August 26, 2013

IconAnimal lovers: stop pretending your pet is a baby

My girlfriend and I have a dog. He’s great and we love him, but he’s definitely a dog, not a baby. He’s not even a child replacement; he’s just a dog. We’re clear on the issue, but other people seem confused and insist on calling us his ‘mums’. Or, in the case of some of the dog walkers in the park who aren’t sure if we’re just housemates or something more, his “mum…s?”.

Widget as a baby (dog)

Mind you, I can see how people get confused with the whole dog/baby thing. When Widget was a puppy, I bored work colleagues endlessly with how tired I was.

“He just keeps crying!” I would wail. “He wakes every three hours! Apparently he won’t grow out of it until he’s 11 weeks’ old, maybe even 12!” I didn’t get much sympathy from the working mums of the office.

Another similarity is the ability to talk earnestly and at length about our little one’s toilet habits. We can discuss frequency, colour and consistency with no shame whatsoever. Perhaps that’s inevitable when you pick up another creature’s excrement every single day.

But despite the similarities, Widget is definitely not our son. I’m pretty sure that neither one of us, or any other human female for that matter, pushed that dog out of a vagina.

Other dog owners disagree with the semantic separation and actively prefer to be known as ‘parents’ not ‘owners’. They make their ‘children’ wear dog-shaped human clothes. They give them their favourite human names (and then later, when they have human babies too, have to give them second-best names). They kiss them on the mouth.

I know children can be disgusting too, but at least they don’t lick their own bums and eat cat poo. (Do they? I admit I don’t know much about kids.) Kiss your dog on its mouth and you might as well just miss out the middleman and… well, yes. You know what mental image I’m going for here.

Recently, while on holiday in Dorset, I saw a man casually share his ice cream with his spaniel. “A lick for you, son, and a lick for me.” Before the ice cream was finished, the dog coughed up a puddle of frothy yellow vomit. Exactly, I thought. Exactly.

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Milly Shaw


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