On most days it's a regular zoo around here. My two Darlings Boys are loud and boisterous alright and sometimes pretend to be monkeys named George or lions or dinosaurs or even Clifford the Big Red Dog and his friends, but we also have two real giant dogs and 3 aging cats. The cats came first starting back in college, then the dogs and finally the kids. Each new addition has been an adjustment for the beings already residing in our household, and each has done beautifully.
I have always been an animal lover. There are very few animals I don't have some kind of affinity for. I talk to all animals, no matter the genus, breed or size as if they are 10 pound floppy, warm, cuddly, sweet, yellow lab puppies. I have never been able to read Call of the Wild or Black Beauty. I hate animal cruelty and cannot take it. I will step in to stop abuse to an animal if I see it happening.
DH loves our animals and has grown to be an animal lover after 17 years with me. His family members are pets belong outside and never in the house and absolutely not on your bed and pets are pets and nothing more kind of people. It's more of a farming community view and is quite a common view of pets.
My family is crazy about animals. In my entire life there have been only two years that I lived without an animal: my freshmen and sophomore years of college. My brother and his wife have 3 dogs and 2 cats. We are animal people. My Darlings seem to be following suit.
My kids are constantly monitored by our Leonberger who greets them with a lick to their heads upon each return home, as if mentally checking off that the boys are once again safe and sound and under her guard. She adores us all, but she is particularly protective of the boys. It drives her mad if the boys are in the front yard without her, especially if Darling 2, her baby, is darting about and in her opinion too close to the street. She watches from the front window her head going back and forth as they traverse the yard playing soccer or tag or baseball; and she eventually talks me into letting her outside on her leash so that she can be near them.
My boys learned to pull-up and cruise on our Saint Bernard. I am convinced there has never been and will never be a sweeter, more gentle animal on this earth. He is quite large and in his prime weighed 160 pounds. When the boys were babies, he would patiently lay in the living room while the baby grasped two handfuls of his thick coat and held on, laughing and babbling all along. He carefully sidestepped toys, baby gear and the boys themselves. He ignored their crying, loud singing and crashing and bashing of cars and other toys.
Now the cats, being cats, pretty much avoid the boys as much as possible, especially the older they get and the more rambunctious they become. And yet, they have completely accepted the boys (and the dogs). The oldest of all is the most social with them. After all, he's had to adjust to a lot in his 16 years.
With that said, I also hate to see tragic headlines about a dog attacking a baby or a pet tiger attacking its owner or a visitor or a monkey getting away from its owner or a python escaping and killing a child.
It seems that exotic pet incidences have been on the rise, which could be indicative of the increase of exotic pet ownership. One such horrible story recently had its final day in court when a young mom, Jaren Hare and her boyfriend were sentenced to 12 years of prison each, after Hare's two year-old daughter, Shaiunna, was strangled to death in her crib by the family's pet python in the summer of 2009.
The snake, Gypsy, an 8.5 foot albino Burmese python, was poorly housed in a makeshift cage in the family's living room. Gypsy had escaped several times. In fact, on the night of the little girl's death, the snake had been found in the hallway of the home. The next morning they found the snake wound around Shaiunna's head in her crib.
The snake had not been fed in over a month and was severely underweight. Apparently, Gypsy had slithered past two other children sleeping in the living room and down the hall to the toddler's room.
The couple were found guilty of manslaughter. The snake had escaped the poorly constructed cage 1o times in the previous two months. The aquarium was covered by a quilt and fastened to the sides with safety pins.
Just last week I saw a gut-wrenching headline about the family dog mauling a tw0-week old infant to death. The baby was sitting in his infant seat in a room in the family home. The mom was keeping an eye on her baby through a window while she was outside. The family dog, a 100 pound Labrador mix, was in another room separated by double French-style doors.
Apparently, the dog pushed its way through the doors into the room where the baby was. The dog began sniffing the infant and then lunged at the helpless baby mauling him before anyone could pull him back. The baby died about 5 hours later after being airlifted to a hospital.
The dog was quarantined by animal control. There was no history of violence from this dog. Animal control has not decided what will happen to the dog. The incident is under investigation to see if there was any negligence on the part of the parents or purely a tragic accident.
The problem is that you don't know how a particular animal might react to a baby, a child or any stranger, regardless of size or age. I know I have been surprised a few times by my animals by the way they have reacted to a particular situation, not necessarily in a negative way and not necessarily involving kids, but nonetheless surprised.
We certainly weren't going to get rid of our pets when he had kids, but we did follow a few guidelines. When I returned home from the hospital after giving birth I greeted the animals alone. Prior to coming home with our baby, DH had brought home and offered for sniffing a blanket and piece of clothing that was used by the baby. Then, we slowly introduced the animals to the baby with one of us holding the baby and the other holding onto the pet. We never left the animals alone with kids when they were babies and we always closed the baby's room door. We had no issues at all.
This is not to say that all results would be the same if another person with other pets took all of these precautions. I think you do have to think about it in advance, prepare for having kids and pets and then be cautious and never just assume your gentle loving pet is OK with kids. I'll be back with more on pets and the law tomorrow. Over and out...