Boy and dog // Boy and dog(Photo: Getty Images)

Every parent knows the feeling: It all goes by so quickly. You're newlyweds, then you're the parents of small children. Turn around again and you're empty-nesters. And then ... grandparents.

My wife and I are grandparents now, and everyone who knows us knows we're madly in love with our granddaughter. Give me five minutes and I'll show her picture, followed by those of our beloved pets. There is nothing more important to me than being a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather -- and, yes, a good veterinarian.

From the vantage point of seeing so many children grow up to have children of their own, I offer five things this veterinarian (father, grandfather and husband of more than 30 years) wants every parent to know about pets and children.

Your Pet Can Be Your Child's Best Friend

Pets are nonjudgmental, loyal, loving and always excited to be with their people. Unlike classmates, friends or even, at times, family members, a pet will love your child unconditionally. Rich or poor, tall or short, under- or overweight, porcelain skin or pimples, smart or struggling in class, popular or pariah, athlete or academic: We all need unconditional love. Pets are also doggedly loyal; a pet will never leave your child because he's tired or a better offer came along.

Pets Teach Responsibility

Animals need to be fed, watered, groomed, exercised and played with, and they need medical care and love. They're not like the newest video game or toy that can be enjoyed for a while and then left to be forgotten on a shelf. Although you should never allow a pet to be cared for exclusively or primarily by a child, pets can help children understand how to nurture. Pets need care, constantly and consistently, and they teach children to give to others.