Childrearing

Sorry, But Pets Are Not Children

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I have a dog. His name is Wheatley.

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I love my dog, even though I really didn’t at first. He was supposed to be a pet for my husband and daughter, but he really became mine after they headed off to work and school every day. He cheers me up when I am sad. I give him thunder hugs when he is scared. I try not to shame him too much when he furiously licks his penis on the kitchen floor.

But he is not my child.

I hear this phrase a lot: “my dog/cat/lizard/manatee is my child”. And I hate this phrase, as much as I understand where it comes from. I don’t have a heart made of icicles and poop, so I know what it’s like to love an animal. But I can’t make the leap from pet to child, and it isn’t because I am one of those high falutin you-don’t-understand-love-until-you’re-a-parent type. Even before I had a child I did not equate pet love with human love.

I think this had a lot to do with growing up around a metric ass ton of animals, including livestock. My parents taught us how to care for and nurture animals, and taught us to despise animal cruelty. But on one point they were immovable:

Animals are not people.

They don’t think or act like people, and forgetting that can be dangerous. It doesn’t mean you love them less, it just means you are treating animals with the respect they deserve by appreciating that you are not an animal and they are not people.

And yes, I will admit that I bristle a little when people told me that they understood what I was going through when my daughter had inpatient eye surgery at two-years-old because they had a dog who had to go under general anesthesia once.

My dog has had to go under anesthesia, and let me tell you that the sight of my daughter, limp and unconscious, and the sight of my dog, limp and unconscious, were not even close to the same thing.

If you opt to have pets instead of kids, I will never, ever patronize you. If you want a stroller for your cats, I won’t judge you. If you get a special hotel room for your bunny when you go on vacation, I applaud you.

But I won’t get on board with the idea that your pets are children. And I hope that doesn’t make you too angry. You should be glad. There are times that raising children absolutely sucks. I’ll phrase it the way a childfree “pet parent” once phrased it to me:

“Of course my dog isn’t my child. That’s the entire fucking point!”

(Image: WilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock)

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