Pets Are Family

 

People say we’re nuts for having so many pets. Three isn’t “so many” if you ask me, but I’m not one to split hairs—even the ones stuck to my black pants.

Is life easier without a small herd of animals to take care of? Sure. Is it as rewarding? Not for us.

When our daughter was about two and a half and still not walking, one of her physical therapists suggested we find something highly motivating to her to get Avery up off the floor and walking.

Avery has always been obsessed with dogs. THIS would be her motivation.

My sister-in-law has her own veterinary practice and she found the perfect dog for us—a mutt, part chihuahua, part terrier and part teeny-tiny wolf. He was about three years old, housebroken, quiet, not too big, and a RESCUE DOG in need of a loving home. We would be that home.

 

Within three months of adopting Roger, our girl was walking; then running after her canine companion. A few years later we adopted a second dog, Maya. We even hosted a dog wedding. No seriously, you can witness the Bow Wow Vows here.

It can take people a lifetime to discover their passion, but my daughter may have found hers from the start. 

Obviously her cognitive delays will place some limitations on the career path she will take, but anything we as her parents can do to help her along a path that seems to beckon, (a path apparently lined with dog biscuits, cat toys and hamster wheels) we’ll do.

Avery walks the dogs with me and helps care for our Skinny Pig, Ernie. She has learned how to treat animals safely and respectfully. This took some time as enthusiasm often trumped gentle. She’s learning to groom the dogs, feed them and fill their water dish. She comes with me to the pet supply store and she knows exactly which dog kibble to buy and what kind of hay and bedding Ernie likes. 
 

When Roger recently came down with a case of intestinal worms (gross but common and relatively harmless if treated) Avery was concerned. She insisted on coming to vet with me. And naturally, she dressed accordingly.  

 
If your dog exhibits any of THESE SYMPTOMS your dog may have a parasite. Consult your vet.
 
 
She crouched down and spoke soothingly to a frightened cat in the waiting room. She also gave him a pretend injection that she promised wouldn’t hurt a bit. And she comforted her dogs and helped the vet with the examine. 
 
Normally Roger shakes and pants and struggles to get off the examine table. This time he stood still, shaking only slightly, with his bulging chihuahua eyes trained on his master.* The girl is a mini Dr. Doolittle. 
 
 

Will Avery become a veterinarian like her aunt or her brother** one day? Probably not. But a veterinary assistant, a pet groomer, professional dog walker, a pet store manager or a animal rescue worker…why not?

Let people say “we’re nuts for having pets with all we have going on.” Truth is, we’ll probably add a few more pets to our family at some point. Animals are Avery’s passion and who are we to stand in the way of that? Besides, despite the minor inconveniences, pets are the heart of a family.

*I didn’t get a shot of Avery examining Roger. By that time my eyes were basically swollen shut. I am horribly allergic to cats. Did I mention Avery desperately wants a cat? Help me… 

**For years he wanted to be a vet when he grew up. Recently he’s decided he would rather speak for the animals and nature as a whole and become an environmental rights advocate. More on that another time. 

Addendum 2017:

We lost Ernie the Skinny Pig a few weeks after this was written. He had a fatal seizure in front of our eyes. It was awful. We also lost one of our dogs—Maya the chihuahua—but in a happier way. She went to live (nearby) with my father-in-law. He needed some company. Maya is a little dog with a lot of love to give, so she went to stay with him. It was the right thing to do, but my daughter missed Maya immensely. So to ease her pain, we got her a tiny kitten (who has since grown into an enormous  fluffy, ginger cat named Kevin). I’m still horribly allergic, but he’s worth the sneezing and the hives, and the weekly allergy injections. Man, the things we’ll do for our kids, hey? However, I am pretty smitten with this big fat kitten. He’s brought so much laughter to our lives…this is saying a lot since I’ve never understood “cat people.” Pets are family and our hearts are happy and furry and full. 

You might also want to take a look at “Why We Got A Cat Even Though I’m Not A Cat Person” 

 
If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, PLEASE consider adopting. Read this -> The Ultimate Guide To Pet Adoption
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