Remember the days and weeks leading up to Election Day here in the States? It seems like roughly 100 years ago, but believe it or not, prior to Election Day one of the biggest debates that raged on the internet involved “pet parents.” That seems so quaint now, doesn’t it? We could’ve just talked in circles for centuries about this important subject, but then we had to go and elect Donald Trump and now it’s like no one even cares anymore. Except me. I care. And funnily enough, I’m actually finding myself, possibly for the first time in STFU, Parents history, somewhat defensive of an argument that I can’t actually defend. Allow me back up a bit and explain.
For years, I’ve been getting submissions and reading numerous hot takes on the topic of “pet parents.” One could even make the argument that the rise of pet parents has directly correlated with the rise of obsessive sanctimommies. It seems that for every sanctimommy who’s yammered about how much her toddler loves eating sushi and reading ‘The Economist,’ a “pet parent” was born. But there are two types of people who identify as pet parents: the half-serious, and the dead serious. Half-serious pet parents get a kick out of calling their pets “fur babies,” or calling themselves “dog moms” and “dog dads,” and at times they even do this just to piss off the self-righteous parents of human children.
As many of us have learned, nothing and I mean NOTHING angers certain uptight and/or neurotic parents than the idea of people labeling themselves as “parents” of “fur babies,” because those people are not actually parenting (duh!). They’re just cleaning up dog shit and getting licked on the face and taking their dog to the vet to treat some ailment or another until the dog eventually dies. Those people aren’t raising their dogs to be upstanding members of society who grow up and cure diseases or write great novels. They don’t have to teach their dogs how to brush their teeth or fold their underwear or do their taxes. Dogs don’t even PAY taxes, or wear underwear! (The nerve!) And it’s just plain infuriating.
For whatever reason, some overly-tired (I’m assuming) parents are enraged by the mere premise — the mere JOKE — that “pets are people, too.” They scoff at devoted owners who pamper their pups, and they’re outraged by any line of discussion that suggests a “pet parent” is a true parent with real responsibilities. To all of the people who fit the mold of this type of pet parent, I salute and support you. Please continue to irritate your parent friends by calling your pit bull your baby. I’d even encourage you to buy those trendy name plate necklaces all the moms wear so whenever someone says, “Cute necklace! Is Harvey your son?” you can reply, “He sure is,” and whip out a picture of your dog sunbathing. I say this as an outright condemnation of parents who scold childless people for indulging in some “parenting” of their own. What’s the point? Why are these parents-of-humans so hostile and critical? And why did someone with the pseudonym M.A. Wallace write a much-circulated essay titled ‘Pets Are Not Children, So Stop Calling Them That’, if not to incite more pet owners to self-identify as pet parents as an act of waggish rebellion??
I think I know the answer, and it can be summed up in two lines from the essay, which assert, “When people call themselves pet “parents,” they’re not just being playful. They sincerely believe that what they’re doing is parenthood.” Upon reading that claim, my initial response was, “That’s horseshit. No one actually thinks their dog is a human toddler.” I even tweeted about it to let other parents know my thoughts!
But then I thought back to the ‘STFU, Pet Parents’ submissions folder I’ve been building for 5 years, and I thought back to all the emails that accompanied those submissions, and I realized that this type of pet parent — the more serious type, the dead serious type — is real. One submitter said, “This woman isn’t talking about her child…she’s talking about her CAT,” which was indeed very helpful for me to know. Another wrote, “Just wanted to put this out there: pet parents can be just as obnoxious as regular parents.” Someone else elaborated, “I’m an animal nut (and my dog is currently sleeping on my couch with a blanket she stole from me), but the things people will do with their animals leaves me floored. Who has the time and energy to actually paint their dog’s toenails?!” Plus, several people have sent me messages like this:
If I’m being impartial and just looking at the facts, I can’t deny that this type of pet parent exists. While I see nothing inherently wrong with it, it’s time to acknowledge that “pet parents” — the unabashedly annoying kind — can push things a bit too far. And this isn’t a “parent vs. childless/childfree” argument, as I’ve received dozens of submissions from people who love pets and don’t have kids, yet still feel annoyed by their “pet parent” friends. Perhaps it’s because those pet parents are closer to resembling the human sanctimommies we all love to hate, rather than the other type of pet parents, who don’t do obnoxious shit like this:
WOOF! That’s not to say pet parents don’t have a sense of humor about their dedication to parenthood. Many, if not most, absolutely do, and that’s why I’ll always prefer obsessive pet parents to obsessive regular parents. Sure, a ‘STFU, Pet Parents’ spin-off could be fun and might even happen one day, but nothing beats mocking the superiority complexes and narcissism of regular moms and dads.
In many ways, pet ownership and parenthood have never conceptually been that far removed, which is why oversharing about pets and kids is often one and the same. Dogs and kids hate fireworks. Dogs and kids have poop accidents and need to be potty trained. Both groups also eat their own feces, and garbage, and occasionally whine all night long whilst hogging the bed. They both require a lot of love, nurturing, time, and expense, so it makes sense that pet parents and regular parents talk about their “babies” in equal measure online. And much like #NotAllParents overshare on social media about their kids, #NotAllPetParents overshare about their fur babies.
