I love this mug, and not just because it was a thoughtful gift from a lovely person. I love it because it’s true. My pets are my kids. I didn’t give birth, but the emotional involvement I experience with my furry kids is indistinguishable from my perspective.
Not long ago, a Facebook friend posted a picture of a bumper sticker that expressed a similar sentiment and the snide observation, “She must have a lot of ex’s”. I was a little surprised at the rancor contained in the comments. People took it as a personal affront that someone would express their love and affection for their pet by referring to the animal as their ‘kid.’ I refrained from commenting back because, well, arguing with people on the Internet always goes so well, right?
But, I’m still going to have my say.
First – Of course there is a difference between having a pet and having a child. Of course! A difference of several orders of magnitude and that’s not even including the whole gestation and birth thing. There is no comparison.
There never was.
Pet parents are not comparing their furry kid to your two-legged one. They are not comparing the trials of house-training to the rigors of child rearing. It’s like comparing apples to cake. I mean, come on – they’re both delicious!
So it baffles me when I hear people get angry because I call my dogs my kids. Angry, like my word choice has devastating implications for their parenting skills. Maybe because my dog is better behaved? I can guarantee my dogs won’t have an unwanted pregnancy, or do drugs, or quit college. Can you?
No, it’s not that at all.
When it comes right down to it, those people are imposing their definition of love and how it should be experienced, on my relationship with my dogs. At some level, conscious or unconscious they are offended by the simple fact that I call it “LOVE” and that I define my relationship in terms of parent-child.
Guess what? You don’t get to do that. Here’s why.
There is too little love on this planet right now. We as a species, as a community, as individuals – we ALL need more love. We need to feel it, we need to express it, and we need to share it. It is essential to our health, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Study after study shows that humans who don’t give and receive love experience all kinds of trauma – depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart attacks – can all stem from a lack of love.
However, not everyone wants to bring more people onto the planet – yet they still want, and deserve to experience the kind of love that comes from nurturing and caring for another being. Opening your heart and home to a pet – dog, cat, pig, goat, rat, hamster, rabbit, take your pick! – Makes you more loving and compassionate. It makes you a better person. If you do it right.
And that’s the real trick.
In my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS, I talk extensively about developing this relationship, how to build it, how to nurture it and how to deepen it. But what it comes down to is this – It’s all about the love. Having a dog in your life means you get to feel unconditional love.
Experiencing that love means letting yourself be vulnerable. And that can be kinda scary. You have to take all the good times and fun AND the bad times as well. You have to just dive right in, and experience the whole thing. Spoiler alert – parts of it are going to suck. Like really, really horribly suck.
So I guess some people find it easier to minimize, or trivialize the love between human and dog. Because to open up, and really feel that depth of love can be terrifying. Or maybe they don’t think it’s possible because they haven’t been able to experience that in their human relationships? I find that incredibly sad, but that’s for another post.
Be brave. It’s totally worth it. Even the sucky parts. Having a dog at your side through the journey of life makes everything more bearable. A dog is a constant friend and companion, who is always – and I do mean always – happy to see you, to spend time with you. Dogs are friends who will never judge, and give steadfast love in return for some food, a comfy place to sleep and to just be with you.
And I say – own the title Dog Parent! You’ve invested time, money, but most importantly, your heart into this furry being that shares your life. Maybe if more people thought of themselves as Dog Parents and not dog owners it wouldn’t be so easy for them to shove the dog in the backyard and ignore it? Maybe they’d be more motivated to actually train their dogs instead of just letting them run wild? Or take them to the vet for basic care like vaccinations and getting spayed or neutered?
Maybe owning the title Dog Parent makes for more responsible dog ownership?
I think it does. I am proud to say I am Mama to two lovely dogs, Golly and Xander, and one very spoiled, ancient kitty, Sage. Yep, that’s them at the top. I love them. They are my children. Four footers are the only kind I ever wanted, and I have never been disappointed by my choice.
Tell me about your kids! Share their stories and pics in the comments, please