When asked if I “own” a dog, I frequently find myself replying, “Yes, I have a dog.” But even then the word “have” implies that your dog is an object or possession. “I have a dog” makes it sound like he’s lodged in your side like a third arm or something. I could say that I “live with” a dog or that I “coexist” with a dog, but people might need more of an explanation. Often, I delight in saying that I gave spiritual birth to a second child who just happens to be a dog.
Parenting a Dog
As with all children, no matter how good a parent you are, your little ones are bound to act up at the most inopportune times and places. Part of being a good dog mom is not to sweat it if your pooch doesn’t behave as Miss Manners at the dog park. The only people who will go home gossiping about your little lady in all likelihood have nothing better to do. Just let go of it. Kids are kids, even if they are dogs.
Any parent who has more than one child will tell you that he or she is much more relaxed now, having learned from the first child that it’s not necessary to hide in the baby aisle the entire time Junior is having a tantrum. Children teach us patience—perhaps that’s the miracle of tantrums, shedding, and destroyed furniture.
Levity Goes a Long Way
When it comes to excuses for my dog’s behavior (she’s not perfect, nor am I), I try to use humor to diffuse any stress she may cause me or others. Very casually I’ll tell people she is my second child, who, due to some bad genes somewhere in my family, was born with excessive hair growth and bad teeth. Then I’ll finish with an appropriate apology for the drool on their cherished accessory.
As a behaviorist, I am supposed to clarify that “dogs are not people.” But they do seem to know how to push our buttons to get attention. They also seem to know just what kind of facial expression to throw at us when hoping for the rest of our ice cream or French fries. (Fortunately for me and my dog, I have cut out most fat from my diet.) And, like the husband you forget needs some mothering too, dogs have no idea that something as natural as shedding can make you speak in tongues from time to time.
There are so many similarities between dogs and children. My child has been known to beg for food on more than one occasion, and so has my dog. My child whines at me to take him to the park; throws up in the car; breaks toys, glasses, and collectibles—and so does his sister, my dog.
It really is OK to treat your dog like your child, as long as you don’t get the two and their unique needs mixed up. Express your animal love freely, but remember: Robby’s toothbrush is the blue one with the rocket, Spot’s is the red one with the bone, and your husband’s is the one that you’re often tempted to clean the tile with when he’s in the doghouse.