One common method parents use to teach children responsibility is pet ownership, where kids help feed, clean and generally look after pets.
As important as instilling a sense of responsibility is for children, there are many more lessons our pets can teach us, says Cheryl Smith, a rescue animal advocate who founded a small non-profit that assists pets in need. Smith, a public defender, has cared for rescue animals since childhood and believes rescue animals can help hu-manity as much as many caretakers help them.
“Our courtroom deputy found a scared and thin little Chihuahua, alone on the street; I had to adopt the little guy, who I named Oliver,” says Smith, who adds the incident was the impetus for her to write “Oliver’s Heroes: The Spider Adventure” (oliversheroes.com).
“I write fun doggy stories and songs to unwind in the evening. My stories revolve around a group of rescue dogs who support each other in adventures, life challenges and discovering life. They’re fun-filled, parent- and kid-friendly and focus on being thankful for having good friends around us.”
Oliver joined the rest of her six rescue dogs. Smith says the happy dog pack features the perfect characters for teaching the following life lessons.
Acceptance of others, despite arbitrary differences: Humanity has bred dogs to suit a wide variety of purposes, resulting in an enormous diversity of physical and character traits. Despite the differences, most dogs have an innate ability to assemble into a pack. In Smith’s children’s book, when the group en-counters different kinds of creatures, such as a polka-dotted and striped spider, the dogs judge the spider on its character and not on its exotic markings.
Overcoming fear, together: Oliver and his friends go places like the woods, which are unknown, unpredictable and scary to some. The dogs who are scared are reassured by those in the group who are not, which is a great example for children who may fear the next grade level, or moving to a new town.
The regular expression of gratitude: Anyone who has ever rescued an animal has probably experienced the gift of gratitude in return. These rescue animals tend to be more loving and are less likely to take what’s given to them – love, food, shelter and company – for granted. It’s a great reminder for children to keep in mind as they mature.
Now is a good time to have fun: Dog owners are constantly reminded of at least one thing – the time, and the time is always now. Much of the time, the now-time means it’s time to play catch, enjoy a treat or simply bask in the company of companions. Remembering that the time is now, and that now may be a good time to enjoy fun, is a lesson children may not want to lose as they grow older and take on more responsibility.
About Cheryl Smith
By day, Cheryl Smith is a public defender; by evening, she writes fun doggy stories and sings funny doggy songs while caring and advocating for rescue animals. The songs and stories are a way of unwinding from her workday, and she has been involved in animal rescue her entire life. Smith started a small non-profit, Just The Place Inc.,