Animal love

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Children have been reading aloud to cats at an animal shelter in Pennsylvania, USA. This innovative programme at Berks County Rescue League sees children from the ages of six to 13 years old visiting the shelter to practise their reading skills and to spend time with attention-starved felines. The idea is that the cats get to enjoy the company of children, who also learn to love the animals. I think it’s a really clever way of teaching children about our responsibility to care for animals.
My childhood was filled with pets and an assortment of other creatures – we lived on a farm, after all. Chickens and turkeys used to roam around my mother’s garden and occasionally onto our veranda to drink from the dogs’ water bowl. Our house itself was never without cats and dogs. For a number of years, we also had a talkative parrot we called ET (because he somehow reminded us of the loveable alien in the Steven Spielberg movie). He especially enjoyed playing peek-a-boo in my mother’s wardrobe and taking the occasional bite of my dad’s ears. I spoke to our pets as if they somehow understood me… perhaps they did. I’m sure I picked up this common idiosyncrasy from my parents, who still talk to their dogs as if they’re children. I have no doubt that my mother’s enduring love for animals rubbed off on me, and this in turn has trickled down to my daughter. She hasn’t grown up with nearly as many animals around her as I did, but her love for them is firmly entrenched.
There are some wonderful benefits of growing up around animals. In the case of the children reading to cats, it seems to be a win-win scenario.

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