Are Your Pets Part Of Your Family?   
by Jim McKiel

Our household consists of two sons with furry coats and four legs each. Is this unusual? Not in a majority of homes that have pets. Pets are considered family members and are treated as such. Not only do we provide the basic necessities for our beloved dogs, we also lavish love, attention and gifts upon our furry family members.

Dogs have always been an integral part of a child's life. Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's, every home seemed to have a dog included in the family structure at one time or another. Dogs and kids playing together, going for walks or just hanging out could be found in every town, city or village. Finding a stray dog and bringing it home was not unusual, especially in small cities or rural towns. Spaying and neutering your dog was not at the top of the list for pet ownership during this time so dogs and puppies were always in abundance. During this time dogs were seen and treated as pets, not family members, especially by the children's parents.

Well, the children grew up and their love of canines never ceased. Now our pets live inside our home, sleep in our beds and some even have their own couches. The dogs have toy boxes full of balls, Kongs, tug toys and their own feeding stations. In winter we buy our dogs fleece lined nylon all-weather boots and for hot summer pavement they are fitted with breathable Codura boots with Velcro straps. Our loving companions are now fitted with a microchip so we may locate them if they become lost. If our dogs are unruly or not behaving as we think they should, there are dog trainers that come to your home or we may send our furry friends to a boarding facility to be retrained. There are even doggie boot camps for the really stubborn dogs. Our dogs visit vets for their yearly check- up and get their teeth cleaned. If your dog needs an x-ray, MRI, EKG or a cardiac pacemaker implanted, it can be done. Our dogs are part of our lives and families and we treat our pets as we would our children. Yes, I do buy presents for my dogs for Christmas and birthdays. I am also guilty of sending cards to people from my dog.

Having a pet and making him a family member is a growing transition. Just look at all the websites focusing on canines and pet stores that cater to our canine companions. In homes where the kids have grown up and left or where single or elderly people live alone, dogs make good companions and keep people from becoming lonely. Having a dog to talk to or keep you company is good for your physical and mental health. People who love animals are generally more pleasant to be around and not as self-centered.

Children who are raised in a home where there are pets (dogs, cats, birds, fish, etc.) are more likely to allow their children to have pets when they start their own families. If these young people were taught the responsibilities of taking care of an animal, they know the hard work and also the rewards of raising a dog or other such pet. Being kind, loving and taking care of another life is the greatest lesson we can teach our children. Providing for our pet's care after our death is important. If you have a loving, dependable friend or family member to take the dog into their home would be a blessing. The dog will be saddened by his owner's death and will mourn his loss. If the dog will be given a home by someone he knows, this will help the dog overcome his grief much faster and provide some stability in his life. A family member or friend may love your dog and want to care for him but may need financial help to provide for the animal as you have done during your lifetime. You, as a responsible owner, can provide for your dog's upkeep by setting up a pet trust. A pet trust is a legal way to set aside money for your dog's expenses and will be paid out by a trustee to the person designated to care for your dog.

Humans who considered pets as family members used to be looked upon as eccentric as having more money than sense. That is not the case any longer. People are beginning to understand the connection people have with animals and the love that binds them. It has been proven that people in disaster areas (hurricanes, floods, etc.) will not evacuate to shelters if their pets can't go. People have risked their lives to save their pets from fires or floods. These are our four-legged children. A pet food maker in Japan gives employees money and gifts whose dogs have birthdays or dies; just like they do for the people having birthdays or new births in their families.

It has been estimated that Americans spend more then $37 billion on their pets annually. This includes healthcare, food, toys, books, training and clothing. That's a lot of money spent on just a dog.

About the Author: Jim McKiel lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife Doris and their pet family members Buddy and Buster. They have devoted their lives to the betterment of pet ownership. For more information, visit: 
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