How many of you have ever walked into the family’s den where all the fun is going on and you happily plop down in the midst of everything and suddenly feel wetness soaking through you pants? The mother quickly explains that the new puppy is having some trouble getting the hang of house training. UGH!
Ever been to a home where the father keeps snakes and other creepy crawlers for fun? He joyfully dips his hand into the glass tank and pulls out a slithery ‘thing’ with a darting tongue and suspicious eyes and wants to know if you want to touch it! Ummm….no thanks! UGH!
Or what about the trailer waaaayyyy out on some county road where you knock on the door and hear ferocious barking while the beast of the dog inside slams his body against the screen door? As the grandfather opens the door to let you in, he warns you not to make eye contact with ‘Shredder’ but not to be too worried since he is such a good dog! UGH!
On one visit the child was nowhere to be found but I could hear scratching and scampering upstairs. When I asked the mother where “Johnny” was, she quickly informed me that he was upstairs playing with the rats. I was sure I’d misunderstood and asked if she meant mice as I used my thumb and forefinger to approximate a little critter about three to four inches in length. The mother, imitating my measurement system, used both of her hands to indicate that the critters she was talking about were more along the lines of ten to twelve inches and they were indeed RATS (and not the family pets!) UGH!
Another time a sibling asked if I wanted to hold “Marshmallow.” Before I could even react, ‘Marshmallow’ was sort of tossed in my hands. I wasn’t even sure what a “Marshmallow” was until the little fellow turned out NOT to be soft and squishy but rather a hedgehog with quills and all! UGH!
As early interventionists, we interact with families in their natural environments. This includes their family pets that can be a wonderful source of everyday learning opportunities. A snuggly cat can be strong motivation to move across the floor to get some furry loving. A funny piglet or goat on the family farm can be an endless source of language opportunities. A faithful old dog can teach compassion and the joy of unconditional love. I bet even goldfish have a trick or two up their….fin!
What experiences have you had with pets on your visits?