Furry Friend or Father? Snoopy or Snoop Dogg?

If you ask a child to draw a picture of his family, you might see stick figures of the child, his mother and the family dog.  Where’s Daddy?  Probably as elusive as Waldo.  I was appalled to read in a professional journal that children in the United States are more likely to grow up with a pet than with a father.  Yikes!

This statement becomes even more alarming when actual numbers are discussed.  According to the website for the National Center For Fathering, over 20 million children live in  a home without a father physically present.  The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that approximately a third of all children in this country live with an absent biological father.  That’s a huge number of disappearing dads!

But never fear, pets are here.  According to a 2007-2008 Pet Owner’s Survey, 45.6 million households owned a dog, and 38.2 million households owned a cat.  Four-legged furry friends are more common in many households than a father who knows best–or any type of father for that matter.

As a lifelong pet owner, I can safely say that pets are a wonderful addition to a child’s household.  Their presence provides a number of positives in a youngster’s life.  Pets force kids to exercise.  Kids may be tasked with walking Rover or on their own play fetch or engage in some type of activity with their beloved pet which requires physical exertion.

Pets provide unconditional love to a child.  The pet could care less if the child wears glasses, is a tad overweight or made an F on his spelling test.  A pet is always beyond excited to see a family member arrive home.  Pets can be sleeping companions who curl up next to you so you are not alone and can snuggle..

Pets teach kids responsibility.  A dog cannot feed himself (unless she happens to grab a roast off your kitchen counter as our dog Sarah did), and a cat cannot change the litter in her litter box.  Feeding and cleaning up after pets are wonderful chores for a child to be assigned

Pets provide entertainment and companionship.  My granddog Apollo had us in fits of laughter when he learned to jump from the top of his dog house to the roof of my daughter’s house.  He even had his picture taken by neighbors and posted on the Internet.

Pets also provide security.  Who doesn’t feel safer when a pet is present to announce the approach of a stranger to the house?  Sometimes my dogs are a bit too safety conscious and feel we should be alerted when a squirrel scampers close to the house.  Hey! They pilfer nuts from the yard; who’s to say that the TV from our house might not be next?

Pets are also a positive because of their lack of negatives.  As far as I am aware, pets don’t smoke, do drugs or gamble.  They don’t watch porn on the computer,, and they don’t blow money on expensive toys like new trucks or boats.

Fathers who are present in a child’s life in a positive way are a gift from God.  But the fathers who are absent–well, maybe it is a good thing that they are absent.  From my years as an adoption attorney, I am used to seeing “fathers” who are nothing more than sperm donors, who are abusive or neglectful, or who are simply absent.  Yes, the best scenario is to have a loving, caring and responsible father in a child’s life.  But perhaps it is best for the child to have more interaction with a pet than with a father who is a negative or even harmful influence.  .

Bottom line is that I am greedy.  I want it all.  I want both a loving, caring father who is a positive role model as well as a lovable pet in a child’s life. Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign pushed for a chicken in every pot; I’m for a furry friend and a (good) father in every child’s home.