Posted in Thoughts on...Thursdays

Thoughts on…Thursday: Dogs* vs. Children

*For the purposes of this blog, I will mention dogs, only because I have the most experience with dogs.  But it can apply to all pets: cats, bunnies, ferrets, rats, birds, hedgehogs…whatever’s your pleasure.  🙂

I thought for awhile on how to even approach this lightly, but realized I might end up sitting on this forever.  So I’m just going to dive right into it.

I’m not a parent to a human child, though (I think) I want to be eventually.  More on the parenthetical later…

I am, however, a dog owner, and have been for a little over seven years now.  It’s the first pet I’ve ever had, and I am so in love with him.  I find myself just staring at him in admiration at who he is and how cute he is and how amazing he is.  I hug him goodnight almost every day, thanking him for being in my life as a part of my family.

It wasn’t always that way, though.  As I mentioned before, he is my very first pet.  Before that time, I was always just a little bit afraid of dogs.  Not so much as to run the other way when I saw one, but if one jumped on me, I’d feel myself tense up.  I’d let a dog lick my hand or sniff me, but I would always be on alert that they may bite me.  Even when we first got Dexter (the name he had at the pound, so not sure if he was named after Dexter’s Laboratory or Dexter from the TV series.  We didn’t feel like confusing him by changing his name, so it stuck), I was a little nervous when he would jump on me and lick my face or get close to me.  I just wasn’t used to having a dog yet.  But I did choose him out of all the other dogs we saw (in fact, my husband walked right by him, dismissing him as being “too furry”…he didn’t want to deal with all the fur on the carpet afterwards), so I wasn’t about to go back on my decision!

I quickly got over my fear of him, and, consequentially, pretty much every other dog.  (Also more on that later, I promise.)  My family, though, wasn’t quite as welcoming.  As most pound dogs (and most puppies, for that matter) are apt to be, mine had some severe separation anxiety the first few months we had him.  The first time we brought him over to stay at my parents’ house, my parents insisted he sleep in the car by himself (side note: he’s quite comfortable staying in the car by himself now, but not so much back then).  I agreed to live by their rules while at their house (I want to say it was sometime during Christmas…I don’t make it a habit to stay at my parents’ house when I have a place of my own), so grudgingly put Dexter in the car and shut the door.  He barked and cried and whined up a storm as soon as I closed the door, and my heart broke as I went into the house.  I tried to fall asleep, but could hear him barking from inside the house.  When I couldn’t take it anymore, I informed my mother that I was going to sleep in the car with Dexter so he wouldn’t be so panicked.  She scoffed at me: “You’re crazy.  It’s cold out there.”
“I’ll bring blankets.  Come to think of it, I should probably bring one for Dexter, too.”
“Sleep in here with the humans.  He’s just a dog.  He’ll be fine.”

“It’s okay, Mom.  I’m going.  I don’t want to leave him alone.”  I started to gather some of our heaviest comforters, but my mom stopped me.

“Fine, bring him inside,” she conceded.  “But only in the laundry room.  And make sure you close the door.”

So I brought Dexter inside the laundry room, made him a comfy little nest of blankets, kissed him on the snout, and closed the door.

Big mistake.  I listened to his pained howling until I couldn’t take it anymore.  The hubby and I ended up sleeping in the laundry room with Dex that night.  To this day, I’m not sure if my mom knew about that.

Of course, Dexter got more independent.  There are days that he voluntarily doesn’t sleep in the same room, mostly because he’s too lazy to move.  But if we leave him in the car, he doesn’t freak out anymore.  At the same time, my mom spoils our dog rotten with treats, and sometimes finds him napping at her feet (no more being locked up behind a closed door!).

Gruffy’s family has always had a dog in it, so it was really no problem on that side.

That didn’t, however, stop either family’s desire to want a (human) grandchild.

