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Owning a Dog Versus Parenting

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Since I’ve become a parent, one thing has been made abundantly clear: Having a baby is not the same as having a dog.

The two cannot compare, no matter how much organic food you blend and spoon-feed your dog, no matter how often your baby chews your favorite shoe and urinates on the kitchen floor.

You may be thinking, “No Shih Tzu, Sherlock.” But try telling that to some dog owners.

I have no grievance against people who simply call their pets their babies. It is cute and colloquial and speaks to their affection. I often tell my toddler to be careful around his big brother when he is about to step on Pig, our 18-pound rabbit. And I’m not out to get the people who dress up their dogs like people, teach them to bark greetings and take them to see therapists, masseurs and mediums. I’m silently judging them, naturally, but I hold no ill will.

No, I’m against the adamant aggressors — the ones who pontificate without provocation about the perfect parallels between parenting a puppy and parenting a baby and claim that if you dare to disagree, you are clearly an enemy of the canine.

Let me be very clear: Babies and doggies are different. We’ll start with the slobbery one.

Wait.

Actually, allow me to clarify further: Let’s start with the one who walks on all fours.

Nope.

Shoot, that doesn’t work, either. I promise you that having a baby is nothing like having a dog! Allow me to try one more time.

Let’s start with the furry one:

First of all, a dog has a tail. Second of all, you can leave the dog outside all day while you go to work, to the gym and grocery shopping, and no one is waiting to handcuff you for endangerment upon your return. The baby, on the other hand, is a human being.

Prior to having a baby, I was perturbed by certain dog owners’ assertions that owning a pet is the same as parenting. Since becoming a parent, however, I’ve seen my irritation grow to full-on feverish hatred. Sure, you can love your dog.

You can love your dog more than anything in the world. My first dog was, without a doubt, my best friend. He died nearly 15 years ago, and I miss him still. I always will. I’m not interested in combating love. I’m interested in combating their comparing their circumstances to the weight of worry and responsibility and the seismic shift that occurs to your lifestyle, how people perceive you and how you perceive yourself after spawning.

Good friends of mine had their baby about the same time I had my son. Like many couples, they bought a dog as a practice baby, something to lay the groundwork of responsibility and life shifting. There is a reason these pets are called practice.

A couple of months after having her child, my friend exclaimed to me: “Being a parent is so difficult! I thought it would be just like having our dog!”

It was at that time when I reminded her that they sadly had returned their dog a month after adopting it. “I know,” she said. “And this is even harder!”

Yes, this is harder. It’s much harder. But it gets easier.

Now that my son is 2, it’s getting much easier. The most noticeable difference is how he can help out by bringing me things. It’s not uncommon that I will ask him to go fetch my slippers or bring me the morning newspaper.

Uh-oh.

OK, let’s not get too excited here. Sure, my son will fetch things when I ask, but that’s not to say having a child is anything like having a dog. It’s not as if my son goes into the garden and digs holes to hide his bones or anything. Rather, my son’s favorite activity is playing ball.

Shoot!

OK, yes, dogs like to play ball like my son, but the comparisons really stop there. Dogs go to the bathroom outside, bark to get attention and are crated at night. Whereas my son goes to the bathroom in a diaper, screams to get attention and sleeps in a crib. Take that!

Um, I think I’m starting to see what you’re saying, dog owners.

OK, OK, having a baby may be a bit like having a dog. But you cat people are on your own!

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