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The Power of Pets 

click to enlarge The Novak kids with their doggie cousin, Beeker
  • The Novak kids with their doggie cousin, Beeker

When I was 8 years old, I really wanted a dog. Problem was, my dad was extremely allergic to most animals with fur. But my 6-year-old sister, Leslie, and I were relentless. We drew up and signed a contract promising my parents that if they let us have a puppy, we'd take full responsibility for it — and keep it away from our itchy-eyed father.

In what can only be described as a major lapse of judgment, my mom and dad agreed to let us get a dog on a trial basis. I remember driving to a breeder to pick up a "hypoallergenic" standard poodle with black, curly hair. We named him Max. Taking him on his first walk in a park near my house, I felt like I could burst with pride.

But, after just a few days, my parents realized that keeping the dog away from my dad wasn't realistic. We couldn't give that sweet pup the life he deserved. So, a week after we got Max, we tearfully returned him to the breeder. The following year, another member joined our family — a baby sister of the human variety — and that put the kibosh on any more talk of pets.

Many children before and after me — including my own — have begged their parents for a dog. Ironically, I still haven't given in to mine. For now, my little sister's rescue dog, Beeker, gives them some occasional canine camaraderie.

In this month's Animal Issue, Mary Ann Lickteig writes about her kids' begging for a dog in "Use Your Words." Growing up on a farm, Lickteig long thought of animals as food, not pets. But she recently had a change of heart. Read about her journey from dog skeptic to dog owner.

"Riding it Out" proves that animals can provide more than just cuddly companionship. Contributor Darcie Abbene talked with families and instructors at local barns about how horses help kids navigate both physical and emotional challenges.

We're also shining the spotlight on 12-year-old Edward Joczik — an animal activist who's built shelters for feral cats and protested greyhound racing — in this month's "One to Watch." In "Habitat," we meet an intergenerational pair who use a grandma's Colchester home as an animal rehab station. And we're delighted to share a sweet photo collage featuring reader-supplied snapshots and stories of local kids and their pets.

For our travel feature, "The Weekender," Benjamin Roesch took a fun, overnight trip with his wife and two sons to the Killington/Woodstock area in June. Read all about their adventures — from encounters with colossal cows and birds of prey to glassblowing demos.

If it's outdoor adventure you're seeking, turn to "Fit Families." You'll learn about the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge, a Vermont State Parks initiative to get families outside during the warmer months — with or without four-legged companions.


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