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The pros and cons of pets

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Rich Michels walks his dog Gracie Wednesday, March 14, 2012, in Houston.

Rich Michels walks his dog Gracie Wednesday, March 14, 2012, in Houston.

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

So I (Richard) want to get another dog, but I (Linda) won’t let him!

Richard’s case: We’ve always had a dog and I just feel better when we have one around. Man was meant to have a dog. They comfort me and calm me. We’ve had one dog or another for 40 years! Why can’t we have one now?

Linda’s case: We had dogs for the kids — to help teach them responsibility — and now the kids are gone and so are the dogs. By the way, come to think of it, I think I was the one learning responsibility because I was the one taking care of the dog. Besides, we travel too much and the dog would always be at the kennel.

Richard: I didn’t think they were the kids’ dogs, I thought they were my dogs, and I miss them. And plus, none of our kids have dogs now, so we need to have one for the grandkids to love.

Linda: That should tell you something. Maybe our kids don’t have dogs because they remember how they chewed up their shoes and ate their homework.

Richard: Yes, but they did feed the dogs and took care of them; and they got a lot of love from those dogs. And think how much more fun the lake was with a dog. Remember how fun it was to have the dog with us on that motor home trip? And we never tied it on top of the car like Mitt did.

Linda: Oh yeah, that was a blast, especially when the dog had puppies in the motor home shower about halfway through the trip and we hadn't even known she was pregnant. So then we had six kids and seven puppies for the rest of the trip. Do you have good memories of that?

Richard: Well, you tend to forget the hard parts. I’m just sayin ... I mean, I’m just sayin …

Linda: Forget about it.

Do pets teach kids responsibility? Do they provide a sense of security and emotional connection for children? Are they worth the trouble? Which is best, a dog or a cat? Are there other pet alternatives that are less trouble?

Lots of questions, and probably no “right” answers. We did pretty much always have a dog, and probably four of them were good experiences. Two maybe not so much. We also had the occasional cat, at least two of which ranked up there with the best dogs in terms of “belovability.” We also had bunnies and fish and birds and gerbils and guinea pigs and turtles.

We also have two horses, though you couldn’t really call them pets.

And pets really do teach kids responsibility if there are firm and consistent agreements about who takes care of what, and if you stick to them. But let’s be realistic. Parents have to step in now and then, and pets are never trouble free, nor should they be.

It is true that none of our grown children with their own families have dogs, although lots of the grandchildren are lobbying pretty hard for them, and may, in time, win their case. One daughter’s family does have a snake. She claims they are clean, fun to watch in their glass box and quite entertaining during the rare moments when they wake up. They also apparently need to be fed only about once every couple of weeks.

So anyway, we are curious about our readers and your families regarding pets. Take a minute and respond to the readers poll below at DeseretNews.com, and we will tell you later how the results tally up.

Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.