So what if my kid has four legs and a tail?

I walk in the door of the vet’s office, and the receptionist shouts, “Annie’s 736fa-anniebaby2mom is here!” A worker comes into the waiting room. “Are you Annie’s mom?” The vet, her assistant and I crouch down on the floor holding my dog as the vet examines her injured knee. “Annie, look at your mom.” “Now, Mom keep her calm.”

Etc.

I am Anne’s mom. Annie is a dog. A Lab-pit bull mix, tan with a white face. She is my best friend. She is my family. She is my baby. I did not give birth to Annie. Her mother is a dog. But I brought her home when she was seven weeks old, just six pounds. I also adopted her brother, Chico, who was eight pounds. Chico had a need to keep running away and a tendency to attack other dogs. He doesn’t live with us anymore. But at nine years, two months and 17 days, Annie is still my baby. In dog years, we’re almost the same age now. Next year, she’ll be older than me, but I’ll still be her mom.

Annie has torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee. She gets around pretty well on three legs, but she will need surgery. It’s extremely expensive and has to be done out of town. It costs as much as the summer workshop in Lisbon that I decided I couldn’t afford, even with the $950 scholarship they offered. Some people would say forget it; she’s an old dog. Just put her down. No way. She’s my Annie. Except for her knee, she’s healthy and strong. Would you euthanize a human with a bad knee?

I know she’s a dog, but it’s just Annie and me out here in the woods. When I adopted her in 2008, I made a commitment to take care of her for the rest of her life. I became Annie’s mom.

I can’t imagine my life without a dog.

In the world of dog-moms, I never feel childless or left out. I have Annie. I had Chico. Before that, I had Sadie. Many years ago, I had Heidi and cats named Dusty, Poo, and Patches. While Annie and I were waiting for X-rays yesterday, a friend from church came in clutching a tiny dog. Her big dog, Sarah, died this week, and she’s heartbroken. She was donating Sarah’s leftover medication to the vet’s charity. She has human children and grandchildren, but in that situation, we were just dog moms feeling each other’s pain.

I love being Annie’s mom. I know she won’t live forever. But not get her knee fixed? That’s not even open for discussion. It will be a pain. I know because we went through this with Sadie. She blew out both back knees. In addition to the driving and the cost, the convalescence will mean constant monitoring so she doesn’t chew her stitches or jump on her bum leg. It will mean wearing a plastic cone around her head. It will mean many more trips to the vet. But I’m Annie’s mom.

Are you a dog or cat mom? How do you feel about being called their “mom?”

***

This seems to be a time for caregiving. As I have written before, my father broke his leg in March. My posts here have been intermittent because I have been traveling back and forth to California to help him transition from hospital to skilled nursing facility to assisted living. I’m going back next week to be with him when he sees his surgeon. He’s 95. He doesn’t hear well, and he doesn’t always understand. Someone has to be there, and I’m elected. With luck, the doctor will tell him he can start putting weight on the leg. It was a bad break, requiring metal plates and screws to be installed. We’re not sure if he will ever be able to walk normally again or what we will do if he’s wheelchair-bound forever. He just wants to go home. Please pray for him if you’re into that.

These days, I’m leading a double life, caring for my dog and for my dad. If only they were both in the same state. I have very little control over my time or my money lately. I make myself crazy by thinking about how much easier this would be if my husband were still alive and well or if I had grown children to  help. I wonder who will do all this for me if/when I need it. But women are built for caregiving, whether they’re caring for children, elderly parents, or dogs. It feels right.

Note: People at the vet’s office call me “Annie’s Mom,” but often the people caring for my father think I’m his wife. He does not look his age. Maybe I do. 🙂

In spite of the upheaval, I am reading and responding to your comments, so keep them coming.

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14 thoughts on “So what if my kid has four legs and a tail?

  1. You say that if you had kids they might be able to help. Maybe they would, but maybe not …. for all sorts of reasons. And if they didn’t/couldn’t that would add to frustration and might mean you would feel let down.

    I appreciate your situation and offer a prayer for you and your dad. By the way, your canine kid is georgeous.

    Kat x

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  2. Prayers for your dad and for your sweet Annie. I am a mom of two sweet cats who I adore. Last year we had the horrific task of losing our other sweet kitty Creme. He was diagnosed at 7 years of age with a rare cancer. We were able to prolong his life for a year and a half longer than expected by surgeries and all the love in the world. The day we had to let him go, a part of my heart was ripped out. It will be a year in July, and I still have a hard time accepting it. He was my boy, my sweet boy and very much a part of our family. As far as someone taking care of people like us, I have grappled with this for years. I have come to the realization, that there is always going to be someone to help and to care, that’s just the way it is. I truly believe this. Wishing you strength with all you are dealing with right now.

