Saying I’m Not Allowed to Call My Dog Whatever I Want is an Insult to Pet Owners Everywhere

Last night whilst scrolling through Facebook, I happened upon this lovely POPSUGAR article, whose author spent one too many paragraphs shaming pet owners – giving them a gut check for daring to think that they have the right to call their beloved fur…four-legged creature-animal-adoptee a “baby.”

I. KNOW. Stop the presses. This is some serious stuff. Call Anderson Cooper.

Just for kicks, here’re a few things about it that make me want to shake my favorite toy until the stuffing comes out:

(1) There is no “local ASPCA” – every SPCA is an independent nonprofit; there is no parent or umbrella organization. (And no, the ASPCA doesn’t practice “trickle-down” donation-granting – the money you donate to them stays right in New York; it does nothing for animals in your area.)

(2) If, as the author alludes, the process of adopting a dog is as simple as saying “that one,” I’m guessing her road to parenthood was also rather impromptu – with a Pinot preamble, perhaps? Reputable animal welfare organizations usually have robust, somewhat involved adoption processes to ensure that the animal is placed appropriately – so that the fit is right for everyone involved. (Obviously, city shelters are overburdened and might not be quite as hands-on, but they’re still much more involved than a point-and-adopt strategy.)

(3) While I’ll never know the pain and discomfort of childbirth – or carrying a child – the author opted for it, so I’d really love it if she’d drop the look-at-me-look-at-me crap. Congratulations, you’re fortunate enough to be able to spread your legs, do YourTango, and nine months later, voila! Baby time. You wanted it; you got it – so drop the mother martyrdom bit. I fully support anyone who wants to be a parent – but I think it’s absurd to consider everything else, every other form of “child”-rearing, to be inept or unequal. If a relationship is meaningful for someone, it’s meaningful. Period.

(4) And yes, you can leave your dog, cat, or parrot with friends, family, or loved ones. Or at daycare. Come to think of it, as a kid, I recall spending most of my summers with my grandparents. And at this thing called – gasp – public school during the day! (*Cue Psycho music*)

(5) Relegating pets to a lower rung than kids is perfectly normal. Sure, if a firefighter has to choose between Sally and Sugar Bear, Sally will probably get priority – as she should. (Unless the firefighter has a furry kiddo and read this article; then Sally better learn how to aim for the trees.) But here’s the problem with the tone of the author’s message – she’s acting as if pets are here as placeholders, that they’re not enough. Not everyone wants kids. Some people can’t have them, or can’t afford the long, circuitous adoption process. And many capable adults have, for years, been prohibited from becoming parents by outlandish, outdated laws.

(6) As a former animal welfare professional, I can say with absolute certainty that my coworkers and friends worked tirelessly with the animals in our shelters. From intake to adoption, they were there every step of the way. They were there when the dog formerly used as bait was rescued, her legs allowed to heal; the cat thrown from a window had her bones reset; the dog left to starve was nourished and reborn; the puppy locked in a trunk was freed and given a new chance. And as we heard their stories and watched their progress, many of us came to consider them “our kids.” Step by step, day by day, they grew and changed and became a new being with the staff’s help, and the help of donors – and went on to lead lives with loving pet parents. So when the author simply glosses over the time and effort shelter staff put into re-raising each animal – before they’re even able to be on the receiving end of a “that one” comment – it’s a slap in the face to those whose professions are geared toward helping our furry brethren.

For instance, one such Chihuahua, my “little girl,” helped countless kids learn empathy and compassion during her nearly year-long stay at the pet adoption center. And when she passed away, my husband and I mourned her as our little girl – not our dog.

Her ladyship.

Now, I know I just came across as equally as patronizing as the author. But, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of these holier-than-thou authors castigating everyone who can’t relate to the trials and tribulations of parenthood. All because we didn’t choose that path, or aren’t able to roll around in the sack and make a little bundle of joy. (See, I did make it germane to my discussion! The author’s parental mind reading powers were right!) One day, my husband and I will probably be those annoying parents – but I hope I maintain a bit of perspective while my kiddo is upchucking on my sweater, and her/his furry sibling is weaving around underfoot.

