When I was growing up I was fortunate to have parents that raised all sorts of animals. We had sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, horses, rabbits, geese, ducks, dogs, cats and an assortment of rodents like rats and guinea pigs.
Raising animals taught me a wide range of lessons that are not as easily learned from studying books or listening to teachers. From feeding them every day to watching lambs be born to slaughtering them for food, the circle of life was apparent and raw. I saw lambs born with birth defects, and I saw animals die for no readily apparent reason.
I experienced first hand creatures that depended on my efforts for their survival. It was not uncommon to open the back door of the house and have a cacophony of animal voices clamoring to receive some food and water. They didn’t care what you wanted to do, they wanted to eat, and it was important that I selflessly take the time out my planned activities to take care of their most elemental needs.
When raising my children I thought it important to share with them a measure of the responsibility I learned through caring for animals. We live in the suburbs, so it is not easy to raise animals as it was when I was growing up in the rural outskirts of town. Regardless of where our house has been located, we have always had a house full of animals from rabbits, rats, hamsters, lizards, snakes and turtles to the more traditional dog and cats. Each child has their own animal that they are responsible for. The child is able to love on the animal, take care of it and nurture it as needed. This provides for them a chance to be a parent in a limited manner teaching them love and affection for a critter that may or may not return it in like fashion. Since animal life spans are shorter than humans, these animals may also pass on before the children are too old, and they will have the opportunity to deal with the loss of a loved one, and to put it in the larger perspective of the universality of mortality.
If we wish to teach our children to be responsible, we must give them responsibility. Animals provide the perfect vehicle for the life lessons that only caring for another living creature can give.symbiosis
1. Biology A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member.
2. A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence.