This is a great week to celebrate -- I recently wrote and published a new children's book, and the timing couldn't be better. It’s Children’s Book Week, and next week is Be Kind to Animals Week. (Additionally, Monday, April 30 was Adopt a Shelter Pet Day).
From Lassie and Max the dogs, to Dewey and Skippyjon Jones the cats, animals have played a role in books, TV, and movies for generations. Do you remember your favorite animal book, TV or movie from childhood?
Mine was “Follow My Leader,” written during the 1950s but still a part of school libraries during the 1960s and 1970s when I grew up. The primary human character, Jimmy, becomes blind after a firecracker incident. He learns to rely upon a German Shepherd guide dog named Leader, who breaks down Jimmy’s emotional walls as well as helps escort him in this new reality of blindness.
For eons, animals have helped people, being used for hauling, protection, hunting, and rodent control, among so many other situations. These days, animals are used for therapy, in military service, as guide animals, and search and rescue animals, as well as companionship. Children especially respond well to dogs, cats, and other animals. Reading about animals is also a joy for many children, and so this week we celebrate kids, books, kindness and pets in honor of Children's Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week.
As a writer of inspirational pet stories for children and adults, it’s my joy to share the wonder of animals, especially companions like dogs and cats. And, it’s my special pleasure to announce the publication of my newest children’s book “Jeremiah Finds a Home,” the story of my rescued, adopted Shih Tzu, Jeremiah. He lived in a puppy mill for three years, was rescued by Hearts United for Animals in 2016, and was adopted by me and my husband in late 2017. Although it took time for him to adjust to his new home and very own family, Jeremiah is a joyful dog who makes us all smile. My goal is to teach children and families about puppy mills, the importance of rescue, and the joy of pet adoption. The book is available on Amazon, and you can learn more about the story (told non-graphically) on my website.
There is much cruelty in the world, toward people, including children, and to pets. Kindness must be taught and modeled to kids. We as adults can, and should, do it. Pets do showcase kindness, and exposing children to therapy pets and read-to-the-dog programs at schools and libraries will help instill kindness as well. Books can also be a catalyst of kindness through subtle messages woven into the story. Just as Leader the dog in “Follow My Leader” showcases kindness toward the blind boy, Jimmy, or Lassie to Timmy, children learn compassion, kindness, friendship and other great lessons from pet books (and movies – think of how the animals helped each other in the “Homeward Bound” story).
As we celebrate children, books, pets, and kindness these next few weeks, model positive traits to your kids and read to them stories that showcase those characteristics, too. We can all impact the lives of children and the lives of animals in positive, caring ways.
What was your favorite animal book, movie or TV show and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
My pets are characters in many of my stories. In the new book about Jeremiah, the Shih Tzu, the story is told from the dog's point-of-view. Mary, my cocker/ springer mix, has two books about her, including visiting a ranch and encountering different animals there.
Living in the 21st century has many perks, from technological gadgets to how, as a society, we view animals. According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of people living in the United States own a pet, with the majority (60.2 million) having dogs and 47.1 million having cats. The organization estimates that nearly $70 billion was spent on pets by pet owners in 2017, up from 66.75 billion in 2016. Americans certainly seem to love their pets!
Still, improvements are greatly needed, especially in the areas of animal adoption and pet ownership responsibility.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly 6.5 million animals enter shelters and rescues every year; they are comprised of owner surrenders, strays, and animals rescued from hoarding, dog fighting, and puppy/kitty mill operations. Only about half are adopted. More than 700,000 strays are reunited with their owners; sadly, less than five percent of the cats that come in as strays are reclaimed, and many of the animals brought in are not spayed or neutered.
Pet ownership responsibility includes caring for one’s animal, providing food, water, shelter, and medical treatment. In addition to vaccinations and teeth cleaning, medical care should include spaying and neutering. Such procedures curb the number of litters born, and therefore, helps cut down on the number of animals needing homes, either through the owner giving/selling the youngsters or taking them to rescues and shelters. Cats and dogs can breed two to three times a year, having an average of six babies per litter. Multiple that out over the course of five to seven years, and you have thousands more animals per unsprayed female. For every kitten or puppy sold or given away by owners, that’s one less adopted and therefore, one more possibly euthanized.
Until there are less strays, less owner relinquishment, more adoptions, and more spaying and neutering, no more animal hoarding or puppy/kitten mills, there will be the need for animal shelters and rescues.
We all can do our part to positively impact responsibility and rescue. Here are some suggestions:
Although America has come a long way since the 1970s when 12 to 20 million pets were killed in animal shelters across the country, there a great need still exists for pet ownership responsibility and, therefore, for animal rescues and shelters. Let’s all do something to help continue the downward trend of euthanasia rates and increase pet ownership responsibility. Maybe one we will realize the #NoKill dream many animal welfare organizations envision – that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized – but it takes responsible pet owners to get there.
Be Kind to Animals Week overlaps with Children's Book Week. Kids can learn kindness to animals via reading. They also learn kindness through observation and interaction. During this special time, we can encourage children, other adults, as well as ourselves to be a bit kinder … and to read more.
There are many wonderful books available for children about animals. Within those pages, they can learn how to take care of animals as well as how pets take care of people. For a listing of great children's books about pets, visit http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/5877-top-10-kid-friendly-pet-books and http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Childrens-Pet/zgbs/books/2853.
“Teach the children well,” are words in a Crosby, Stills and Nash song (see a YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztVaqZajq-I). Teaching children kindness toward people and pets offers great rewards for those kids, including opportunity to do good in a community and the opportunity to make new friends. In fact, according to a research study called Kindness Counts, “When kids performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited, their happiness quotient increased ... (and) … they gained an average of 1.5 friends during the month-long period” (see related article at http://www.rootsofaction.com/art-kindness-teaching-children-care/).
What are some ways we can be kind to pets and people, and how can we more greatly instill kindness in others, including children? The list of ideas is endless, but here are some suggestions:
“Teach the children well,” are words in a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash (see the YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztVaqZajq-I). Teaching children kindness toward people and pets offers great rewards, including opportunity to do good in a community and opportunity for children to make new friends. In fact, according to a research study called Kindness Counts, “When kids performed acts of kindness or took notice of the pleasant places they visited, their happiness quotient increased ... (and) … they gained an average of 1.5 friends during the month-long period” (see related article at http://www.rootsofaction.com/art-kindness-teaching-children-care/).
The annual “Be Kind to Animals Week,” sponsored by the American Humane Association, is May 3 – 9, 2015. It's been 100 years since the creation of this specially-designated week. It's a week that provides parents, communities, and animal welfare organizations with opportunities to encourage kindness in children ... as well as adults.
Here are five ways to be kind to animals not only during this special week, but all throughout the year:
Open the floodgates of kindness toward pets and people during Be Kind to Animals Week and let it continue throughout your lifetime, teaching children empathy and compassion, and thereby impacting their lives -- and yours -- for the better.
It's Be Kind to Animals Week, a time set aside by the American Humane Association and other organizations to promote kindness to animals. This is a great time to reinforce to children the importance of kindness, not only to animals, but also to other people.
In this day and age of bullying, child neglect, anger, violence and other issues, re-inforcing the concept of kindness is critical. Children are vulnerable, children are teachable – they often emulate what they witness in adults within the sphere of influence.
Therefore, we adults need to take stock not only in how we treat our kids, but also how we treat other adults and how we interact with pets in our own household, as well as within our community.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) offers some tips for celebrating Be Kind to Animals Week with children. For example, you and your kids can volunteer together at a local shelter or rescue. Although you may not be able to walk dogs, you can hold a bake sale or a collection drive, taking in donations of money and items necessary to run the shelter. Inquire at your local humane society or animal shelter (1) what their volunteer guidelines are and/or (2) what items they currently need. Another idea: spend time together as a family with your own pet – take a walk, play in the park, or toss a ball in your backyard for awhile. Pets need social interaction with their human families; remember to take good care of your pets and involve your children in that care. Your children may want to start a Kind Club with their friends and develop projects to help the homeless animals of your community.
Every year, nearly 7 million animals enter shelters across this nation. What can you and your family do to help these homeless creatures and the people who care for them? You and your children can positively impact your community, and therefore, the nation, by showing kindness to animals, and to other people.
Find some other tips for teaching and sharing kindness at http://behumane.org/component/content/article/2-uncategorised/82-be-kind-to-animals
“Teach your children well,” are part of the lyrics of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song. Those are words we can all live by, so let's teach our children, and ourselves, to be kind to others, both animals and people – when we do, we can all live in a better world.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.