Katie Marsico is a proud mother of 3 human children— Maria, 5, C.J., 3, and Thomas,18 months. She is also the happy guardian of several furry, finned, and scaled pets.
Marsico has happily written for Tails since its inception in 2000 and is the author of more than 60 children’s books. She works from home, which is located in Elmhurst, Illinois (though she hopes that address will one day be changed to a location in southwest Florida).
For those of us who live in the Windy City, scorching temps can last through October, and you can find frost on the pumpkin long before it’s actually fashionable to start thinking about pumpkins.
We’ve already had a few chilly autumn days when I’ve reluctantly flipped off the AC and tested our furnace, and, yes, I even broke out the flannel sheets about a week or so ago. And, though I hate to admit that this climate never gives me any pause in my plans to one day relocate to southwest Florida, I spend a few nights each fall savoring the crispness in the Midwestern air.
The change in seasons seems to rejuvenate everyone in my household, including the pups. They take a little extra time sniffing new scents in the yard or rooting through the first and still somewhat shallow piles of leaves. Yet this post—contrary to how it may read up until this point—is not merely a pre-October poem that celebrates our animal companions against the backdrop of gourds and acorns. Because the sad truth is that the same chill in the air that my family finds refreshing is far from invigorating for some pets.
Every year, I shudder when I notice the “outdoor” cats darting between window wells during an autumn rain storm or the elderly dog who sits tethered in a front yard for longer than he should. And, more to the point, my kids notice, as well.
My children find it hard to understand why not everyone lets their animals sleep on the bed at night, let alone why some people allow them to live an existence in which they’re frequently overexposed to the elements.
As an adult, I could rattle off a litany of warnings to such guardians, including the risk of pets contracting diseases, being hit by cars, or suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. (Granted, these latter woes are of greater issue once winter sets in, but I often see the same cats and dogs banished outside in January as I do in late September.)
As far as my kids are concerned, however, the biggest cardinal sin of keeping Fido or Fluffy outdoors twenty-four/seven is that it means a cherished companion animal ends up sad and lonely. To them, seeing an “outdoor pet” outdoors equates to that creature not being able to share in the cozy cuddly time that consists of a little girl reading a book under a blanket with her cat or a toddler falling asleep next to his dog on the living room carpet.
Please don’t get the wrong idea—I know it’s important for animals to enjoy a healthy amount of fresh air. At the same time, though, I’ve also come to recognize that, as adults, we set the tone for defining how much we truly regard family pets as members of our family. Would you put Grandma in the backyard overnight just because her bladder control isn’t optimal anymore? Would you let your toddler bolt through the neighborhood at all hours simply because it’s his instinct to run free and explore the world around him?
Autumn is a season when we give thanks, celebrate bounty, and renew family bonds. As we reinforce those concepts to our kids, it isn’t exactly a bad idea to demonstrate how they apply to everyone in the household (whether they have two feet or four). So, think twice before you tell one of your family members to spend the night in the yard or fend for herself in a great, big—and sometimes scary and cold—world. Besides, next to having one of my human babies snuggled next to me under the comforter, there’s nothing quite like falling asleep with a pooch curled up around my feet.