Which brings me to my first parenthetical.  And another Gilmore Girls quote.  😀

Rachel (Luke’s old girlfriend, and for the purposes of this blog, a 30-something-year-old) just had a chat with Lorelai (another 30-something-year-old) and Lorelai’s daughter Rory.  After seeing how well-behaved Rory is, Rachel comments, “Wow.  That is one really not-annoying kid.”
Lorelai:  “Yes.  She really is not.”
Rachel:  “See, I might consider do the whole Mom thing, if I could be guaranteed that I could get one just like her.”
Lorelai:  “Oh, you can.  You just have to go to Sears.”

Incidentally, later in the series, Lorelai adopts a dog named Paul Anka…but that doesn’t really relate to the blog.  Ahem.

Hubby and I have gone back and forth many times on whether or not we really want a kid.  For the most part, I think we’re pretty pro-kid.  Don’t get me wrong, neither of us have anything against kids.  But we are both fully aware (perhaps me moreso than him) of how much work a kid entails.  Dogs don’t require a babysitter or a parent to stay at home to ensure it’s looked after 24/7.  Dogs, for the most part, let you sleep throughout the night.  They require less feedings.  You can leave dogs at home if your friends ask you out for drinks or a party or a movie or dancing.  You don’t really hear people saying, “I’m too young to have a dog.  I want to enjoy being young and adventurous first before I settle down.”  I don’t toss and turn at night wondering if I’ve done a good job of raising my dog (okay, fine…maybe sometimes I do, but not as much as I would about my kid).  Children are a huge commitment and life change, and I certainly don’t take having one lightly.  At the same time, there is a lot of love among me, my husband, and Dexter, and we all can’t wait to share that love with the kid.  I’m excited to see this kid grow up, play, take its first steps, see what kind of wonderful things they’ll contribute to this world.  And, well, kids are cute.  But that’s not the first and only reason I’d want one.  🙂

It bears repeating:  I have nothing against children.  By no means am I saying dogs are better than children.  Not at all.  But here’s the rub:  I’m not saying children are better than dogs, either.  I view dogs and children as equals.  This, perhaps, is where I’ll get some criticism and/or comments, and that’s good.  I welcome them (as long as you keep them civil, of course).

Now, I’m not saying that dogs and children are the same thing.  Of course, humans and canines are completely different creatures and should be treated as such.  What I’m saying is that if I were asked to pick whom I love more, it would be impossible.  Both are part of my family, and I wouldn’t get rid of either one on a whim.  Again, I don’t actually have a child yet, but I’m 99.9% sure that opinion’s not going to change once I do have one.

I also have to disprove (at least in my case) the widely-held theory that people have pets to appease their maternal/paternal need.  If I really wanted to have a kid instead of a pet right now, let me tell you, I’d have one.  I’d stop at nothing to get one, whether naturally or adopting.  So having a dog is not my “cop-out” of being a parent.  The reason I own a dog is not because I’m too lazy to play a full-parental role.  That’s as ridiculous as positing that people have kids because they really want pets.  I’m not going to take my kid out for a walk on a leash (whooole other blog post topic!!), and I don’t think parents are going to throw a ball to their kid, expecting them to catch it in their mouth.  Pets and children serve very different, yet equally important, roles in a family’s life.

Which is why I cringe a little when I’m called Dexter’s “Mommy.”  I’m not his Mommy.  That title is reserved for my human kid.  I prefer being called his owner, because being an owner is so much different than being a parent.  “Mommy” is reserved for the person who kisses boo-boos, annoyingly judges potential boyfriends/girlfriends, tells my kid they can do anything they set their mind to, holds their hand when they cross the street.  “Mommy” is a title given to those who have a child who can call them so (whether through speech or sign language).

