The Benefits of Having a Pet
Disclaimer: This will focus mainly on dogs, as that is where my experience comes from. But when I discuss the benefits of a dog, they can pertain to other animals as well. Pets in general are great. But also, dogs are the best. So, there’s that.
My family has had three dogs at different points in my life. Dogs welcome you home, love you unconditionally, and are overall mood improvers. They clean up your scraps, take naps with you, and do random things that entertain you. As a child, a pet teaches you how to be responsible. While it’s important to learn how to clean and cook and take care of yourself, having a pet takes responsibility to another level. Children begin to think about other creatures and how their actions can affect them. And especially in the case of dogs, they repay you for your responsibility. I remember wanting to be the one that walked and fed our dog when I was younger, as I knew that the dog would then begin to favor me over my brother. Having a dog subconsciously made me want to be the most reliable one.
The first dog my family had was Daisy, whom my parents got before either my brother or I were born. Daisy was their first child, and she was an angel. My mom grew up with dogs, and was well prepared to take care of another one. My dad on the other hand, had only ever had a pet rock. Because he wasn’t exposed to pets at a young age, he was not totally sure about the idea of having one. But before jumping into taking care of a human being for 18+ years, they decided to try having a dog. Daisy was an amazing first dog. A border collie mutt, she was big enough that she enjoyed going on long walks, but lazy enough that she didn’t need too much exercise. So well trained, she once sat herself in a corner as punishment for having an accident indoors. She was mellow, loving, and a fun dog. Even after my brother and I were born, she remained patient and accepting of having two young kids playing with her. Though I don’t remember her very well, Daisy left a great legacy in my home. She died when I was three. That’s the first time I remember seeing my dad cry.
We got our second dog, Bailey, when I was in first grade. Bailey was a black lab mix, and pretty funny looking. Quiet and motherly, I instantly loved Bailey with all my heart. My love for her grew so so much that I became obsessed with all dogs. I read every dog book in my school library, and tried my training knowledge on Bailey at home. My friend and I started a business of making dog beds in our free time, and Bailey was always the first to test them out. As I grew up and my school companions became interested in lip gloss and outfits and boys, I continued loving dogs with all my heart. I dreaded going on family vacations, as it meant we would have to leave Bailey at home. Bailey was my best friend. When I went into middle school and began to doubt myself (as most middle schoolers do), Bailey would reassure me of my importance every day I came home from school. She loved me when I needed it most, even when I didn’t really deserve it.
When Bailey died, I was crushed. I have many embarrassingly extensive journals describing my heartbreak. As a freshman in high school, I felt empty without a dog. Our home was too quiet, too clean. Every time I opened the door, I wanted a dog to welcome me home. But at the same time, I hated the idea of “replacing” her with another dog. It took a few years for me to feel ready about having another pet. Even as we drove to the shelter, I had to continuously reassure myself that this dog would not be a replacement, but an addition.
Moochie, our current dog, is my best friend. I love Moochie more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything. He sleeps next to my bed, and waits for me to wake up before going outside in the morning. We go on runs together, take naps in the sun together, and really get each other. Going to college and leaving Moochie at home was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I feel homesick, it’s mostly missing him. When I’m home, I try to spend all my time with him, because he makes me happy.
When we care for pets, we are forced to think beyond ourselves. Suddenly, our minds begin to expand to thinking about what others need, and how we can help. My pets, my dogs, gave me my favorite qualities about myself. Having dogs in my home made me more gentle, thoughtful, and giving. Having a pet has made me reliable, happier, and considerate. I love who I am when I’m with my dog.