As a little girl my darling green fingered granny would take me around her garden whilst she tended to her beautiful rose garden. She would patiently point out all of the blooms and attempt to teach me each ones name. She was gently patient and extremely proud of her roses. One thing she however was not gentle with were the big lime green locusts which used to feast on her beloved flowers. To my horror she would deftly chop each locust in half with her secateurs. Each time the massacre occurred I would protest “Gog’s you can’t do that! I love those little grasshoppers and besides they are gods creatures!”.
This has always been my outlook on any living thing, fostered by my veterinary surgeon father. I love animals fiercely and deeply and have always been surrounded by a bevy of them. As a result throughout my pregnancy I worried that I would not love the little babe growing inside of me as deeply and as unconditionally as I love animals and I remember voicing this concern on numerous occasions.
My dad explained to me that in the bovine world he had seen Friesland cows, normally as docile as Labradors become ferocious beasts if their calves were threatened. He had no doubt that I would feel this intense motherly instinct too once my baby was born.
When little Luke was born I was not prepared for exactly how deeply I would feel. I was not prepared for that exact fierce motherly instinct when he was taken to another hospital. I was like a caged animal, prowling the hospital corridors blinded by worry, love and helplessness.
As Luke continues to grow from strength to strength so does the love I feel for him. It is quite unlike any love that I have felt before, all consuming and its ferocity is often frightening.
In addition to this however my love for our animals has grown even stronger yet. I am in awe when I see the way that our animals interact with Luke. My parents little sausage dog Gherkin has taken it upon herself to act as Luke’s babysitter. She cry’s when he cry’s, she follows me into Luke’s room when I change his nappy and sits patiently by my feet during the late night feeds.
Our cat Derek who is notoriously aloof is more curious than necessarily caring. He too however alerts us to Luke’s cry’s by sitting at his bedroom door and staring intently at his crib.
There have been numerous studies with regards to the health benefits and importance of raising children around animals and the findings can’t be ignored.
A study in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that children who had a dog during their first year of life had stronger immune systems. Studies have shown that children with a companion as an animal have higher self esteem and that interacting with a pet increases empathy and compassion as well as helping to instill a sense of responsibility in children. Furthermore children with pets are more likely to get out and play, as well as develop better communication skills.
For me the finding which stands head and shoulders above the rest is the unconditional love that animals teach children. It is this unconditional love that I only hope and pray that Luke will feel in abundance from not only our animals but from us as parents too. I also hope that Luke will emulate this trait and treat all living things with the same love, respect, empathy and compassion.
All factual data obtained at: