The All American Dream. Close your eyes…what comes to mind? A picket fence? A couple of kids and two loving parents smiling down at them as they play in the front yard? What about that furry companion chasing behind them as they laugh and run?
We all know that this picture can vary greatly in the new diverse America that we’ve all come to embrace. Maybe there is one parent. Maybe it’s Grandparents. Maybe there is no front yard but a pair of steps belonging to a brownstone or Apartment Building. The beauty of this great land is that no matter how the picture might change, the feeling remains the same. Our family is what we call home, and the best way to enhance that feeling of home, is by adding a pet.
There are many reasons to adopt a pet into your family. A dog is called “man’s best friend” for a reason. They reassure and comfort us, and the affection they provide is completely unconditional. But the life lessons that can be learned from the purr of a lap cat or the song of a parakeet go well beyond companionship. Learning to sacrifice your needs for something that relies on you can soften the hardest heart and teach one of the most important lessons of life; compassion! For those who have experienced grief, loss, depression or trauma, a pet can be release! A way to reconcile the harsh reality of the darker side of life, with hope. A tangible proof that love is a bond that can exist simultaneously with whatever else we may be going through. The relationship between man and beloved pet is a thread, a current that runs true. In the same sense having a pet is an opportunity to teach the youngest household members about life's harder lessons. From responsibility to the ugly truth of loss, the potential for teachable moments with your children is limitless. A pet can be a child’s very first love.
A dear friend from Florida with four young children used to balk at the idea of adding a pet. “Things are crazy enough as it is!” she would say. “I just can’t imagine another mouth to feed!” But then hurricane Irma barred down with a vengeance upon her house with a white picket fence. Far away from the structure they called “home”, she watched and prayed as the storm approached. She looked around and was overcome with thankfulness that her “home” was actually right there with her, surrounding her. But in that moment, she realized something was missing. It wasn’t long after they returned home and removed the final piece of plywood from the windows, that she took her family to local pet shelter. Now life is crazier than ever, but also more fulfilling than ever. She realized that what a pet could add to their lives was more important than what it might take away.
It’s no secret that adding a pet isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is! It turns out there are always enough reasons to not do something. Not enough time. Not enough money. But when we make room in life for the things that truly matter, no one ever complains about the crowding. A pair of big puppy eyes, a tiny kitten paw, a flick of a fish tail or a spin of a hamster wheel…choosing to love a pet, and to make them a part of your “home” (no matter where that may be) is bigger than the All American Dream. It’s the heartbeat of humanity, and a rhythm we need now more than ever.