Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Practicing parenting

I have never liked it when people treated their pets like children. Dogs are not humans - let's not pretend they are. Sure, a pet can become a beloved "member" of the family, but it's still an animal. And the thought that you need to practice being a parent by having a pet first - ugh! I feel fairly strongly about this, and it drives me crazy when people compare pet ownership to being a parent.

So you can imagine my disgust when we got a dog seven months ago and I accidentally started referring to my husband as "daddy." I tried to avoid it, but it just came out so naturally. Since we were hoping to start a family soon, I decided to let it slide, though I was very careful not to say it in front of anyone else. And even though I was referring to us as parents, I still maintained that the differences between owning a pet and raising a child were incomparable.

And yet, the closer we get to having our baby, the more I see how having this dog has started to prepare us for her. I cringe just saying it, but it's true.

Yesterday, on our anniversary, we woke up to doggy diarrhea and vomit. My wonderful husband, now mostly immunized against the smell, cleaned it all up and walked her. I got to do the same after another blowout at lunchtime. Then last night I woke up at 3:00 in the morning to hear my devoted husband putting the dog's blankets in the washing machine after yet another episode. An hour later, we had finished clean-up, another walk, another accident, another clean-up, and a call to the emergency vet. This morning I'll be missing a meeting I've been looking forward to all month to take her in and have her checked out.

We are getting plenty of practice with self-sacrifice and bowels, and I hear those are mandatory when it comes to babies.


  1. Oh, not fun. Very not fun.

    But you are right: poop blowouts will come, frequently, and in surprisingly large quantities :) (Why did I put a smiley face there? It's a 'laugh-so-you-don't-cry' smiley.)

    Hope whatever's ailing your dog is resolved so the only blowouts you have to deal with in the future are your child's!

  2. Hope nothing is seriously wrong with your dog. Wonderful for your husband to already be in the habit of co-parenting even during the smelly, messy stuff.

  3. How funny... shortly after we got Chandler I started calling Ryan "daddy." When my husband gets off work and I can hear him walking up to the house I say, "Daddy's home!" to Chan and he gets all excited. He's a goof.

    Hope the blowouts stop soon! That does not sound pleasant. Chandler has vomited on me a couple times... major yuckage.

  4. I hate it when my mom refers to me as Lila's mom. She's my dog, I didn't give birth to her so she's not my child.

    However, I do think that animals can help prepare you for kids. I know that having Lila as a puppy really taught me patience and to not let my anger at her get the best of me.

  5. Yeah, that's why I've always said that there are some striking similarities between pet-dom and baby-dom. Not comparing pets to babies, but... just some of the surrounding circumstances and happenings, shall we say? :) Hope the puppy is better soon!

  6. It sometimes seems to me like pets can be almost as much work as children (maybe not as much emotional work, but lots of physical care). And I'm too lazy to think it worth the work for a non-human! It's good that you've learned to love your dog.

  7. Allison,
    (no snark or nastiness intended, at all, just an honest question) So would you not consider an adopted child 'my child'?

    Just a thought... :)

    Elizabeth, it warms my heart to read this (though it started out by hurting terribly), I'm not saying a dog is exactly like a child, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that having my dog has taught me more about what being a mother would be like than being a teacher (of very young children) ever could. You see, Kali has taught us how to love outside ourselves; to see innocence and fun in the smallest of things; to worry more than I thought it was possible; and to have a shared love with my husband. This pup who sleeps soundly beside me, that I fought against having, has brought more joy to my life than I thought possible. There's so much more to it than the interrupted sleep and mess cleaning up - you just have to open your heart to it, in my opinion.

  8. I hesitated to comment here, but, I guess I'm going to. I like the way you wrote this. My biggest issue with this is when owning and raising dogs prevents people from seeing the beauty and difference of raising children. While dogs may have similarities to raising children, I'm sure it pales in comparison to actually raising children. In fact, dogs are kind of the "easy way out" since there is no rational/intellectual interaction to worry about, which I imagine is the most challenging part of parenting (properly helping to form your child's psyche, etc. - as opposed to the physically demanding part). So when people start to demand public spaces for their dogs, calling them their 'children', and not having children because "how will they take care of the dogs AND a baby?" (and yes, I've heard this several times), well, I do become concerned. Practice parenting sounds like a good idea. Replacement parenting? Not so much.

    That being said, I'll be the first to say that pets are very therapeutic and you can gain much needed healing by having a furry little guy around to care for. Especially for the elderly, sick, and people who are unable to have children. I think having a pet is also good for children since they can help teach tenderness and responsibility, when clearly it's not right for children to have children!

    1. I really liked this comment! I had dogs and cats growing up. There were always "part of the family" but never referred to as my parents "children." As a mother of three small children I can't even begin to describe how irritating it can be when well meaning people (probably just trying to relate the best they can with the situation they're in with having pets) compare their dogs to my KIDS. It's not the same, it just isn't. I don't put my kid in a crate when they are peeing all over the floor because they're learning to use the toilet. I don't have "command words" that I've trained them to respond to and do what I want. I don't have the luxury of "not disciplining" them because they're small and can't do much damage. When I talk to my kids I know that what I say, how I say it, and how they interpret it can each mean totally separate things and I'm often really careful (and sometimes calculated) with the way I phrase things. When I had dogs, I wasn't worried about cursing in front of them or saying that I think so and so is a jerk or how I talked to my own mother in front of them. I didn't need to be concerned with the words I chose to speak to other adults and I didn't need to scrutinize my own character for the sake of pets- I do, however, have to do these things for the sake of my wonderful children. I don't have to concern myself with the kinds of "friends" a dog is hanging out with and what the consequences of those friendships may be. There is just such a HUGE difference that Dog-owners sans kids just don't get and when they make comparisons of how "raising kids is like training a dog" it really gets my blood boiling- because it just ISN'T.


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