No, I am not my dog’s mother

annie-9314Back in 2008, I published one post after another about my puppies Annie and Chico. This was my motherhood experience, I believed. The pups were exactly the size of human newborns when my late husband Fred and I picked them up from a nearby breeder. For that first year, I was obsessed with those furry critters. There was an element of mothering, the feeding, the cleaning, the shots, the classes. I even had a puppy shower, hosted by my church choir. I was a raggedy mess as I neglected my poor husband because it was all about the puppies.

Reality woke me up. Fred’s Alzheimer’s became so advanced in 2009 that I had to put him in a nursing home. Now the dogs were big enough to knock me down. Chico started jumping the fence and fighting with neighbor dogs. After months of chasing him and threats from the neighbors, I gave him up to a shelter. So it was just me and Annie. Did I think of myself as her mom? Yes, but I don’t anymore, even though I devoted a whole chapter to dog-motherhood in my Childless by Marriage book.

Annie, now eight and a half years old, is my friend, my companion, and my responsibility, but she is not my child. I continue to live in a home that is much too big for one person with a yard that I can’t quite keep up because of Annie. I hesitate to travel because she doesn’t travel well and I hate to leave her. She is a constant responsibility, but no, she’s not my baby. She’s just Annie, an aging yellow dog with arthritis.

Does she help fill the gap where children would be? Some. Get a dog or a cat. It helps. A cat or a little dog stays baby-sized forever. But it does not take away the sting when I get to hold someone’s infant for five minutes then have to give her back because she’s not mine and I will never have one of my own. Last week I had that chance and it felt good until reality kicked in again like a punch in the stomach. No children, no grandchildren. Ever. I hate it.

But a dog does help. When I got home from my travels, Annie leaped in joy. We collapsed together on the loveseat as she wiggled all over, licked my face and let me know that I had just made her the happiest dog in the world. I probably wouldn’t have gotten that kind of greeting from my kids.

No, my dog is not my child. But she is a precious gift, and I’d glad she’s here.

What about you? Do you have pets? Do you think of yourself as their mother or father? Do you know people who do? Let’s talk about it.


Want to read some of those old puppy posts?

“Sounds Like Motherhood to Me”

“Sometimes Even Puppies are Too Much”

“Puppy Love is the Best”


3 thoughts on “No, I am not my dog’s mother

  1. My dogs have always been babied. But they aren’t my babies. I love them dearly, but they don’t replace the joy that I think a real baby would have brought to my life. And there is nothing I hate more than someone wishing me happy Mother’s Day because I have fur babies. But on a positive note, I have always given my doggies extra hugs and kisses every time one of my girlfriends’ children or grandchildren really make a mess of their lives. I have always thanked my dogs for not doing drugs, getting arrested, or drinking and driving. And all the other things parents have to put up with because of their children. And how many parents can say that every time they come home from work their children are at the door jumping up and down in pure joy to see them? My husband’s son can’t even bother to call his dad to say hello. Although I’m terribly sad and always will be about not experiencing having children, I do find the older I get the more uncomplicated life is without the drama that young and adult children can bring. I met a lady at the DMV this week. She was there because she needed to get the title to her son’s car in hopes she can sell it. After having a horrific car accident that left him with brain damage and disabled for a number of years, he passed away unexpectedly. After talking with her, I did realize that that is a pain and sorrow I will never know. And I was grateful.


    • I’m the exact same way, Candy. I’ve vented on here before about condescending people who pretend that my role as a pet owner is “just the same” as that of a mother. I love my pets, but I can’t dress them up for church on Sunday. My dog could give a fig about inheriting my grandmother’s birthstone ring. I can’t take my dogs to the art museum to be exposed to culture (a child-rearing fantasy of mine). I COULD throw them a themed birthday party, but who would attend and still take me seriously?

      On the plus side – I don’t have to fight the question of “do I buy my dog an insanely expensive American Girl doll?” I don’t have to worry about having a child who still picks his nose, wets the bed, or whatever. My dog might have unpleasant habits, but it’s not super vital to curb her of those habits in order for her to fit into regular society. Bedtimes are not something I need to consider. At all. Being a few hours late to serving the bowl of kibble isn’t such a big deal. On that note, I bypass the whole breast-feeding drama entirely.

      Pets are an amazing way to fill voids in your life. I would never discount the value an animal could contribute to a person’s world. Beyond dogs (my animal of choice), there are tons of great pet options for people who need companionship or service. For some people who are truly alone, a pet is everything to them.

      But not to me. And no one should assume that because of my lack of children that I own dogs to make things okay.

      Until it’s common to wish a “Happy Father’s Day” to the single guy at the edge of town who owns a horse, I don’t see the need for anyone to “throw me a bone” by wishing me a happy “Mother’s Day” because I own a dog.


      • OMIGOSH. Your father day and horse example made me laugh out loud!!! Loved it!!!!!!

        By the way, my pup and I would happily show up to the birthday party 🙂


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