You know, it’s funny how people substitute their pets for children. I’ve seen dog after dog dressed up in tacky little outfits. I’ve seen people hauling yorkshire terriers through Costco and folks in McDonald’s drive through ordering cheeseburgers for their newfoundlands. Many times people’s dogs have lunged and barked at me, only to have their humans laugh if off and comment on how “friendly” and exuberant their mutts are. There are a great many people out there who overindulge their pets, dogs especially, because they see their pets as equal to human kids, or at least a reasonable substitute for them.
I freely admit Leroy and Sherman are my children. The basic facts behind my pelvic situation (zero uterus) mean I have a huge number of ucky steps and expenses ahead of me if I ever plan to have biological children. Mammal babies were much easier to procure than a human infant could ever be for me. Given the waiting lists for adoption in Canada, and the astronomical costs of both in vitro with surrogacy or international adoption, I don’t know if I’ll ever have human children. For now, and possibly for good, Leroy and Sherm are my kids.
There are many moms and dads of mammals who do not have two-legged children but love their animals as deeply as they know how to love. It get a little irked by people who insist that I can’t possibly love my pets as much as human babies. Here’s what I know: I love those hairballs as much as I know how to love a living thing that absolutely depends on me for responsible care, love, and nourishment. Yes, I understand that a dog does not technically equal a person. I would never let a person lick my face, for one thing. If I am every lucky enough to have human children, I know that the way I feel about those kids would be different in certain ways from how I care for my mammals.
Don’t ever tell me I don’t love my pets as much as others love their children.
I’m not one of those people who allows my mammals to get away with crap. While Sherm and Leroy certainly live very cushy existences, they are not spoiled in the sense that they do what they like without regard for others. Because I love my pets as my children, I also take responsibility for their mental health and behavior. Dogs can develop very serious, sometimes dangerous issues, when they are not treated like the animals they are but are handled instead like human children. There’s the divide. I love my pets as much as I am capable of loving a living thing, but I cannot treat them as though they are not animals. Therefore Sherman does not beg at the table or sit on the couch. We have specific rules and routines at home and away from the dollhouse on which I’ve worked very diligently to ensure his safety and the well being of others. He is a gentle, well-trained dog, but he is still a dog. I love him to pieces.
People run into trouble, often of the heartbreaking variety, when they assume that loving a creature, human or not, means allowing that creature to call all the shots. Dogs are more balanced with boundaries and routine. So are kids. Being truly responsible for another living thing means sometimes being the bad guy and saying “No.” Permissiveness isn’t love, but choosing to train both human and animal children the self-discipline and manners to be successful in life is the most important thing parents can undertake.
I will stand by my claim that I love my pets as my children. I recognize that it’s up to me to provide proper nutrition, training, and affection for them, indefinitely. I choose to accept responsibility for Sherman and Leroy for the rest of their lives: it must go so far beyond simply heaping them with affection. The quality of their experiences on this planet depends on me.
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