The Internet often likes to ponder who is cuter: Dogs or babies? This duo is here to declare once and for all that the answer is both.
Reddit user bleed-black generously shared photos of his son and dog, over their adorable two and a half year friendship. As the boy gets older, he gets closer to his "sib" in size. And everyone's hearts explode with joy.
All together now: "Awwwwww."
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This might seem cliché, but pet owners know it's not. Pets love you as much when you're sad or tired as they do when you're having a great day. And the style of love we learn from pets -- warm, generous, active, loyal -- is eminently transferable.
Silence Is Golden
Pets teach kids that meaningful experiences don't always need to involve conversation. A quiet afternoon with a playful cat or lazy puppy shows children that there's more to relationships than words: just being together -- watching, listening, and caring for another person or animal -- can mean an awful lot.
Keep Yourself Clean
We're not suggesting that all household animals are pristine -- far from it. (Indeed, with many pets, the question isn't whether or not the animal smells, but what, exactly, the animal smells <em>like</em>. Seafood? Garbage? Stinky feet? Mold?) Mysterious perfumes notwithstanding, most animals do make an effort to preen or groom themselves regularly. We have to hope kids get the message that it's good to at least <em>want</em> to look your best.
... But Don't Be Afraid To Get Dirty
For people with furry pets, leaving the house without sporting a single animal hair -- or, more realistically, a substantial coating of the stuff -- is pretty much an impossible dream. And more often than not, getting out of the house with <em>only</em> hair on your clothes is a break; loving pets with dirty paws or slobbery lips are hard to turn away. Having affectionate but messy animals around teaches you to stop worrying about being perfect and just let things go.
As Lindsay Cross wrote in <a href="http://mommyish.com/childrearing/newsflash-pets-dont-just-help-social-skills-they-teach-responsibility-458/" target="_hplink">a blog post on Mommyish</a>, one of the most obvious lessons kids learn from having pets is responsibility. Cross writes: "Having two dogs to take care of has taught my daughter an amazing amount of responsibility that I might never have been able to instill this early on." Parents who succeed in getting their children to take on key pet-rearing tasks will teach their children the importance of reliability (oh yeah, and get out of feeding the dog every once in a while).
Befriend People, Even If They're Shy
"Dogs know if you're scared of them" -- we've all heard that before. Whether or not there's science to back it up, to pet owners -- and certainly, to people who are actually afraid of dogs -- it certainly seems true. It's also true that pets often win over so-called "scaredy-cats," if given enough time. The lesson from this is clear: Look out for people who feel uncomfortable (new kids at school, for instance), and show them that you think they're worth getting to know.
Curiosity & Enthusiasm Are Attractive
Dogs and cats are curious about the world around them. (Sometimes <em>too</em> curious.) Sure, it's not always a good thing -- but would you rather your kid grew up to idolize teenage nonchalance, or the boundless curiosity and enthusiasm of the family pet?
Household pets are curious consumers; if you drop something on the floor (or leave it too close to the end of the table), they'll likely help themselves. While most human foods won't do your pet much harm, some things are very bad for cats or dogs -- and outright inedible objects, like plastic toys, can be extremely dangerous. When the health of a beloved pet is at stake, you're more likely to keep an eye on stray food and out-of-place items; kids who learn this lesson early in life will be way ahead of their more careless peers.
It's Good To Get Outside
Get a dog or an outdoors cat, and the time your family spends outside will likely increase exponentially -- first out of necessity, but more and more out of pure enjoyment. For one thing, there's no mistaking the joy on an animal's face when he or she is liberated from the confines of a stuffy house. The dog-walking and ball-throwing that start as chores will probably turn into family tradition or routine; increased exercise will be an added plus.
Yelling Is Annoying
If all else fails, having a yippy or bark-happy dog might convince your kid to stop screaming. Hearing a bothered beast bark at 2 a.m. <em>could</em> give your child a new appreciation for peace and quiet. Okay, maybe that's just wishful thinking.
"My kids have learned patience, kindness, and responsiblity from our pets. They have also, sadly, learned about death. ... Sad to lose our sweet pets, but a good introduction into the idea of life and death for our kids." - Kirstin Mix
"K, now 3, has learned how to be gentle with his doggy friend Belle, which has come in handy this year when his little brother was born." - Sarah Girvin Walluk
"This is my daughter just after her 1st birthday looking over our balcony. This kid has no fear of dogs and will walk right up to every dog she sees if we let her." - Melissa Versen
"She has learned to share food and how to pet nicely." - Sarah K. Hudson
"My daughter has learned how to crawl with the help of our dog, as well as how to bark and unfortunately beg. Our dog is now helping to teach our youngest to crawl too. They are best friends." - Bonnie Littlejohn
"We refer to Carver as "the dog whisperer". Having a dog has taught him to share (especially at dinner time)!" - Sadie Wright Knott
"How to love unconditionally." - Sarah Wilson
"JR, at the ripe age of 4 months, has learned from his Pug Brother that tongues are just as effective as baths for cleaning." - Abbie Patterson