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Having pets has definitely affected my family, most of the time for the better. I feel that my family has learned a deeper sense of responsibility, compassion and confidence, as well as reaped the benefits of stress relief and unconditional love from our furry friends.

We have two dogs and no matter how old they get (currently 8 and 7, respectively), they will always be babies and puppies to my children. These puppies that my children love will destroy anything left out, they have learned the “why” behind a parents’ constant reminder to pick up your things. The responsibility level of my children is higher than that of other children their age as shoes are rarely left in the living room and the sole guilty party of leaving out half-full drinks is the baby.

two dogs huskey

These pets that we love are fully dependent upon our family for food, water, shelter and grooming. If we don’t take care of it, it doesn’t happen — or worse, it might. Once, my girls left the bottom latch open to the crate and I had half of a birthday birthday cake on the counter. Needless to say, that food didn’t make it through the day as the dogs helped themselves.

>> Check out these 6 workouts to do with your pup and keep you both fit!

Compassion is a skill that comes naturally to some, yet needs to be cultivated in others. The pure untethered love that pets brings has taught my children to love others, especially those that are sometimes hard to love. After all, if you can love your dog who steals your lunch and rolls in mud just to jump on your favorite jeans to say “hello!”, it isn’t a stretch to love someone less than pleasant. Watching pets pass on, get lost or become sick has taught my children how to sympathize for others when something bad happens, just like it did for my husband or me when we were children.

>> Read more: 10 Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Mental Health

No matter how rough a day is at work or school, coming home to a pet and their unconditional love is therapeutic. Stress relief and pet ownership have long gone together; is it the fur, the kisses, or just the companionship? Sometimes a pet is the best form of consolation. They don’t say a whole lot but will stay right by your side when you feel terrible.

baby girl with dog

Nothing says “tough” like a large dog. Just being able to “play” and (sort of) keep up with them builds confidence in you and your abilities. Another confidence-building quality that pet ownership brings is in reducing the fear of other animals and people. Watching our dogs plow through creeks and into deep grass without hesitation reduces the fear of the unknown for my girls. Confidence in their security is another gift from our pets. That fuzzy coat and warm heart can take the scary out of the darkest room or loudest thunder. I have it on good authority that dogs petrify both under-the-bed boogymen and closet monsters.

Many pets do what they want to do, even if it isn’t what is wanted by their owners; our dogs are no exception. It seems like every time the girls need them to hurry up before school or I need to get down the hall, there is a fuzzy family member who does not want to cooperate, so another skill we have learned is patience. It is hard to stay angry with such a cute face, even when it tends to be under your feet.

Our pets have taught us many lessons, for all of which I am grateful. I hope that we will have them around for many more years to keep teaching us important lessons of responsibility, compassion, confidence and patience.