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January 2014 SanTan FAMILY FUN 1 Pets provide children with valuable life lessons “An award-winning publication” A publication of the SanTan Sun News What’s Inside Pages 2-4 SanTan Family Fun Calendar Page 5 Teen Talent Show Page 6 Indoor and Outdoor Classes Page 12 Just 4 Kids Sponsored by City of Chandler Recreation Division For info on sponsoring the SanTan Family Fun Calendar, email By Alison Stanton Crickette Gill shares her Chandler home with her sons, Deston, 12, and Denzel, 21, and a diverse menagerie of pets: three cats, two leopard geckos, one marbled gecko, an African dwarf frog, two crabs, a snail, an upside down catfish and two fire-bellied toads. Gill says her boys are the “only reason” why she has so many animals in her home. Specifically, she knew that having pets would do more than provide her sons with companionship—the animals would also teach them some valuable life lessons. “I think having pets in the home has taught my children to be more responsible and has taught them to be empathetic toward others,” says Gill, adding that both of her sons are “very kindhearted, understanding individuals.” “Having pets has also made them both more curious about the world around them, particularly my 12-yearold son. They are both immensely intelligent and taking care of others including our pets helps them build strong character.” Renee Gerber, a mom of three from Chandler, says that her family originally adopted their dog, a German shepherd named Chewbacca, in part because they were hoping to have an animal that would provide protection. “But it was also for our kids. They had been wanting a dog since our previous dog passed away, so we thought this was a good way to cover both things.” Adopting Chewbacca as a puppy five years ago has definitely taught some valuable life lessons to Gerber’s three children: Reese, 8, Regan, 11, and Brady, 15. “It has taught them to be responsible,” she says, adding that since Chewbacca relies on the family for food and water, the children are basically ensuring that he gets his needs met. “They rotate who has to feed and water the dog. He gets fed multiple times a day so they rotate through who does it,” Gerber says. “Overall, I think that they have seen what it is to be responsible for something other than themselves. Their dog relies on them for everything and they know that.” Chip Coffey, LPC, director of therapy services at St. Luke's Behavioral Health Center, which has an outpatient center in Chandler, says that having pets can definitely benefit children. “One is that children who have pets tend to be more cooperative and sharing. It is believed this is due to the empathy they feel for their pets,” Coffey says. “Children with pets demonstrate better social skills and appear to have stronger sense of self-worth.” And for children who are an only child or have dealt with separation, Coffey says a pet can assist them in dealing with their sense of loneliness. “While children benefit from pets, there is an added benefit—the family as a whole benefits from this addition,” he notes. Robin Munger, a Gilbert mother of three daughters, says she sees first-hand how having pets helps her children— just as they helped her when she was growing up. For example, her oldest daughter Sorcha, who was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was young, has benefited greatly from being around their horses. Sorcha is now a freshman at Northern Arizona University, where she earns straight A’s, Munger says. Her younger sisters—Olivia, who is a high school junior, and Grace, who is in eighth grade—are also outstanding students, something that Munger directly attributes to having pets. “I can tell you that if you are looking for end results, I have got three best examples one could ask for,” Munger says, adding that they share their home and property with three horses, one pony, two dogs, one cat, and six baby chicks. “All three of my daughters are straight-A students, and they are the most giving and compassionate young ladies I have ever met. I have no doubt that they will be doing amazing things in our world as they grow and contributing to our society in great ways.” Gill also feels that being responsible for pets has helped Denzel make the honor roll in college every semester. “That same hard work they put in when caring for their pets transfers over to the coursework as well.” she says. “He has maintained a 4.0 average and I think a lot of that has to do with the daily regimen of caring after his pets.”’ Alison Stanton is a freelance writer who lives in the East Valley. She can be reached at Children who have pets tend to be more cooperative and sharing. Resources Websites: • • Books: • “My Dog!: A Kids' Guide to Keeping a Happy and Healthy Pet,” by Michael J. Rosen • “Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs,” by Sharon Sakson • “The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy,” by Marty Becker

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