My heart breaks when some people view dogs in a less-serious light than children.  In my opinion, dogs are no more expendable than children (i.e., none of them are just things to have on a whim and give away if you change your mind and it gets to be too hard to take care of them).  Potential dog-owners should give just as much thought as to how a dog will change the family dynamic as potential-parents give thoughts to having a child.  When you get a dog, you should understand that it belongs to you until either it or you passes away.  I may get some heat for this, but I absolutely abhor it when a pet owner has a child then decides to get rid of the pet because they don’t want the added responsibility, or they’re afraid the pet will hurt the child, or are afraid the child may be allergic to the pet.  Or, in some instances, pets are given away to a pound because the place they move to doesn’t accept pets.  I know life is hard to plan, but one should really take these possibilities into consideration before getting a pet.  If you plan on having a child and don’t like the idea of your child interacting with a pet, don’t get a pet.  Simple as that.  I think that may be one of the biggest reasons why I both do and don’t want a kid right away.  I do, because I want our child to be able to meet our wonderful dog before he dies (he’s 8 right now, so I’ve sadly acknowledged the fact that he probably won’t be around much longer).  I’m looking forward to seeing them play together.  I’ve seen Dexter play with friends’ kids, and he’s just wonderful with them.  At the same time, I can’t say for absolutely certain how he’ll be around our child, so I don’t want to jump into parenthood without taking that into account first.

I’ve also heard the argument that children are better than pets because children are an investment in your future care.  As the saying roughly goes, “Pets are nice and all, but who will take care you when you’re old?  Certainly not a pet.”  To which I say, not true.  At all.  How many stories are out there about therapy animals who help to heal those in the hospital?  Pets love you unconditionally.  They don’t hold grudges (in other words, they can’t get you a BAD retirement home out of spite for giving them a bad childhood).  They cuddle and nuzzle and are there for you to just pet.  That certainly sounds like you’re being taken care of to me.

After all that’s said and done, though, I feel I get more genuinely excited about dogs than children.  I coo over dogs, pet them, have a special place in my heart for them.  When I go to a dog park, I want to know their name and how old they are, and always say how cute they are to their owners.  Not so much with kids.  I don’t have an overwhelming need to have them.  Yet picturing my life without a dog…I can’t even bear that thought.  My heart doesn’t swell when I see a newborn like it does when I see a dog.  I think babies are cute, but I don’t squeal in delight when I see them, or try to play with their tiny little hands.  What that says about me, I don’t know, but I thought it was something interesting to note.

What do you guys think about all of this?  Do you disagree and think that children are better than pets?  What of you readers out there who have both?  Who have only pets?  Who only have children?  I would love to hear from a wide range of people on this topic.  🙂

And, because I can’t resist showing off (what proud parent or pet owner can?), here’s another cute picture of Dexter:

To Loving Responsibly and Unconditionally!

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on…Thursday: Dogs* vs. Children

  1. So much to respond to! As you know I have pets and a toddler. The pets came first. Three cats, one who has a broken arm, that we are taking to a specialist surgeon tomorrow morning to see if it can be repaired. I agree that pets should not be discarded due to inconvience or lack of interest. I once met a guy who said blankly that he left his cat at his parents house because he was tired of getting cat hair on his clothing….Owning a pet is a responsibilty not a right. I am amazed how people will agonize over what flat screen t.v to get but pick up a kitten on the side of the road after 30 seconds of consideration. However, I won’t go so far as to say that pets are people. They are not. My cats were as important to me as a child, before I had one. Now, I still love my pets, but they don’t hold a candle to my son in order of importance or priority. Sounds heartless, I know. I think my sister put it best when we were talking once about motherhood. She said and I’m paraphrasing here that motherhood is a relationship based on such tremendous personal sacrafice that you can’t help but have it change you and become well everything really. Still your responsiblity to your pets does not end because you’ve taken on a new role as mother or in other cases a fancy new wardrobe. To me that’s like saying I’m not gonna pay rent this month cause I would rather use the money to go on a vacation. Come on people we are adults right? That means we’ve gotten past the impetuous pull of childhood and recognized that there is virtue in doing the right thing. Sometimes this means paying hundreds in non refundable pet deposits, and thousands in unexpected vet bills. Sometimes it means spending the night sleeping in a laundry room 🙂 As pet ownership compares or competes with parenthood, it doesn’t. I would say it’s like apples and oranges. They are both living creatures who you love and have a responsiblity to but no matter how many legs my son humps I’m not going to have him neutered. They just aren’t the same thing. Please don’t take this as me saying kids are better or that a life without kids is some how unfulfilled. I don’t believe that is anymore true than saying a life without pets is unfulfilled. I would say to someone who is thinking of getting a pet that they need to consider the cost, time commitment, and lifestyle sacrifices that will have to be made to fullfill your obligations to that animal. If someone were asking me about having a baby my advice would be similar with some added notes on it wrecking your body, your social life, your sex life, and your sleep 😉

