This post might get me some hate mail.
I used to work with a woman who referred to her little dog as her “son.” The funny thing was that she had a human son who had just gone off to college. I always thought it was weird that she referred to a dog as her son, but I chalked it up to eccentricity. At least until we discussed capital punishment, and she said that it was wrong to execute murderers and serial rapists. Until the “Leo the dog” incident happened where a man, in a fit of road rage, reached into a woman’s car, grabbed the little white dog (a Bichon Frise) named Leo, and threw him across a few lanes of traffic, where he got hit by a car and died. This woman said, “They should give him the chair!” I don’t think she was talking about a La-Z-Boy.
Then several years later I worked with a woman who had two dogs and her firstborn baby. She commented how she was going home to her “three children.” I clarified, asking her if she had other children besides the new baby. She said, “No, I’m talking about my baby and my dogs.” I told her that her dogs are not the same as children. She disagreed. So I asked her, “If your daughter got sick and you took her to the doctor, and the doctor said she needed a $30,000 operation, would you pay it?” She said without hesitation, “Oh, absolutely.” I said, “What if it were your dog?” Then she kind of made a grimace and bobbed her head from side-to-side as if she were trying to decide. I said, “That’s it right there. With your daughter, no price is too high to save her life, but with your dogs, there’s a line.”
Lately I’ve been seeing more things like this on the internet. The usage of the term “furbabies.” People referring to their pets as their children/sons/daughters, etc. People referring to themselves as parents of these animals. When I got a dog about eight years ago, I took him to Petsmart to obedience school and one of the employees referred to me as my dog’s “daddy.” I said, “I had nothing to do with making him, and I’ll thank you not to spread that around.”
Yesterday was mother’s day, and I saw people referring to themselves as the mother of their pets. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m friends with some of these people, and I love them dearly. But they’re wrong. Dogs are not humans. Cats are not humans. I love animals, but there’s not an animal in the world I would die for. My kids though? I wouldn’t hesitate. And you know what? I got offended. You see, I have three children (one is an adult), and I’ve had dogs and cats.
There’s a huge difference between a pet and a child. With a child, a woman gets pregnant, goes through a nine month pregnancy, hours of labor, pain, discomfort, huge medical bills, thousands of dollars of medical equipment and staff on hand in case something goes wrong. Then she goes through weeks of getting up several times during the night, a million diaper changes, constant worrying about the safety of the child, trying to find a good school, helping the child with his homework, listening to the child talk about his problems, arguing with the child, apologizing for things said in anger, teaching the child to drive a car, about the birds and the bees, navigating the teenage years with all their drama, guiding the child into a plan for his future, And even when the child moves out, worrying about that child pretty much for the rest of your life. And if that child should die before his mother or father? That’s an earth-shattering event that can break up a marriage, send people into deep depression, and generally change someone’s life forever.
Now with all that in mind, let’s talk about a dog. I got a dog back in 2006. How difficult was it for me to get him? I walked into the Humane Society and picked him out of the two puppies they had. I brought him home. I got him his shots and got him fixed (cost about $30). I spent a few weeks housebreaking him. I took him to obedience school. He was a good dog. But he was not my child. To me, comparing the joy, the toil, the heartache of rearing a child with the task of raising a pet is offensive because it belittles the work that parents of human children face.
And so when I hear my friends or family refer to their pets as “furbabies”, their children, etc, I will continue to keep my mouth shut, as best as I am able. But I’m thinking about how wrong they are.