Every town has a slogan. For years now Alliance has been “building the best hometown in America.” If we aspire to be the best, the city should be well-kept and tidy. Keep Alliance Beautiful strives to make this a reality with education about the environment, promoting litter cleanups and offering recycling services.

However there is much more to a “beautiful” community. People need to want to live here and make Alliance their home. One way to enjoy life in Western Nebraska (or anywhere else for that matter) is through the companionship of a pet. I’d consider our town pet friendly. There are two well-established veterinary clinics welcoming clients with everything from cat and dogs to cattle and horses and even the odd lizard or parrot. Wiggly Field is one of the best dog parks you’ll find in the area. And though not everyone follows the leash law plenty of dogs enjoy a daily walk around town.

This summer if you happened to drive down our street most mornings there was a little girl walking a different kind of pet. My daughter had taken to walking her black Holland Lop -- Jingle Bells -- before the pavement grew too hot. The rabbit did pretty well, only straying momentarily to check out the neighbors’ lawns.

The bunny, who passed away recently, was her first pet and loved by the whole family. Partly due to cat and dog allergies and waiting for our two children to be responsible enough for one, Jingle Bells came more than five years after our last pet, my Border Collie Sally. My wife and I both grew up in the country and had plenty of animals. Her family farmed, mine did not, yet we still had horses, goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits. We always had cats and dogs too. My favorite small pets were lizards (especially Anoles) and box turtles. So, we were excited for my daughter to have a little companion of her own.

Jingle Bells was great to have around. I never took the time to handle any of my rabbits that much as a kid.

We found a local rabbit breeder and picked out a bunny. He had already placed at a rabbit show. Jingle Bells had been born the previous December, which contributed to the selection of his name. Last summer my daughter brought him to the Clover Kids portion of the rabbit show at the Box Butte County Fair.

Most sources we consulted said rabbits should not be held too much. Jingle Bells was a calm, docile animal and seemed to enjoy it. He never had free rein while in the house though was brought in often to sit with my daughter on the couch.

Pets do encourage responsibility for younger children yet that is usually not the main goal. In my view, pets are about quality of life regardless of the age of the owner. People love their pets and some treat the animals like members of the family.

With uncertainty about the upcoming school year and the ongoing impact of Covid 19 in general, I think pets are an important part of life. They can help alleviate stress and be a source of happiness. Some people have never had a pet, for whatever reason, and possibly never will. That’s fine, an animal in your home does require time and money. For those on the fence about getting a new pet, or perhaps their first one, there are many routes. Adopt a dog or cat from our local animal shelter. Buy a bowl and a gold fish. Ask your friend or neighbor if you may ride their horse. I’d say pets are worth the effort and I am sure they would agree.

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