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.