As a child growing up back in the day, I took for granted the fact that I always had lots of pets around the house. We always had a family dog and I had my own rabbit that was my responsibility to care for. Now I am older I realize how lucky I was back then, and actually how much my pets helped me learn about life. A love for animals is something that I have always carried with me, and when we had kids it was really a no-brainer that we too would have a house full of animals like I did when I was little.
So we have a bit of a madhouse really now. There’s the three kids, two dogs, a goldfish, two chickens, oh and my son has his very own pet tortoise!
Like I said, we were always gonna have a house full of pets, but what we have found over the last few years is how incredible our little furry friends really are. You see, my son has Autism and struggles with relationships, and can often prefer to be by himself most of the time. But the relationships he has with his pets are simply incredible. He seems to bond with animals on a whole other kind of instinctive level.
They are like little ‘Superheroes’ opening up the world to him with no words required.
Let me explain…..
Charlie is our old faithful family dog. My son has grown up with him, side by side, together all the time. Every day when my little man comes home from school and dumps his school bags on the floor, he knows that Charlie will always be there waiting for him. No matter what has happened that day in school. No matter how he’s feeling, or what he has done that day. And without fail, every morning Charlie makes his way to my son’s bedroom and plonks himself next to his chair. My son is always anxious about going to school. And it’s almost like Charlie is there to reassure him just by being there with him. Like he’s saying, “It’s ok, bud….I’m here for you.”
Charlie teaches my son about love, friendship and trust. Those are Charlie’s superpowers!
Now meet Betsy
Betsy is the latest edition to the madhouse and, as you can see from the picture, she is a mischievous puppy! She loves nothing more than to play ‘tug of war’ with my son on the floor, and my heart could melt when he rolls around with her laughing and barking as he pretends to be a dog. Sometimes she’s a bit, well, ’naughty’, but we always forgive her because we love her so much (she’s partial to a smelly old slipper or two). And sometimes she does things she’s not really meant to but it’s our job as her family to teach her the right things to do (like not doing your business on the bedroom landing!!) But we don’t shout at her because it’s not her fault; she doesn’t understand the rules of our world yet. My son is absorbing all this subconsciously. Betsy makes mistakes, but it’s OK. Sometimes Betsy does things without thinking, but no matter what happens we’re all family, and we’re here for each other. We try not to get cross.
She is also a little bit anxious about going to new places like the vet and the park. But my son takes control and scoops her up, saying “C’mon Betsy, it will be fun.” He is learning through her that new things can be OK.
For such a little puppy, her superpowers are pretty big!
And finally, let me introduce you to Turbo-teddy (He has ‘moves like Jagger’, this tortoise. Trust me: He’s fast on his feet!)
Teddy is my son’s very own special pet. He’s a bit different from the rest of the pets we have because he’s not at all cuddly like the dogs. And he doesn’t really like to be fussed over too much. But he’s really special in other ways. My son loves to care for him. He bathes and feeds him every day, and talks to him with such love and care when he handles him. Teddy is teaching my son to think about someone else. He has his own unique Tortoise needs, and it’s important that we care for him properly, or he will become sad and unhappy.
What incredible superpowers: to teach someone how to care for others, to think about someone else first over and above what you want. That’s what Teddy is helping my son to do.
So, you see, something magical happens when my son interacts with animals, and I intend to do everything I can to nurture that. I can only imagine what a chaotic and confusing world my son experiences every day and our pet animals help him understand and process that whole heap of craziness.
Children like my son have a lot to teach the world. He shows us that growing and learning doesn’t all come from textbooks and classrooms. It can come from the most ordinary and unlikely of places; like family pets, chewed up slippers, or trips to the vet.
My son is amazing because he can turn the mundane into something wonderful and magical that we could all learn from!
Now that’s a superpower if ever I saw one.