The fact of the matter is pets aren’t children. Children aren’t pets. Sane people know this. If, like the author, I wanted a little being that peed in the toilet, or someone to lisp “I wuv you,” I’d travel back in time and visit myself in third grade speech therapy class after a massive tumbler of Kool-Aid rather than adopt a pet. But you know what I want right now?

An obese, furry blob who wiggles and flashes a toothless grin when he sees his other daddy coming home from work; a stinky furblob under the covers on a Saturday morning; a little man who we call our Baby Boy.

Our lil man

At the end of the day, who cares what I call my little boy-dog? As long as they’re cared for, loved, and tended to, who’s to say your biped trumps my quadruped?

Bottom line: If your purpose as a parent is challenged by what I call my dog, you’ve got bigger problems.

10 Replies to “Saying I’m Not Allowed to Call My Dog Whatever I Want is an Insult to Pet Owners Everywhere”

  1. I guess I just can’t understand what exactly the author’s problem is. Why does it bother her so much how other people refer to their pets? Does she think it lessens her experiences if other people refer to their pets as their babies? Does it detract from her experience of motherhood? Also, is there actually a huge epidemic of people equating pets with human children? If a mother speaks about how she lost her baby to meningitis, is someone else going to say, “I know exactly what you’re going through. My cat died of kidney failure last year”? It seems unlikely. I refer to my cats as my babies, but I don’t actually think that they are the equivalent of human children. If my cats died, I would be devastated, for a long time, but it wouldn’t haunt me for the rest of my life. If I were married, it wouldn’t put a strain on my marriage, as the death of a child often does. And yet, for some people, it might affect them that profoundly. And their experience is just as valid. So whether you refer to your pets as your furbabies or not, whether you feel they actually are the equivalent of a human child or not, what does this woman care? Her reaction is just as asinine as the heterosexual couples who say that legalizing gay marriage somehow impacts them and their marriage. Other people’s thoughts and experiences don’t invalidate your own, and you shouldn’t allow yours to invalidate theirs.

    1. I KNOW! I was going to make that equation (the gay marriage analogy), but figured I’d stepped up on my soapbox enough 😉 But yeah, I really just wanted to scream, “GET A LIFE AND SOME REAL PROBLEMS!” Le sigh.

  2. It’s not what “fur moms” call their animals that bothers ME. What bothers me specifically is when pet owners want to celebrate Mother’s Day as if it’s the same as having a child. It’s incredibly different and a lot of women such as myself, had to get a blood transfusion after my terrifying emergency c section, hours into motherhood I already considered giving my life. So for someone to even compare the two is insulting. Call your animals whatever you want, but don’t try to reap the one holiday moms get for being the best they can be, only because you think you love your dog or cat more than anything in this world. I absolutely thought I loved my dog before I had children. Like, seriously thought “I couldn’t love anything else more!” But I was wrong. I still love him, but my kids surpass that love by miles. I understand what you’re saying and like I said, please continue to refer to them as your babies… But for years and years no one has tried stating they’re a mother because of an animal. Once you become a mother you may understand the insult of the day being taken over by fur moms.
    I cut my own hair without a license- does that make me a hair stylist?
    I change my own oil- does that make me a mechanic?
    I alter my own clothes- am I a seamstress? No! And I would never claim to be.
    And before I go, I want to address he infertility comment. That is truly awful and my heart aches for those that cannot conceive. It’s heartbreaking but unfortunately, they’re still not moms. And those that never want to have kids? They are not moms either! And for them to want to again, reap benefits for something they don’t want to work hard for, well, it’s very 2016.

    1. “Once you become a mother, you may understand.”

      I’m not a woman.

      I also think lashing out at people for who they identify as is childlike and absurd. When did a pet parent celebrating their pet do physical damage to you, or incur emotional anguish? I just think it’s very “2016” (By the way, I wrote this in 2015) to create an issue where there really is none, just to get a fragmented ray of limelight.

    2. What are these benefits that are being reaped? Are pet parents claiming their pets as dependents on their tax forms? What difference does it make to you if someone celebrates Mother’s Day with their cat? How does that diminish your day? As sticky little fingers are handing you breakfast in bed, do you think to yourself, “Oh, if only fewer people were celebrating this day! The very knowledge that women who have *not* propelled a child out through their vaginas are ALSO getting breakfast in bed this day is absolutely ruining the experience for me!”

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