Kids learning compassion

Katie's Place volunteer hopes her children learn about compassion and grow up loving animals.

  • Oct. 14, 2014 7:00 a.m.
Many cats at the shelter are waiting for a home.

Many cats at the shelter are waiting for a home.

I volunteer at an animal shelter, so my home is full of animals, which would not be a problem, but the fact that I usually bring home animals with health issues, and that can be draining.

I have sons five years old and eight.

In the past few months, we lost a two-year-old cat to feline leukemia, our amazingly friendly pet rat to a tumor, and we just found out that our other feline leukemia kitten has gone completely blind, and also has a tumor behind his eye.

So we know it’s just a matter of weeks before he, too, has to be euthanized.

My eight-year-old deals with it in an anticipated way.  He kisses them goodbye, mourns, cries himself to sleep, then moves on and gladly opens his heart to the newest arrivals.

My five-year-old doesn’t quite grasp illness and death. He doesn’t understand why we don’t just let them be until they die by themselves like humans. He doesn’t comprehend that they are suffering and this is the most humane thing to do.

Worst of all, he bargains for their lives frantically. He promises to be good, to look after them, to do just about anything that will keep them alive. I find his approach especially heart wrenching.

Of course, like many people, I turn to Facebook for advice. I post about the latest fur family member we have had to say goodbye to, then I ponder my rationale for bringing these animals home, only to have them die, only to hurt my kids.

Many of my friends also love animals, so the responses I get are supportive.

I am not a horrible mom.  My kids will learn about compassion, will grow up loving animals, understanding commitment, and they will never think of animals as disposable.

I would like to think that this is all true, because the alternative is that my kids will require therapy. After our last loss, a fellow rescuer suggested that I get the boys a couple of kittens and not feel guilty about it.

I feel guilty about exposing my kids to so much heart ache, but I also feel guilty about adopting a perfectly healthy, young animal that is undoubtedly going to find a home. I thought about it for some time, and I realized I just couldn’t do it. Not with so many wonderful animals sitting at the shelter waiting for a home, another chance, pleading with you each time you enter the shelter to give them some affection.

I have decided I will bring home a younger cat with minor medical issues (nothing life threatening) – a cat, or two, who nobody looks at because of their age, or color, or shy personality.

There are several that come to mind right away.

Since December 2013, this household lost seven animals, the majority of them were kittens dying from feline leukemia.

My five-year-old, of course, argued that they cannot die because they are babies and babies do not die. As much as all this is going to teach my kids to be the compassionate adults, I hope they will be, this time I will bring home cats that my boys will have some extra time with.

The best thing about my kids is that they never pick out who to bring home.  They let mom go and pick them out and bring them home. They feel their only responsibility is to love them within a few minutes of their arrival, until the day they leave us.

Looks like they have already learned some valuable lessons.


Magda Romanow is a

volunteer at Katie’s Place animal shelter.

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