.  Which means after giving Mimi her nightly dose, we have a better chance of getting back to sleep.

 
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers is a little too close to home. It could be our Sherlock under that rolling pin.

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers is a little too close to home. It could be our Sherlock under that rolling pin.

 

Back in our home-schooling days I was as avid fan of Charlotte Mason, an educational philosopher who's work has been more recently translated by Karen Andreola. Amongst other things Ms Mason claimed two truths which still resonate. One is that "If you can't give you children everything, give them something."  The other is this: "Each day, every child needs something to think about, something to do and something to love."  

I think our pets have provided that.

"I know I'm Different From Other Kids"--A Conversation With My Daughter

"I know I'm Different From Other Kids"--A Conversation With My Daughter

Doubt, Depression and Detachment--A Cost of Parenting a CWN

Doubt, Depression and Detachment--A Cost of Parenting a CWN