Pets & Kids: New Studies!

My son Nathan is away this week, spending the Passover holiday with his wife and son at his in-laws in Atlanta. I called him yesterday to remind him about Willy’s birthday. Our beloved yellow Labrador died three years ago at age 15. 

We miss this dog that grew up with the children, who slept by their doors and in their beds, chewed their books, carried his own food and water on camping trips, and provided everyone with the unconditional love only a dog can give. When we have a steak bone, grisly and greasy, we wish he was here and remember how he’d bury bones in the backyard, keeping it safe to rediscover another day.

Heading into New York City, I offered to stop by Nathan’s apartment to check on Schumly, their turquoise parakeet they’ve had for three years.

“I thought I told you. Schumly died last week.”

Nathan threw everything out- the cage, the feeders and water tray, small mirrors that Schumly admired himself in, and birdseed. “I don’t think we’ll get another bird for awhile,” he said.

“What about Uri?” I asked. My grandson, nearly a year, had started to notice the bird, fascinated by his movements and songs.  And I realized that I too, would miss him. I enjoyed entering the apartment and seeing the colorful bird, chirping.  

While perhaps not the same kind of pet as a dog, he added to their lives.

Coincidentally, Perri Klass  wrote about pets and children in her 18 and Under column.  Admittedly not a pet-lover, Klass cites research that extols the benefits of pets with children.  New studies? New reports? I usually admire Klass’ essays and loved her knitting book, Two Sweaters for My Father.

 But really, she’s first discovering the virtues of dogs?  Service dogs are helping autistic children, dog-walking is a way to reduce obesity, and pets relieve stress, teach responsibility, and offer, according to a doctor she quoted, “unconditional acceptance.”

As any dog lover will attest, you don’t need research to know that.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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9 Responses to Pets & Kids: New Studies!

  1. Leah says:

    I’m finally catching up with my blogs. I love this post. I consider my dogs as family members. They are so important in my life. Although I know I’ll be devastated when one of my dogs dies, I can’t imagine not having a dog in my life. Great post!


  2. Madeline Taylor says:

    Currently, I feel guilty. Both of our pets (Simon, our cat age 12 and Terrapin, our dog age 11) are both ‘circling the drain.’ Simon became diabetic a bit over a year ago and was not immediately attended to (I was preoccupied with my daughter being ill – sorry, Simon. I love you, but Ruby takes precedence). As a result, the ligaments in his back legs lost their tonic ability and he now walks back on his haunches. His dreams of Olympic pole-vaulting might be dashed but generally, his life style hasn’t been interrupted all that much – he still gets in his requisite 23.5 hours of sleep every day. Terra is much more of a mess. She is a textbook example of all that can go wrong with a Golden in their later years: Scabs, hip dysplasia, liver and kidney disease (has she been hittin’ the liquor cabinet when we’re not home?) – you name it. She has had to adjust her ways a bit – walks around the block, if we make it that far, take an hour and stairs are an absolute no go.
    The guilt comes from the fact that although I cannot imagine our life without them, I am ready for them to go. I am the only one in the family of this sentiment (well, my husband would’ve been happy if the cat never arrived in the first place). The animals are messy and needy, besides, after a long day of work, of shuttling Ruby to and from activities and taking care of a myriad of mother-wife errands – I don’t want to come home and tend to their needs. I love them both dearly – the cat more than the dog. He’s this cuddly little ball – the dog never had any interest in me unless food is involved whereas the cat seeks me out to be held, scratched etc. Nevertheless, It’s time to say Kaddish, toss in the shovel of dirt; call it a day.
    Alas, I really worry about my family if they were to actually go – my husband especially. The joke has always been “if we ever have to put Terra down – it’s going to be a double needle.” David works 7 days a week, often 13 hour days. For him there’s no greater therapy or release from a hard day than those sad brown eyes and that enthusiastic, wagging tail. There is no doubt where the sun rises and sets in either of their universes. Although Ruby has nothing to do with the upkeep of the animals (I don’t even think she knows where we keep the cat food let alone how to feed it to him) – the comfort they provide is insurmountable. She was 3 when we got Simon and 4 when we got Terra. The 3 were practically litter mates. As an only child, she figured out ways to include them in her imaginative play – playing endless games of Monopoly with Terra, teaching (not too successfully) both of them how to read and multiply in her make-shift basement classroom. Now, at 16, she schleps the cat around to keep her company while she does chores; styles her hair or picks out outfits for the next event on her list. Likewise, she includes both of them in her discourse as she works through French conjugations, NSL notes or the latest dirt on who said what to whom and whom among her crowd is sucha phony biotch. Although Simon often sits on the very notes she’s trying to study and Terra is more interested in the turkey sandwich bits that might fall from grasp; they’re both there, listening attentively, without passing judgment .
    How could I possibly deprive my family of their existence or the existence of future pets when Kaddish is finally said?
    And whom am I kidding? When they sit beside me while cooking in the kitchen do I not ask for their advice? Tell them about my day and generally include them in my every though process?
    Yup. We’ll be a pet household for as long as there are days on the calendar!


  3. adinparadise says:

    Lovely post. It’s always so sad to lose a beloved pet. They certainly are part of the family, aren’t they?


  4. jakesprinter says:

    Great interpretation my friend 🙂


  5. Gilly Gee says:

    Aw I still miss my golden retriever. She grew up with my kids and dies in my arms year ago. She was the best dog ever/


  6. Jo Bryant says:

    i have never had a golden retriever but a kelpie we had was with me for 17 years and there is not a day that i don’t think of her.


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