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?”

Kitty purrs and puppy kisses for Christmas

My friend’s dog just died. He’s heartbroken. He took this dog everywhere with him, just adored her. He and his wife have human children and grandchildren who all live far away. In recent years, the dog was their baby. Now instead of celebrating Christmas, all he wants to do is cry. As a dog mom, I know how he feels.
For many of us, our dogs and cats are our only babies, and we treat them that way. Some people go overboard. I always feel sorry for the pets forced to wear reindeer antlers or jingle bells. That can’t be comfortable. Of course there are those folks who also dress their dogs and cats in velvet and fake-fur hats and coats or Christmas sweaters for the holidays.
Have you seen the YouTube video of the cat being wrapped like a Christmas present? You’ll laugh, I promise.You may also be tempted to watch the many other offerings there. They’re funny but also true.
How many of us hang up Christmas stockings for our fur babies or put gifts for them under the tree? Surveys have shown that nearly half of us give our pets wrapped gifts for their birthdays and Christmas. I actually don’t. My dog Annie tends to eat everything I give her, whether it’s food or not. Also, I don’t think she likes Christmas. I’m gone too much, and our schedule is all out of whack. But I know plenty of people whose pets are on the gift list.
Most of us consider our pets part of the family. But how far does that go? Do you put your pets’ names on your Christmas cards? For me, it depends on whether or not the recipient knows Annie, but there’s something about being able to write down multiple names that makes it feel more like a family. For a while in my younger days, I secretly hoped some people would see the name on my card and think I had had a baby. They didn’t need to know it was a dog.
How about you? Do you give your pets presents, dress them up for Christmas or include their names in their holiday greetings?
Bonus question: Does your family think you’re nuts?
Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your lives with me all these years. May your holidays be full of kitty purrs and puppy kisses.

Puppy love is the best

This is my baby Annie when she was just a couple months old.

At my first sight of Harley, I melted. Is there anything cuter than a Labrador retriever puppy? I don’t think so, but my dog is half Lab, so I’m biased. My across-the-street neighbors adopted Harley a few weeks ago. Their beloved cat Toby had disappeared, probably killed by a coyote or other local predator. The husband, Pat, swore they would not get any more cats. It’s too dangerous for them out here. He had always been a dog person anyway. And the wife, Paula, tried to go along with it, but she says the hole in her life was just too big. She didn’t have any kids, and she needed something to fill that need to nurture. So they got Harley.

Harley is cream colored, about eight weeks old now, small enough to carry around like a baby, soft and cuddly, but his massive feet promise that he’s going to be a big dog when he grows up. His bark is just a squeak. He’s learning about the world around him. Paula is already training him, taking him for short walks on a long blue leash and taking him to work with her every day. They are bonding like every mother and child.

Five and a half years ago, I had two baby dogs, Annie and Chico. My memories of that time are a blur of piddle, poop and chewed up furniture, papers, toys, and shoes. They were adorable. I took tons of pictures and wrapped my life around those dogs. They were my babies. My friends even threw me a puppy shower, complete with cake and presents. It was a beautiful and exhausting thing. And I’m glad it’s over. Raising babies, whether they have four legs or two, is hard work. I don’t want to do it again.

But oh, like those women who gush over human babies, I turn into a baby-talking mess when I see puppies, and I’m full of advice for the new “moms.” I’m rarely impressed by people’s baby pictures of little humans. They’re kind of funny-looking really. But puppy pictures, oh yes, I can’t get enough.

Like me, Paula married an older man, and she does not have children. But now she has Harley. I think we’ll be spending a lot more time together.

Is a dog a real substitute for a child? Probably not. But there’s nothing like a puppy to ease the pain.