By Serena Kenna
Illustrated by Samantha Fimmano
I can clearly remember spending a good deal of my childhood begging my parents for a pet. Both my parents were born in Europe and raised on a farm, so their concept of an animal’s place in the family was a far cry from ours here in the United States. I was consistently told that animals do not belong in the house. Once I married and left my childhood home, I more than made up for my previous lack of pets. And my children worship and adore their four-legged family members.
Animal lovers are quite clear on their pets’ place in their lives and in their families. Children and teens, in particular, crave a completely loyal, devoted, nonrestrictive and nonjudgmental presence in their lives, especially as they maneuver their way through the ups and downs of puberty.
All the anxiety, depression, confusion, erratic mood swings and drama associated with raging hormones require an outlet…at the very least, a confidant…and unfortunately, parents are the first people budding adults turn from.
They are in rebel mode and do not want to be restricted in their quest for independence; parents are, by necessity, restrictive. It is, indeed, the most difficult and tumultuous time in our children’s lives. Enter the family pet.
Patrick loved his aunt and uncle, but sometimes the only one who could comfort him was Lilly. He could tell Lilly anything and everything, and she would just listen and let him hug her—her love was pure, unconditional and absolute. Just having Lilly there seemed to make everything better, easier, and it filled Patrick with peace like nothing and no one else could.
I also spoke with Meagan Pagnozzi of Carmel, who had similar comments. As a teenager, she had serious confidence issues and struggled with her weight. Many times Pagnozzi was depressed and isolated herself from everyone. While she knew how much her parents loved her, she just wanted to lock herself away from the world.
I do not wish to imply that only dogs provide these positive therapeutic effects. Cats certainly have their place in the home and are known to be therapeutic, and horses do excellent work with disabled children.
We all do our best for our children, but sometimes the silent comfort of a warm and loving being, who wants nothing more than to love and be loved, is just what the doctor ordered. █