Rescuing an abandoned animal can be a wonderful way to introduce children into the world
of rescuing a pets. The idea of saving another life is an important lesson of kindness, respect,
love, and empathy. I have been involved in dog rescue for many years, and one particular dog
inspired me to write a children’s book called Oliver’s Heroes, The Spider Adventure. It’s a fun-
filled adventure story, with the theme that it’s good to appreciate everyone’s unique differences
and gifts, and that by supporting each other we can build our self-confidence.
Pet rescue can take many shapes, sizes, and opportunities. I have rescued dogs for years.
My chances to rescue have come at unexpected times, like when I was driving to work, taking a
jog, or when someone called me to let me know there is a stray dog in need. Not everyone can
take on a pet or add one to their family, but even a simple call to the police or animal control to
help get a dog to a shelter can be a teaching moment. Letting your children know that you care
and have tried to help – that is rescue work.
I always think the best time to adopt is anytime, as long as it is an enthusiastic family
decision. A dog wants to be part of the pack, and a dog knows when someone doesn’t want them
around or if their “pack” (the family) doesn’t think they are important. That is a very sad place to
be for a dog, and the family misses out on a chance to have a friend for life.
Children may need help on learning the responsibilities, and the patience it takes to raise a
dog. Dogs need to learn the rules just like children do, and we all learn better with a little
patience and kindness. Children who are eager to get a dog may promise to do all the caretaking,
but not all children are mature enough to take on the responsibility. Sometimes children lose
interest in something after a while and move on to the next interesting thing. Getting a dog is a
chance to teach kids that there are some responsibilities that are real commitments, and once
made, they have to follow through. That’s a good life lesson. Be ready to take over if a child
doesn’t keep up with the job – a dog still need food, water, and shelter every day! Happily, many
children connect with a dog like a best friend, and they will often think about the dog’s comfort
and happiness. It is a pleasure to see! When a child does that, you know that he or she will be a
good friend to people too.
Lastly, take pride in rescuing a pet! There are many ways to show that you and your child
saved a life: bumper stickers, key chains, jewelry, etc. Not only have you rescued a life, but you
gave another pet a chance for adoption. Find out what is going on in your local area for
adoptions and help save a life. Your child will learn about the greatest gift one can give- hope,
life, and love.
Cheryl Smith is a public defender who started a non-profit, Just The Place Inc., to assist in the
care of pets when owners were experiencing difficult financial situations or environmental
crises. She was inspired to write “Oliver’s Heroes: The Spider Adventure”
(www.oliversheroes.com) after her courtroom deputy found Oliver, a dog who was alone, thin
and scared on the street.