No, my dog is not my child substitute

Annie 9215AAnnie turned 11 this month. My dog, the blonde in the picture up above, has been my companion since my late husband Fred and I adopted her and her brother Chico at seven weeks. She weighed six pounds, the same as I weighed when I was born. She was a baby then. Now Chico is gone (long story, click here), and Annie is an old dog. Her muzzle has turned white, her knees are held together with plates and screws, and she’s covered with fatty lumps. In dog years, she’s older than I am now. We only have a few years left, if we’re lucky.

Is Annie my baby, my child, a substitute for the children I never had? No. There are occasions when I get called her mom, times when I might even call myself that, but her mother was a dog, not a human like me. Although we understand each other very well, we don’t speak the same language. I am responsible for her care, but she will not grow up and become an independent adult who might carry on my name and my traditions. She will not drive me to the hospital when something goes wrong. She is a dog.

We are partners in our life here in the woods. Together, we cope with the snow, rain and occasional sun. We eat together and we snuggle on the love seat while I write, watch videos or talk on the phone. She takes me on a walk through the woods every day, rain or shine around 3:00. She knows that’s when I’m ready to leave my desk. We know each other’s ways and rhythms. But she is not my child.

Annie will eat poop, plastic, pens, and paper clips if I don’t stop her. She wakes me up when the thunder scares her. She insists on constant belly rubs. She won’t let me eat without sharing. But she’s a lot less annoying than some people. Plus she’s always up for a hug, and she thinks I’m wonderful. How many 11-year-old humans are that agreeable?

I know there are people who consider dogs and cats their fur babies. I wrote about them in my Childless by Marriage book. Some go so far as to dress them in coats and sweaters and push them in baby strollers. They give birthday parties for their pets. I don’t do that with Annie.

Do I tell Annie she’s the best dog in the world? All the time. Do I tell her I love her? Constantly. Do I take her outside and make sure she goes potty? Every day. But she is not my child. She’s something different but equally wonderful. She is my friend, and I thank God for her.

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What is your relationship with your animals? Are they your children? Do they make up for not having them? Do your parents accept them as “grandchildren?”

6 thoughts on “No, my dog is not my child substitute

  1. I dote on them all very much, but they are not replacement babies. I don’t celebrate their birthdays or anything but my love is consistent and pure for them. Anyone who thinks a pet is a baby substitute has not walked this journey.


  2. During our infertility journey we had a cat. We loved her. She has since gone.

    Two childless relatives have pets that they’re often talking about and other people ask after, as they would normally talk about and ask after children. I don’t want any more pets for my own good reasons. Not having them also suits me because I don’t want relatives thinking they are a substitute that I should make do with.


  3. A wonderful post, thank you for sharing your thoughts, I agree wholeheartedly with you, and your comments made me smile!

    I adore my dog, but it’s because I have always adored dogs and not because I don’t have children or am infertile. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with various dogs and cats throughout my life, way before loss and infertility, and they all hold a special place in my heart.

    No pet could ever compensate from having your own child; they are hairy, often naughty, occasionally barking/meowing, daft, greedy, comical, entertaining, sitting in your seat whenever you stand up, bundles of pawsomeness. It’s their idiosyncrasies that I think I enjoy the most about them, the feel of their fur, the being able to rest my cold feet on my pooch on a cold night, snuggles on the sofa, edging the dog (who seems to miraculously grow to the size of a pony from the size of a small, hairy beast when lying on my bed) around with my legs so I can move to a more comfy position during the night!

    I don’t get to take time off work if my dog is sick, nor do I get any special dispensation to be able to leave work to tend to my dog. I have to rely on being able to take leave, provided nobody else is off or get the dog walkers to keep a close eye on her and get her to my local vets if I’m unable to. Yes, I hire dog walkers, but only because both mine and my husband’s hours changed around the same time and we were both going to be out of the house at the same time all of a sudden and it wasn’t fair on our pooch. I have to purchase dog insurance for her and pay for all her medical needs, unlike if I had a child here in the UK.

    I should add here that my dog is also incredibly licky and has been known to thoroughly wash friends ears, shaved heads, feet, hands, my blanket, eye socket and elbow whenever she decides she’s homing in on a random unprotected ‘lick zone’, much ‘to my disgust. In fact, the more disgust I express, the more delight she finds in doing it!


  4. I call my little cockapoo (cocker-poodle mix) my baby, and my (human) daughter refers to her as her “sissy.” When my dog was a baby, I took her to see my father and she was always on my lap. My father later said, “There’s no question that puppy considers you her mother.” Then my sister-in-law always asks after me and my “girls.” So there’s a consensus in our family that my dog is my other “baby!”

    More seriously, I think there are similarities between having a dog or other animals and a human child. For example, I will most likely outlive my dog; hopefully, and in all likelihood, my daughter will outlive me. My daughter will be independent of me some day; my dog never will. On the other hand, I’m very proud when my daughter gets a good mark in school, and I’m always pleased when my dog understands a command (both cockers and poodles are on the list of the top 15 smartest breeds). So I guess I have the best of both worlds!


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