    1. Lauren,
      Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog! I value everyone’s reply very much. 🙂
      One thing I’ve noticed as far as a pattern with people who pets and kids is that the pets have always been in the equation before the kids. I know there are exceptions, but I certainly don’t know any right now. I have one friend who has a kid who wants to get a dog in the summer, but his “kid” is a teenager and so doesn’t have as much to worry about as far as pet-kid interaction than those with babies or toddlers (at least that’s what I think in my humble opinion).
      I’m sorry to hear about your cat. I’m sure hoping that the broken arm will be able to be healed!
      That brings up another thing…vet bills. As you so eloquently said, owning a pet is a responsibility, not a right. To me, that means pets are indeed part of the family and should receive the care that you would provide for any other family member. That includes paying for surgeries, vet visits, meds, and vaccines, even when it’s inconvenient for you. It’s all a part of being a responsible pet owner. I don’t know how other people feel, but if Dexter happens to contract a life-threatening illness (knock on wood he doesn’t) that I know has a chance of being cured through treatment, I will pay for that treatment. Without a doubt, I would of course do that for anyone else in my family, future kid absolutely included.
      But there are some who don’t take situations like that into account and decide instead to either let the pet suffer or give it up for adoption. I would never do that with my child…why would I do that with a pet?
      Anyways, I’m getting off topic here.
      Loving your chid more than your pets doesn’t sound heartless at all. I don’t doubt that there is a maternal love that is incredibly undescribable but oh-so-powerful–a love that one couldn’t possibly understand until one is a mother themselves. Being that I am not a mother yet, I can’t understand; I can only imagine. I’m pretty sure that my paradigm will shift like you wouldn’t believe once I become a parent. But it’s so hard at this point to imagine loving something/someone more than this creature I’m currently taking care of.
      That being said, I also agree that pet ownership and parenthood are vastly different things. It is absolutely like apples and oranges, and I guess it wasn’t fair for me to even start comparing them.
      Thank you also for saying that a life without kids isn’t necessarily unfulfilled. Since you are a mother, that opinion holds a lot of water. Of course, I have met your son, and he is so absolutely adorable that I would rightly feel so fulfilled if I had him as a kid. 😀
      But it’s rare to hear, being a married person, that a child isn’t necessary to have a wonderful life. I am told so much that having children is and should be one of the biggest reasons to get married. I say that people should get married because they’ve found someone they love with all their heart and want to spend the rest of their lives with.
      I appreciate your baby advice and will take them to heart. Even with all the added notes you supplied about your body, social life, sex life, and sleep, I know many mothers wouldn’t trade their child for the world.
      I look forward to feeling that all-encompassing maternal love…one day. 🙂

  2. Ok, well you know I’m a dog nut. And recently I’ve taken a liking to cats too:) I have always had dogs and they’ve always been a strong part of my family. I now have three dogs and a cat, which I proudly call my fur babies. I used to think that I would love my animals and my baby equally, once he arrived. But I gotta tell you, things changed. I still love my fur babies, but it’s a different kind of love. I found a type of love for my son that I didn’t even know existed. It is so incredibly deep and strong. So I could never compare the love for my animals to that of my baby. However, I completely agree with you, that animals are a lifelong commitment. And that you should think very long and hard about whether or not you’re ready for it. It drives me up the wall when people give up their animals after they have babies. For the most part it’s laziness. It is a LOT of freaking work to keep up with a baby and all the animals. But I love them to pieces and it’s worth it. Not to mention, they’re all housetrained and out of the puppy chewing phase. So they’re not as much trouble as they once were.

