Yesterday afternoon my husband and I were in the car and turned the corner to see a frisky Shepherd-mix puppy galloping through a 4-way intersection, pursued by a woman, a man and at least 3 kids. The dog romped back and forth across the busy road, ears flapping, obviously having a wonderful game of chase. Every time a car approached, my heart nearly stopped I was so worried about the poor little dog, who was blissfully unaware of the danger.

Everything turned out okay, but that incident got me thinking of just how much seeing an animal in need wrenches at my heart. And then I thought of all the worthy animal causes where people can volunteer to help. People just like you and me who love animals. Animal shelters, the ASPCA and many other organizations could use our help. Most of these groups relate directly to animal abuse or neglect, or homeless animals. That’s why, at first, I didn’t see a big connection when I was made aware of a need for volunteers at the Fresh Air Fund. Of course, I agree it’s a worthy cause. Last year the Fresh Air Fund helped 5,000 inner-city boys and girls have a safe, fun experience in the country or suburbs. It’s wonderful for your own children, too, to make friends who have had different experiences, and share their lives.

Here’s where the pet part comes in. Many of these inner-city children may not have had the opportunity to own a pet. Or, if they’ve had an experience with a dog, it may not have been positive. Many of the children live in apartments where owning a pet is not practical, or not allowed. They don’t have big yards or space for outdoor pets. By bringing one of these city kids to your home for part of the summer, you could introduce them to the love of a cat or dog, teach them about responsibility for another living being, and help them to discover the joys we all know that come from animals.

Maybe they’ll even discover the magic of healing love of an animal.

Consider hosting a Fresh Air child today, and you could not only give a city child a warm, fun, country or suburban experience, but also share your love of pets, and see that love transferred to a child who has never had that opportunity before.