You don't need to read through thousands of child psychology or baby development textbooks to know that children love animals. The bond that is formed between the baby and the family pet - whether it's a dog, a cat, a hamster or a bird - is proven to be a big factor in child's emotional development. Being around an animal is beneficial in many ways.
A pet is a great friend and loyal companion. Most pets have it in their nature to look after babies, though some breeds will be better for your baby than others. For a list of suggested breeds, please visit: Just Dog Breeds
Research has shown that children living with pets are less likely to develop certain allergies, as well as asthma and eczema. Their immunity is boosted through regular interactions with the pet, and so they develop a natural immunity to all sorts of yucky stuff, including seasonal colds and many types of bacteria.
Regular exercise and, therefore, a more healthy life style, is yet another "side-effect" of owning a pet, particularly a dog. As soon as your baby learns how to crawl, they will start chasing the dog around the apartment, trying to pull its tail or grab a fistful of that fluffy fur. Then comes actual running after the dog, playing with the ball or frisbee, jogging around the neighborhood or even just playing in the backyard.
Caring for a pet helps teach them become more responsible and improves their nurturing skills. They are more empathic and more caring. Being able to care for another creature, boosts their confidence and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
Additionally, the relationship between children and their pets offers a special kind of comfort, one that not even parents can provide. According to studies, children with pets are more mature, have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and have virtually no trouble forming and maintaining peer connections. In other words, your child is happier with a little furry friend around.
Growing up, I always had at least one pet keeping me company. When I was only 5, my parents brought home an adorable, loving dachshund. We named her Sandra. I still remember running around the apartment with that little monkey-dog, cuddling together on the couch while watching Disney movies (well, at least I was watching, I don't know what kept Sandra sitting so still and fascinated), and going for long walks into the woods area surrounding our home. These are some wonderful memories and I will always cherish them.
Sandra was my first pet, but far from the last one. After she was gone, we had two German Shepherds, two mixed breeds, a parrot, two hamsters and a fish-tank full of, well, fish. One time, my dad brought home a wounded hedgehog, and we took care of that poor guy, too, until he was healthy enough to be released into the "wild". I grew up surrounded by animals, learning how to take care of them and feeling their unconditional love. Nothing could ever replace their presence in my life, no games, no movies, no books, not even my friends.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I knew I wanted the same kind of wonderful experience for my baby. Luckily, we already had a wonderful pet, a loving Sheltie boy named Wilson. Now, Wilson is a real sweetheart. He is smart, caring, gentle, and - as weird as this may sound - very considerate. And so I knew from the get-go that he would be a wonderful big brother to our baby girl. And of course, he is. Moreover, he's even better with her than I could have ever hoped for.
Of course, I was a bit worried about the logistics of it all. With my husband in dental school and my parents all the way across the ocean, I am virtually all by myself here. A toddler to take care of seems like enough work, especially in the first few months when you're barely getting any sleep and constantly smell like baby vomit. Or poop. Or both.
I worried about taking the dog for a walk with a newborn baby. I worried about finding the time to feed him. I worried he may accidentally do something to hurt her (he is a hugger, he likes forcing his furry butt on your lap). I worried about many things... And sure, it's not exactly a walk in the park and it takes some serious planning and trouble-shooting, but it is definitely do-able. Not to mention rewarding. Just seeing these two together makes all the running around, not getting any sleep or rest and often-times, not eating so these two can eat WORTHWHILE.
I get up in the morning, I feed the little one, change her diaper, change her clothes and then I make myself a cup coffee. I no longer have the privilege of enjoying it on the porch in the morning sun. Instead, I pour it into my go-mug, I leash the dog, get the baby settled in her stroller, and off we go. Two rounds around the neighborhood and one coffee later, we are back home. Baby is napping, why, wouldn't that be a perfect time to sit down and read a bit? Nope, I quickly take a shower to wash the morning vomit off and then I prepare the meal for Wilson. Baby wakes up, it's playtime. Then it's feeding time again, and we go for another walk. If I'm lucky, I had the time to grab a snack for myself to enjoy, if not - oh, well! I'll just wait till hubby gets home (around 6 p.m.). Sure, it takes some sacrifices. Sure, it's not easy. Is it worth it though? Totally.
Victoria is only 4 months old and I can already tell how much she adores Wilson. And vice versa. She cries a bit and he is the first one to run to check on her. He comes around and she is grinning like the happiest kid in the world. I tell him "say hi to Victoria" and he sticks his cold nose into her cheek and licks her chin a bit, and she is so delighted, she squees out loud. They are so good for each other and I am so happy to see them growing up together. After all, Wilson is still just a baby himself, he's only 2 years old this July.
I really can't wait to see them playing together when she's old enough to walk. I can't wait to witness more of their adorable little moments and I can only hope to have the camera handy when they happen. I know he'll be a good friend, a good older brother to Victoria. And I know she'll love and care for him. What more could I hope for?