For the past year, my kids, Mira and Theo, have been asking for a dog — with 10-year-old Mira leading the charge. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea. Research shows that having a pet can boost kids' social skills and confidence, and lower their anxiety. Plus, almost every family I know owns a dog. That wouldn't be the case if having one was a total drag, right?
But after months of chewing on the idea, I'm still on the fence. My ambivalence probably stems from my own childhood experience. My mom was raised around lots of animals — her dad even started a dog food company! — but my dad is allergic to cats and dogs (see more about pet allergies in Ken Picard's interview with allergist Dr. Edward Kent Jr.). Growing up, having a furry pet was pretty much out of the question. My sister and I did convince my parents to get a standard poodle when I was about Mira's age, but after a week it was clear that we weren't going to be able to give him the home he deserved, and we had to take him back to the breeder. It was a huge disappointment. My mom and dad let us have consolation-prize pets like newts and parakeets — but those aren't the kind of creatures you can really bond with.
Putting together this month's July Animal Issue provided me with a lot of food for thought. In "Rescue Mission," contributor Nicci Micco writes about her decision to adopt a rescue pup after losing her family's beloved golden retriever. There's lots of great info in her piece about things families should consider if they're thinking of adopting a dog — like not to go just on cuteness alone.
Contributing editor Meredith Coeyman, who just got the most adorable dog, writes humorously about the early days of puppy parenting, from crate training to barking to chewing everything in sight ("The Art of Puppy Parenting"). I'm not going to lie: Her blow-by-blow account of a day in the life of puppy parenting kind of freaked me out.
Maybe I'll just enroll my kids in a 4-H club instead. In "Farm-Raised Kids," we write about the international network of youth organizations that reaches around 6,000 kids in Vermont. Not only does belonging to a 4-H club give kids the chance to get up close and personal with livestock like horses and chickens, it provides opportunities for projects focused on community service, gardening and STEM.
As summer gets into full swing, I'll also put in another plug for the Daytripper, our new warm-weather fun guide that you can find on local newsstands and on our website, kidsvt.com. It's filled with so many great ideas for family-friendly outings — many of which are dog-friendly, too.