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Feb 27, 2020

Bless the Beasts, the Children and the Bonds They Share

By Diane L. Grigg

Fluidity between species can be astounding. Given the right situation, animals of all distinctions are presented with an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and interact with others not genetically related. Connections made may appear far-fetched and strange, but sometimes, somehow, they work. No relationship is more unique and wonderful than the one between children and animals. The protectiveness, affection and companionship these two vastly different beings have for each other yield a lesson in universal love.

Everyone knows kids and animals are surefire ways to garner attention in the advertising world. Like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs or macaroni and cheese, it is a winning combination. Yet aside from making money, the notion of children and animals together and the positive result of that relationship stems from the belief that children who live with animals grow to be more empathetic and less self-centered individuals. The simple attention an animal gives to a child can make a significant impact on self-esteem and general well-being. A child benefits profoundly from having a best friend in life. Animals do not ask questions. They do not demand explanations and answers. They just are. Their calm presence can entice a child’s imagination and stimulate conversation. Non-verbal children have opened up and alluded to dialogues they had with their animal companions. Simple responses suggesting talking to their animal friends paves the way for more intuitive interactions between parents or therapists.

The enhanced attachment children have with animals increases the likelihood of hormonal normalization. Hugging or petting an animal significantly reduces stress-related issues. As the relationship progresses, children develop better coping skills. Many physical and emotional issues are addressed when children and animals live together. Playing with animals increases stamina and oxygen levels, inviting better brain development. Caring for something other than oneself produces a more global awareness. The center of a child’s universe shifts when they have some responsibility in caring for something else.

Research done 50 years ago pinpointed, in the clinical sense, the advantage of using animals, in this case dogs, in a therapy situation involving children of abuse. Children responded positively from the gentle interactions these dogs imbued. Once a trust bond was formed with these dogs, the children relaxed and opened up about their abuse. This remarkable trust formed between these friends paved the way for healing. Many organizations use animal ambassadors to assist in the remedying of many childhood issues. In turn, animals who might otherwise be destroyed or thrown away are finding a second round of purpose. The reciprocity of these relationships is phenomenal, just what the doctor ordered.

In literature, children are often portrayed as closer to God and the angels as their limited earthly exposure presents itself as gentle, loving, trustful and open. Animals generate the same energies, so the natural attraction these two have for each other is not only important but essential to the future. We set examples to our children to treat all creatures with respect and kindness. The truest companions are those we feel the most comfortable with. Children gravitate toward animals because there is no pretense, no impossible expectations. With friendly faces and loving gestures, animals and children convey to each other they are the centers of each other’s universe, and for that moment nothing else matters. It is a love that carries on, journeys through and enriches the lives of all concerned.

Unconditional love is a beautiful thing. The best duos rely on each other. Affection is contagious and its translation makes both animals and children feel safe, accepted, happy and complete. The integration of species produces altruism and generosity. This fosters self-confidence, important for survival. Children who live with animals have higher cognitive and social skills. Animals contribute to better health and more compliance in following routines. A child can be less moody with better behavior when they know someone is in their corner. There is a reduction of learning issues. The impact of animals on child development is magical. The attraction is unexplainable. It just is.

Through the labyrinth of a child’s imagination, a better world can exist. The subliminal messages they share with animals guides the next generation to a more compassionate point of view. We all have a primal urge to connect, to interact and establish loving bonds. Animals in our world bring out the child in all of us. They urge us to care more, love more, be more. We must in the end look to and connect with the child within. Only then can we fully realize and understand the transcendent bond between children and animals.