From the Archives: “Pets Are Important”

By Grace V. Schillinger on January 20, 2021

Ethical Food and Agriculture

Editor’s Note: CRL was founded over 97 years ago! We are blessed with a rich past of content, history, and good work. This means we have an ever growing archive of materials. The CRL magazine, in particular, has been an amazing resource for many decades. For this reason, we have decided to start a series called “From the Archives”, in which we share different articles, stories or news snippets that are still relevant, fun or thought provoking for us today from our magazine archive.

From pets children learn sympathy, tolerance, love and punctuality. When our first 3 children were small, my husband bought Spotty, a brown and white Shetland pony. “How will they learn to ride him?’’ I worried. “Just get on and ride!” was his quick reply. And that was the way they did it. We had an old apple orchard, closed in with a high hedge fence. This was their learning field. There was a thick matted grass beneath the trees and when they fell off, as all 3 did, they weren’t injured. They just jumped up and got on again.

It wasn’t long before all 3 could ride Spotty and the pony seemed to know that he should be careful with them. Animals and small children seem to have an understanding that grown-ups don’t share.

When the 3 children were late coming in at bedtime, we knew they were at the barn telling Spotty goodnight and giving him a last drink of water or a graham cracker or an apple. Many times 3-year-old Carol would save him something special from her dinner, even though Spotty didn’t always relish her choice of foods. Yes, Spotty helped teach unselfishness to our children.

One summer two young crows, Bertram and Gertrude joined our family group. There was a severe windstorm and they were blown from their nest in one of the pine trees in our yard. When our 13-year-old Sunny Lyn found Gertrude, her left leg was broken. “Let’s fix it,” Sharon said. “Will we make a splint?” “Yes,” I said and began telling her how, remembering what the health book prescribed back when I was in grade school. Sunny and I held the bird while Sharon played doctor.

Smarty Pants, the children’s latest raccoon, taught me a thing or two about tolerance. He liked to climb trees, then run along my clothesline, picking out the clothespins and letting the wash fall on the grass. “He just does it for fun,” our 14-year-old Sharon said. I failed to see the fun in it, but when I took a picture of Smarty Pants performing his washday trick, it always brought a laugh. Finally, we decided to chain him a nearby tree on wash days.

One evening after a heavy rain, Sunny Lyn heard something strange when she walked after the cows. The little creek’s banks were overflowing with swirling water; trash, sticks and mud went hurrying along as she watched. The strange noise sounded like a kitten meowing.

She found a little baby muskrat, all wet and bedraggled, that had been washed from its nest along the creek bank by the high water. Sunny hurried home extra fast with the cows so she could bring the animal in to show me. Should I have made her get rid of the baby muskrat? How could I? There was a radiance in her eyes as she looked at it. In all our years here on the farm we have never turned a pet away.
Punctuality was learned, too, by keeping pets. They had to be fed regularly, even though other things more fun were waiting.

But of all the virtues learned through having pets, love for nature and all its creatures was highest on the list.

– Catholic Rural Life Magazine, September 1961

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