Proverbs 12:10 (ESV) Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.
We have learned many valuable lessons from raising and keeping pets and farm animals. As our children have grown so has the size of our little "farm". We had the normal dog and cat to start out with. We knew it was important for our children to have a pet to care for so a kitten entered our little family. Soon a puppy joined the group. Later on our oldest son, at age eleven, felt no home was complete without a bunny. With his birthday money he purchased one rabbit, one cage and lots of bunny supplies. One very rainy June, my husband decided we should get some ducklings. Who would love the rainy spring more than ducks? So six ducks were the beginning of our little farm. Our daughter was a horse lover at a young age and started to save her pennies in hopes of one day owning her own. Because our neighbor had two horses, our daughter soon had a small job of helping her with morning chores. At the age of thirteen, after four years of working for our neighbor and saving her money she was able to purchase her own horse. You can probably see where this is all leading. Now, six years later we are up to two dogs, two cats, one rabbit, this is not our original rabbit. My youngest son wanted to buy a rabbit with his birthday money to replace the first one. Now there are three ducks, one horse and twelve chickens (soon to be doubled). A total of 21 animals if I did my math right.
Having shared all of that I'll get back to my original point. Owning all of these animals has been a wonderful learning experience for our children and a large part of our homeschooling. First, they learned how to love and care for their pets. Second, they learned the value of buying and caring for their own pets. Third, they learned compassion by caring for their sicknesses and injuries (of which there have been many) and the sorrow of losing a beloved pet as well. Finally, entrepreneurial skills have been gained as well through horse riding lessons and selling eggs. These are lessons that they will carry throughout their whole lives. The house animals have been a lesson in feeding, loving and cleaning up after. The barn animals became a lesson in endurance, self sacrifice, and self discipline. The dogs and cats, like be fed on time and loved, that's the easy part. But when it is cold outside and the animals in the barn need to be cared for this becomes more challenging. In New England we get many cold winter days. The water freezes, the doors freeze, and it can be just miserable to say the least. But day in and day out, those animals need to be cared for and it has to happen. This has been the perfect opportunity to build character in our children's lives. I have to say that after almost six years of horse ownership my daughter has never complained about taking care of her horse. She has faithfully carried out her responsibilities toward him. Knowing that God has given her this job to do. The sad part of raising animals is that once and awhile we lose one of these dearly loved pets. This has happened a few times and many tears have been shed. This has helped them to realize that we do lose those we love.
I know not everyone has the love of animals or pets that our family has. But I believe the time that our children have had raising and caring for their pets as been an important part in growing them into caring, responsible adults. Yes, animals are messy and I have to admit there are times when I'd love to have new furniture and rugs, but I hold off because of these pets. But I truly wouldn't trade the life lessons my children have learned for any of those things.