    I think animals are much easier to take care of than babies too. You’re absolutely right in saying that you can do whatever you want with a dog/cat. But once you have a baby, that luxury fades. It’s not that bad though, you adjust and learn how to adapt to your new life. It’s not as hard as everyone makes it out to be. I love taking my baby everywhere with me, so I don’t see the issue. And if I need a night alone, either hubby watches him, or we’ll bring him to the mother-in-law. We are lucky we don’t have to hire a babysitter. Though that day may come too.

    If you’re not ready for kids, there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t let yourself get pressured into something you don’t feel you’re ready for. Because a good friend of mine gave me some great advice once and I now understand how right she was. You’ll never be ready for a kid. Financially, emotionally, etc. But when it’s here, you’ll learn and you’ll make it work. It’s so true. I thought we were ready in every aspect. But there are still things that surprise and worry me. I don’t lie awake every night wondering if I’m doing a good job taking care of my baby. I do wake up randomly and check if he’s breathing. And the nighttime feedings aren’t so bad, because he goes to sleep right after again. I’ve been lucky that my baby has slept through the night since about 8 weeks, with the exception of his growth spurts.

    1. Cindy,
      One of the earliest memories I have about you is your dog Daisy. And yes, cats are pretty cool too. The hubby and I are actually discussing getting one for ourselves. 🙂
      I appreciate you admitting that you thought you would love your animals and baby equally. I am glad to know that I’m not the only one. I like what I said to Lauren so much that I’ll repeat it here:
      I don’t doubt that there is a maternal love that is incredibly undescribable but oh-so-powerful–a love that one couldn’t possibly understand until one is a mother themselves. Being that I am not a mother yet, I can’t understand; I can only imagine. I’m pretty sure that my paradigm will shift like you wouldn’t believe once I become a parent. But it’s so hard at this point to imagine loving something/someone more than this creature I’m currently taking care of.
      I’m glad to know that being a mother isn’t as hard as I’d imagine it to be. Or perhaps you just got incredibly lucky? Either way, I’m glad to hear that the role of motherhood is treating you well. I can only hope that I will be that lucky, too. 🙂 I think I’ll probably love taking my baby with me too, if not just to show off how cute he/she will be, then to make sure I can keep an eye on him/her. We’re also incredibly blessed to have both sets of parents close by as a stand-by babysitter so we can have date nights or something. In fact, the mother-in-law has explicitly announced that once we have a child, she will reduce her hours to part-time so that she can have time with her new grandbaby (she has the luxury to be well-off enough that it wouldn’t hurt their financial situation). At the same time, I don’t want to be completely reliant upon that option. I have a stubborn streak that wants to prove I can do it all on my own (with the help of the hubby, of course). I realize that it’s foolish to not ask for any help when it’s needed. I’m sure that’ll quickly change as soon as I’m a parent, and I’ll ask for any help I can get.
      I’ve also heard the adage that one will never be ready for a kid, and that it just works itself out once you have one. In the back of my mind, though, I think that’s what’s most keeping me from being a parent right now. I feel there are so many things I have to have in order before bring a child into the world. I want to feel responsible enough to be a parent, and I don’t feel that way at the moment. My husband and I have both agreed, though, that if I were to accidentally get pregnant say, tomorrow, we’d happily take on the challenge. We couldn’t say the same thing even a year ago. So I think we’re making strides to getting used to the fact that we’re not teenagers anymore…we are old enough to be parents (some would argue overdue in age to be parents). Okay, fine, I think it’s more me than my husband who’s having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I’m old enough to be a parent now. But whatever. 😉
      I do think I will be that parent who will worry about my parenting skills. That’s just built in to who I am. I’m glad to know that you wake up randomly to see if he’s breathing. I do that exact same thing with my dog. 🙂
      Thank you for giving me some perspective in parenthood. With what you’ve said, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore.

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