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  3. Sue, prayer for me isn’t my thing, but I do sincerely hope that both your dad and Annie have a full and speedy recovery. In the short time I’ve been reading your blog, the help and support it has been to me can’t be accurately​put into words. If there is anything at all that a humble childless man from across the country can do for you, please reach out. Wishing you and your family all the best

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  4. It’s not os much women are built for care giving as they are groomed for it.It’s ingrained in society. Women were the care providers while men are the money providers I felt i always got stuck with care giving tasks simply because being female and single.
    I think it’s time men stepped up to bat. Nothing says men can’t be nurturers.I read of men arrested for suspicion of kidnapping because they are with their OWN kids or they are looked at suspiciously as day care workers .
    These arent the day when women can quit work and tend ot everything.It seems women are made to feel guilt over everything.
    I also understand about pets I have a fifteen year old cat. I know they aren’t officially kids, but they are part of the family.
    Well wishes to your dad. We have been through similar situations.

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  5. Prayers to you and yours Sue. It must be a stressful time to be bustling around and taking care of others. Take care of yourself – you deserve it for all the ways you take care of us!
    I have dogs and I love them. That being said, I do not use the term “Dog Mom”. If someone at my vet’s office called me that I’d let it pass. I mean, one could be called worse things, right? But I don’t refer to myself as such. How many times has a snake owner been called a “Boa Mom”. Dogs are special in their own way and it’s easy to humanize them. But they are lovable animals.
    This year I’ve actively started to come to terms with the fact that I’m not a mom. I’m not on a path to becoming a mom. All the children in my life have their own moms and I’m not even a memorable stand in when duty calls. I don’t think it will ever happen on any level and I’m learning that I HAVE to be okay with that if I want to feel the true value of my life. I’m waving the white flag.
    When my husband quit drinking he turned to smoking. When he quit smoking he turned to caffeine. When he found himself unable to function properly without a soda he finally had to face the music and find his proper balance. In this same way, I don’t want to substitute my life in any way. Heartache abounds when I “pretend” that a dog fills the role of a child. Or when I assume I’m important to a niece or nephew only to realize that yes, I’m a good aunt – but not a mom.
    In the past when asked if I had children I’d protect myself (and possibly save an awkward conversation stopper) by saying, “Oh, no children for us. We have dogs.” That always worked well for me because it directed the conversation elsewhere. Nice people got the hint and would ask me questions about my dogs. I’d take a deep breath and be thankful that the potential awful moment was over.
    But what am I really doing here? I might as well have an invisible fence around me and my heart. I don’t even like talking about dogs in general. But here I am, shamefully controlling a conversation so that I have to talk about them. My actions instantly put a gap between myself and others. Me (childless and sad) and them (mothers and happy). It discredits mothers with the assumption that they have everything and are happier or “better” women for their roles. And I am making MYSELF feel less than. It’s just not working for me anymore.
    I should note that I do believe that animals are important and many, many people find true fulfillment in their pets. The title “Dog Mom” works for others and I think that is great. It doesn’t for me. Once thing I’ve learned is that we all have different experiences and none of us are “right” in how we view motherhood.

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    • Thank you for the prayers, Anon S. It is a stressful time. I’m okay with being a dog mom, but I totally understand why you are not. You are very right that it’s hard to face the reality of never being a mother and that being an aunt will never be the same except maybe in Hallmark movies. We are not “less than,” but our lives are definitely different. Hang in there.

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  6. I don’t mind the term mom but I detest the term “furbabies”, it totally gives me the heebie-jeebies. My Rottie back in the day had the TPLO surgery for her torn ACL and it cost $3500 and I didn’t blink twice about it. She had a helluva time with the cone on her head afterwards to keep her from getting into the stitches in her back leg, but it definitely gave her more time with me than she would have without the surgery. But it’s a doozy.

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  7. I do love being a dog mom. I am entrusted with caring for them during their life time. I know they are dogs, but I make sacrifices for them. I am a dog mom! My Akita had a tplo on one knee at 11 months. She just had a tta on her other knee in January at 7 years. Prayers for your dad, your dog and you! Take care of yourself, caregiving is so very draining.

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  8. Hi Sue. I just found your site and wanted to thank you. The thoughts being expressed here, on your blog, are ones I think about all the time.
    I so hope recovery is going well with your father and Annie.
    I love being a mommy to my dogs. It’s a private thing for me, though. I feel uncomfortable referring to myself as their mother, unless it’s at a “safe” zone like a vets office. I never do with women who are human moms because it feels so pitiful to me.
    Due to my life circumstances, I will not be able to have children. My husband and I met and married when I was in my early 40’s and he early 50’s. He has 5 grown kids, four of them women, all of them have children. I am cheerful and loving toward my husbands kids and grandchildren. They do care about me, but there is a distance that will always be there. My husband is the Papa and they have a biological Nana. I will always be “dad’s wife”. His daughters tried calling me “stepmother”, but it felt awkward to them, as I met them after they became adults. I am trying daily to protect my heart, realizing that it won’t be the hallmark movie I was hoping for. Where we live, very isolated place, every woman is a mom. It is so hard.
    So, my kids will always be the 4 legged type. I am thankful to have these babies in my life. It is not a replacement for mothering a human child, but things would be so much harder without their love.
    Thank you, again. I really appreciate your blog.

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