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“Moooomm, Daaadddd, can we get a puppy??”

 


As a kid I used to roll around in the mud, literally, and play with the neighbourhood dogs whether they were clean or dirty. Yes sure I would get a shelling when I came home smelling like I had been through a drain (which I did too!) but it truly helped me in becoming who I am now. My parents have always supported me in the learning of animal welfare and animal consciousness. And up till today I will remember all the little kittens, puppies and even birds that I had brought home as a little girl. This not only taught me essential nursing skills, but it also taught me a lot about responsibility. I can now proudly hold my head up with the skills and independence I learnt as a child.

Many times I walk down the street and see kids staring in fascination at the stray animals around and when they try to approach them, they are reprimanded by their parents usually with a comment of, “Don’t touch it! It’s dirty!” But think about it, so what if the animal is dirty? Why not tell the children, “Okay, you can go play with the cat or dog but make sure you don’t touch your face or mouth before you wash your hands.” Even if they do somehow manage to lick their finger before washing their hands, it may be beneficial for their immune system as it will challenge their bodies to develop a resistance to it. Some studies have shown that exposing kids to animals help in warding off allergies in future. As a single 20 something year old, I am sure that most parents will scoff at me and ask me what I know about parenting. But with more and more kids that I see   expressing immediate fear and lack of knowledge about common animals in any urban area, it alarms me to think that future generations will grow up being a generation of people who fear and lack knowledge about animals. Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” . What will become of our nation then?

So dear parents, this is my personal plea to you all:

Let your kids roll in the dirt, let your kids get scratched and bruised and frolic in the grass, but most importantly, let them play with the dogs, cats, birds, insects and whatever animal they come into contact with! Of course, parents would want to protect their children from any harm, so there are a few things that you would need to ensure your child understands before allowing them to come into contact with animals.

First things first are to teach them how to behave around animals. Never make sudden and shocking movements around an animal as this can startle them and make them react violently. Keep calm and do not shout or make loud noises around the animal as well. Next, a child should learn how to recognize the behaviour of dogs and cats and learn when and when not to approach them. Dogs are happy and approachable when they have relaxed jaws, wag their tails, ears not tucked down and flattened and have their heads held up in a friendly manner. Cats are a little more challenging but generally if they have their ears up and are sitting calmly and upright, it means they are relaxed and welcoming. If they are hunched in a corner and begin to hiss and flick their tails, then it is a warning sign which children should recognize. Children also have to understand the sensitive areas of a cat (i.e. its belly) and understand that some cats do not tolerate humans touching them there and may bite or scratch. Nevertheless, getting a little scratch or bite from a dog or cat should never discourage a child from further encounters with animals. Most importantly, teach your child how to approach animals properly. There are so many resources available online such as “Tony’s Dogs Do’s and Don’ts” on Youtube and a website called Doggone Crazy that also has resources for kids.

In short what I’m trying to say is to not let your kids grow up without ever knowing the love, joy and true happiness that animals can bring into their lives. Contact with animals plays an important role in character building and really does influence the way kids grow up.

So for the aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents or just anyone who reads this, spread the word and try to encourage the parents around you to let their kids play with animals or have a pet, because as the Malay saying goes, “Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya”, our current generation needs to work hard towards developing a younger generation with animal welfare already instilled into them so we can build an even greater nation.

 

 

 

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Chengy

What can I say about myself? Happy, optimistic, and absolutely in love with animals big or small, I'm just a person with a big heart and open mind.

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