Are Your Pets Your Fur Babies?

Fur babies. A lot of childless women are tossing this term around these days. For some reason, it makes me cringe. God knows I love my dog, but is she my baby? I sure feel like it when I’m taking her to the vet or standing on the deck at dawn saying “Go potty. Come on, please go potty.” I am responsible for the care and feeding of this creature. But I’m not her mother. Her mother was a Staffordshire bull terrier. I’m quite aware that at 5 ½, Annie is a mature dog who will soon pass me in the life cycle, get old and ultimately die while I’m still hoping for many more years of life.
My dog is my dog, my companion, my responsibility, but not my child.

I see a lot of people treating their animals as their children. An article called “Fur Babies—An Alternative to Having Kids?” on The ‘How-To’ Dog Blog addresses this fur baby situation quite well. Writer Amanda Huggett Hofland admits that she and her husband might be using their two cats and dog as practice children while they decide whether or not they want to have human children. She talks about people who throw parties for their pets, dress them up in little clothes, tell them stories, and call themselves “mom and dad.” Although it seems crazy, she finds herself doing these things, too. But are pets a valid alternative to having children?

The blog post quotes experts who raise some interesting questions about the pet-human relationship as a substitute for having babies. Ultimately it’s not the same, they conclude, although there are many benefits to be had from owning pets.

I agree. I don’t know what I’d do without Annie. But I also know that I can shut the door and go about my life without her whenever I choose, something I couldn’t do with an actual baby. I also know that right now we’re both covered with flea bites, thanks to her thick fur. Dogs are great, but dogs are not kids.

Somehow in my mind, the folks who dress dogs and cats in baby clothes are doing exactly what we did as children; they’re playing with dolls. Except these dolls are living breathing animals. What do you think? Do you treat your pets as substitute children? Is it crazy or a good way to fill the void?


Giving My Fur Baby a Bath

My big yellow dog sat patiently in the tub as I scrubbed her from nose to tail, taking time to wash her private parts and her ears, all the while talking to her and loving the feel of her under my hands. It did not matter that I was getting all wet or that an elbow injury I’ve been suffering with hurt worse. I was bathing my baby dog Annie, all 80 pounds of her.

We had had less pleasant bathing experiences, like the time I tried to wash her with a garden hose and she ran away or the time I tried to wash her in my bathroom and I wound up in a tub full of fur and stink while she remained on the floor dripping water all over. Usually I just wait until she happens to be staying at the kennel and let the people there bathe her. But sometimes a dog just has to have a bath. This time I took her to Moondoggy here in Newport, a doggy daycare and spa where they have a place dog owners can wash their own dogs.
It was perfect. Annie walked up three wooden steps into a big tub. A worker helped me loop “seat belts” over her neck, showed me a shelf full of different shampoos and scrubbers and left us to our fun. It was fun. Even Annie seemed to enjoy it. The water was the perfect temperature, and nobody was in a panic about how to wash this giant dog.
When my late husband was around, we washed our dogs in a metal tub in the back yard, one of us holding the dog while the other scrubbed. It’s not as easy with only one set of hands. But Moondoggy worked.
I couldn’t help thinking about how this is a lot like bathing one’s baby. Of course we wouldn’t put a halter around their necks or douse them with flea shampoo, but there’s that same physical closeness, that intimate touch, the loving with our hands that feels so good. I have never washed a human baby, probably never will. I suspect they’d be a lot more slippery and more responsive when I talk to them.
But Annie is my baby dog. She was eight pounds when we brought her home, about the same size as many human babies. My friends gave us a puppy shower. I showed her off to everyone, and I kept track of every milestone. (“Today she doodled outside!”) Now she’s five years old. Every day I’m at home starts and ends with Annie, taking her outside to “go potty,” feeding her, medicating her various infections and ailments, walking with her, talking to her, and loving her.
I wish I had human children, but God gave me this canine child/friend to take care of. It’s not so bad. Do you have a four-legged baby, too?

Can I sleep with you, Mom?

You know how in movies and TV shows, we see little kids climb into bed with their parents when they can’t sleep. Maybe this happens in real life, too, but how would we know, right? This morning when I got up at 5:30 to use the restroom, I heard my dog Annie shaking her tags outside the door. Darn. She was already up, despite my trying to sneak in and out. Usually I would take her outside, feed her and start my day, but it was too early, even if it is daylight in Oregon this time of year. I wanted to go back to bed. Plus I felt guilty because I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow. Annie will have a dog- and house-sitter whom she adores, but it’s not the same. So I got into bed, patted the covers and Annie flew into place beside me.
Oh, she was a happy dog, licking my face and thumping her tail. She lay her head on my shoulder, and I thought, wow, this feels good. However, there’s a good reason I don’t usually let my dog share my bed. Okay, two good reasons. One is fleas, but I thought she was flea-free. The other is that my dear 80-pound dog-daughter cannot lie still when she’s with me. She flaps her tail and paws at me unless I keep rubbing her belly. Sleep? Forget about it. I turned on the radio, and we listened to oldies while I pet her until 6:00. Then we got up. I fed her and turned on my computer while she went back to sleep. Last time I looked, she was in deep snooze mode. Me, I’ll be falling asleep at my desk all day.
But that’s dog-motherhood for you. It felt amazing having someone to hold–like a child but furrier. I’m sleepy, and I have a flea bite on my back and some tiny bruises on my breast where Annie got me with her nails when I stopped petting her. Now I’m afraid she’ll want to join me every morning. Bad mommy.