On My Holiday Reading List: ‘Animals and the Kids Who Love Them’

This holiday season, I want to take the opportunity to share with you a few books that have been on my reading list lately — books that will make the perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. These books offer tales of hope and will surely bring a smile to that special someone’s face.

Earlier this year, our board member and pet expert, Steve Dale, and I were approached by Allen and Linda Anderson about writing the foreword to their upcoming book: Animals and the Kids Who Love Them, and we jumped at the opportunity, for this title could not sum up the work of American Humane Association more accurately. We are one of the nation’s oldest humanitarian organizations, and the only one with the dual focus of preventing abuse, neglect and abandonment for both children and animals. But also, we work hard every day to promote the human-animal bond, which is the special link to building more compassionate, humane communities.

The Andersons’ book does a wonderful job of telling inspirational stories about animals who have brightened children’s lives, when it sometimes may seem like nothing else could work. By dividing it into three sections — Hope, Healing, and Compassion — the book offers numerous stories told by the people whose lives were impacted directly. And these are not just tales of dogs and cats, mind you. No, everything you can think of, from llamas, horses, and chickens, to turtles and guinea pigs, are in there as well.

In the Hope section, you’ll read about Ricochet, who you may remember as the winner of our Emerging Hero Dog category at our inaugural American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™. Who can forget the sight of this golden retriever on the surfboard, helping children with disabilities to get out on the water and hit the waves? Her owner, Judy Fridono, is also a hero because she has made it possible for these children to do something they might not have thought themselves physically capable of.

Moving on to the Healing section, there is the story of a horse, a llama, and a chicken, who all touched and brightened the lives of children through the use of animal-assisted interactions. Tanya Welsch writes about a few of these instances where she and her animals helped children who did not fit in socially, so they could adjust and not feel as anxious when it came to interacting with their peers. When people think of therapy through the use of animals, these barnyard creatures aren’t typically the ones that come to mind, but Tanya shows that sometimes this is what it takes to help the children live more enriched lives.

Finally, the last section in the book gives readers a chance to explore the compassion that people have for animals. We learn about how a turtle named Pepperoni helps teach his young owner, Jamesey, about dealing with big changes in life. Jamesey loves his little turtle, but when it comes time for his family to move from New York to Florida, the boy learns that he needs to give up his friend, because Noni, as the turtle is nicknamed, would not be able to accompany them. Instead, a family is found who will adopt Noni, where he will live in a lovely reptile menagerie, happily spending his days with others of his kind. The boy is of course saddened, but learns a valuable life lesson about coping and moving on.

Reading these short stories, you can’t help but be touched. Whether it’s a chuckle or a tear in your eye, this book will bring out nearly every emotion. If there was ever a way to condense the broad scope of the work we do at American Humane Association into a book, this would be it. We can never underestimate the power of the human-animal bond, and Animals and the Kids Who Love Them — which is available in bookstores nationwide and online — will make sure of that.

Please check back soon for a couple more recommended books on my holiday list!

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