But this column is about the pet parents who DO take things a paw-step too far and are maybe even giving the rest of the “pet parents” out there a bad name. Remember, folks: Just because your dog or cat did it doesn’t mean it’s any more newsworthy than if a human baby had done it. No one really cares if your dog is celebrating her half-birthday, and no one wants to know when your cat is no longer constipated. You can push your pets in strollers down the street if you want to, but please don’t make it a double-wide, or I will judge you the same way I judge anyone else. (They make those tandem strollers for a reason, dammit!)
Let’s check out some examples.
1. Breakfast Of Champions
That pup sure looks like she’s getting in her suggested daily vitamin intake! Great job, Eileen! Though if I’m being honest, I have to ask, “Who *doesn’t* feed their probiotics, seaweed calcium, and grass-fed beef these days?” I mean, you’re either the best parent that a pet can hope to have, or you’re full of shit. I’m pretty sure that’s a fact, considering it’s 2016 and pet owners are all aware these fantastic health foods exist on the market, but only *some* choose to feed it to their babies. Only some have deemed omega-3 oils worth feeding to their fur-children, and only some of them pay for their babies to have weekly massages and acupuncture. I’ve even heard that some pet parents don’t take their pups out for rib-eyes when they learn a new trick, which is practically criminal in my eyes. Rewarding good behavior with an expensive meal is customary in the homes of *real* pet parents — the ones who will do anything to earn their child’s love and approval, including trading beds — so it’s hard to imagine life for other rescued animals who are forced to eat basic food from the grocery store pet aisle and sleep in regular dog beds. Thankfully, Eileen here knows wsup.
Okay, so at first you’re like, “What’s the big deal? Someone created a Facebook account for their dog. He’s talking about farting. It’s funny.” But THEN you must go deeper, contemplate being ‘friends’ with this dog (again, probably because you thought it would be fun/funny), and consider how you’d feel if every time you checked your Facebook feed, there was some new status update about Bella’s walk that day, or about her giant post-salmon dog shit in the backyard. It goes from ‘fun/funny’ to ‘gross/WTF’ relatively quickly. I think it’s fair to say that pet and baby Facebook pages might’ve seemed like a good idea at one time, but that time has passed, and we should all move on with our lives like the grown-ups we are.
I appreciate the exchange in this submission — and especially Cat’s comment, in which she tosses Jessica a proverbial bone — but ultimately, I’m siding with Patrick here. Who the hell have I become??! Oh wait, I know, a person who agrees that calling your dog your ‘son’ is just weird and wrong. I don’t call my cat my ‘daughter,’ and I sure as hell wouldn’t call her litter of babies that she’s physically incapable of having my ‘grandchildren.’ But my annoyance goes past Jessica’s moniker for her dog and cuts straight to the update itself. It is the pet parent equivalent of regular parents who whine about their babies not sleeping through the night — except crying babies are far worse, and most parents know not to bother posting updates that are so redundant. If parents of human babies can contain themselves and not gripe about loss of sleep while trying to be “funny,” pet parents can, too. Honestly, if you replace all the barks in Jessica’s update with baby cries, you really get a sense of how stupid this status update is. Your “dog mom jokes” need some work, Jessica.
4. Ruining Chocolate Forever
Chocolate lab…Hershey squirts… GET IT??? Oh, you do? Okay, good, just checking because Colleen here doesn’t even seem to realize she made a joke about brown diarrhea coming out of her chocolate lab’s ass. She’s more on the ‘what you’d write on a vet report’ tip. News you can use!
5. Aerial Spew
I’m going to reach for something positive and declare this spew to be slightly heart-shaped and therefore super kewt. If J. hadn’t zoomed in on it so much (and posted it on the internet), I never would’ve known that pet vomit could take the physical form of love, but now I do. What a treat! Good share, J.
6. Pupper Showers > Baby Showers
If you’ve ever wondered, “I wonder what the next baby shower trend is going to be?”, wonder no more. Puppy showers are the next big thing, and if you’re sitting there thinking, “Awesome! I fucking love this idea!”, I’d encourage you to remember that there are already people who host birthday parties for their pets, and you’re about to get stuck attending those on top of these puppy showers. Granted, for those of us who relish in stopping by the pet store to buy our pets new crap, a puppy shower would just be another opportunity to pick up a toy or a treat for a beloved little buddy. But if we’re being practical, it might be a better idea to host a “virtual puppy shower” in which people can donate to the ASPCA in your new pet’s honor or something that’s helpful and a little less of a real time commitment.
That’s not to say I don’t think it’d be totes adorbs to host a real shower and have guests play pin the tail on the puppy and hand-glaze a bunch of clay water bowls while snacking on casseroles baked into Frisbie molds, but let’s try to keep shit in perspective here. Attending a puppy shower would be fun approximately ONCE, just like a baby shower is sort of fun the first time around. But if you had to attend a puppy or kitty shower every single time someone you know adopted a pet, you wouldn’t be thrilled. You’d be all, “Ugh, what do I need to bring? I’m not in charge of the monogrammed leashes this time, OR the Chex Mix kibble, OR the pee pad game.” Joking around about throwing a puppy shower on the ‘Great Dane Lovers’ Facebook page is one thing, but actually having one — and more importantly, not being the first in your group of friends to do so — would be a whole other thing. Sometimes it’s better to keep ourselves reined in rather than subject everyone we know to our personal (and/or parental) obsessions. I’m going to assume that Christie here is being sarcastic, even though I’m 95% sure she’s not. If she does decide to host a puppy shower in the future, I do hope she sees this column and invites me.