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The Animal Issue: Crazy for Creatures 

click to enlarge Theo and an amphibious friend
  • Theo and an amphibious friend

Recently, My 5-year-old son, Theo, ran to the front of our house from the backyard with a huge grin on his face, his hands gently cupping something in front of him.

"It's Mr. Toady," he announced, spreading his palms to reveal a brown, bumpy and not particularly attractive creature. "He's my best friend."

My family doesn't have any pets, but that hasn't stopped Theo and his 8-year-old sister, Mira, from interacting with creatures of all kinds. They scoop up wriggly worms on our driveway after rainstorms, hunt for frogs in ponds, follow around our neighbor's moody cat and ask to pet cute dogs around town. (Theo briefly considered taking Mr. Toady to school, but changed his mind and deposited him back in the yard.)

Nothing captivates kids quite like animals. They're fun to watch and, compared to people, they're uncomplicated and don't expect much in return.

No matter how much we love them, though, pets inevitably get pushed aside when a new baby enters the equation. New mom Katie Titterton writes about how her dog has responded to having an infant in the house and what she and her husband have done to ease the transition ("Move Over, Rover"). She gets advice from other dog owners who've recently added babies to their broods, as well as from vets and dog trainers.

Writer Erinn Simon waited until her kids were out of diapers to add a pup to the family. She pampers her pooch with crunchy, peanut-buttery pretzel treats and shares that recipe in Mealtime.

It's been a while since contributing editor Megan James pampered her one-eyed cat; her 1-year-old daughter demands most of her attention. But the toddler and the kitty have developed their own sweet relationship, which she writes about in Use Your Words ("Kitty Love").

Animals can bring out the best in kids. When 11-year-old Sloane Guillian learned that white nose syndrome was decimating Vermont's brown bat population, she constructed a bat house in her backyard to provide shelter for them (Habitat). Sonia Nussbaum, 13, this month's One to Watch, is a dog lover who's raised more than $19,000 for the Humane Society of Chittenden County.

This issue isn't exclusively about animals. We're debuting a new feature called Balancing Act about the intersection of work and family. Steve MacQueen, artistic director of the Flynn Center for Performing Arts, explains how he juggles time with his 12- and 16-year-old daughters and programming the state's most prominent theater.

Caring for pets can be part of that balancing act, too. Whether you're a puppy lover, a feline fanatic or an amphibian admirer like Theo, we hope you enjoy the issue!

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