The teenage years!

They can be tough. No matter whether you are a boy or a girl, rich or poor, skinny or plump, handsome or homely, live in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific or wherever... the years from age 13 through 19 can be one big hassle.

For starters things are definitely weird.

Very strange things are happening to your body. And your brain is going through some funky changes, too! Sometimes you feel like you're Superman or Wonder Woman; and other times you just want to crawl into a hole and forget about the entire world. Life used to be so simple... back when you were just a kid. Now at times the whole Universe seems stacked against you.

Sometimes school is a real drag. Sometimes it's not school itself, but some of the other kids who are the problem.

Parents!... boy, can they be difficult to deal with! It seems like they used to know everything... but now... it's getting harder and harder for them to understand what is important.

Add all this up, and it's the lucky teenager who doesn't have a whole lot of problems to work through.

OK, so what's any of this got to do with pets??

Pets are an often overlooked aspect of teenager-hood. Many teens are members of families that have pets of some sort, and within these families it is often the case that some of the most profound experiences we have during our teenage years involve our pets.

Pets are quite often our very best friends during this turbulent time of life. No matter how tough we may have it in the outside world, at school or wherever, when we come home our pets are waiting for us with unconditional love.

They don't care if we are underweight or overweight, have pimples or braces. It doesn't matter to them if we are the most unpopular kid at school. To them, we are the coolest person in the world. When we walk in the door they are excited to see us, and want nothing more than just to hang with us.

In this way, pets serve as a very important emotional lifeline for many teenagers who find it rough-going in the often cruel swirl of teen society. Our pets can lend us a little bit of self-confidence when we can find it nowhere else. And even if we don't have a friend in the world otherwise, our pets will always be the truest of buddies.

If we open ourselves to our pets, we can understand that there are more important things in the world than most of the things that teenagers are so concerned about.

One of the most important lessons they can teach us is... just be yourself. Don't try to impress anyone by attempting to be something you are not. You are loved just the way you are... by your family, and by your pet. If some others don't think you are cool enough... or good-looking enough... or well-off enough to be their friend, just remember that you have a best buddy at home who really, really loves you and wants to be with you. And this best friend can help you get by until you find other friends who do appreciate you for who you are.

Pets are extremely important to us, yet it's often easy to forget about them to some degree when we enter this exciting and challenging teenage realm. Try not to make that mistake. Spend some quality time with your pet every day. Take good care of them. Learn from them. Look into their eyes and try to feel the love that they are giving out to you. Pets are the real world. They are the natural world. And it is this world that you will always be able to turn to when the human world just becomes too hurtful and crazy.

Yet, pets also figure into some very painful experiences that sometimes come along for the first time during our teenage years. Quite often it is about this time that the family pet that you have had since you were a little kid must pass away. Dogs, cats and many other types of pets have an average life span of 10-15 years, which can place the time of their death precisely when you may be going through all kinds of other traumatic experiences as a teenager. Many times the passing of a pet is one's first experience in dealing with the death of a loved one, an immediate family member... and it is certainly never a pleasant one.

However, even as they cross over the Rainbow Bridge, our pets are giving us a gift... the opportunity to learn and feel and know what life is truly all about. Death is a part of life, and the passing of pets prompts us to consider what our personal philosophy or spirituality makes of all of this. No matter what our direction in that regard, we must come to understand that it is vitally important to appreciate the wonderful things we have in our life... because all too soon they may be gone.

Time really does fly. Yet this is a concept that many, perhaps most, teens still have difficulty comprehending. When we are children, time seems limitless. A year is an eternity. By the time we are teenagers, we are in that awkward stage between childhood and adulthood, a realm in which the world is shrinking but time still looms very large. And this is why some of our problems seem so difficult... because they are never going to end.

But don't you believe it! Your frame of reference is about to start speeding up. Whatever seems to be the problem -- no matter how huge -- will likely fade away. Change is happening all around you... and will continue. If you are caught in a bad situation, just hold on... it is going to change. If you are an "ugly duckling", just wait... something completely different is going to emerge. SOON!

Whatever you do, DON'T GIVE UP. Don't lose hope.

These are very exciting times that we live in. It may not seem that way sometimes, but if you stand way back and have a look at things through the lens of history, you clearly see that we have much to be thankful for. Of course, there are still plenty of problems to solve. Your generation is going to have to tackle some really big problems in order to save humanity from itself. Maybe it will be YOU who makes a huge contribution.

But that's a few years away. In the meantime there is still a little bit of childhood to play out. And a lot of fun in store.

If for some reason you can't seem to find any, remember your pets. Whenever you feel unloved or unwanted, remember your pets. They are your secret allies through the teenage struggle... and beyond. No matter what your age, life is a whole lot easier, happier, better with pets.

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NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!!

What's happening in your life and with your pets?? What do your pets mean to you as a teenager??

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