"We lost our dog in December (she was very old) and are thinking of getting another dog. Any thoughts on dogs being able to help kids with empathy? Or socialization?
I also wondered about any thoughts of his being an only child affecting this and if so, if anyone else with just one had ideas?"
Hi Squirt! My DS2 is an only child. We have a 15y/o cat that DS likes to take care of (brush, pet, feed). If she (cat) gets startled, DS will tell her "It's okay, don't be scared." However, if he could trade our cat for a riding lawn mower or a tractor he would.
Before DS turned 2 (but I can't remember exactly when), he would describe the emotions of people and animals. One evening DS told me that he thought I looked sad and proceeded to pat me on the shoulder and tell me everything would be okay.
I'm not sure if these are the kinds of (only child) examples you are looking for.