I love the internet. I love George Takei, and I love memes. I love sterile, impotent hashtag feminism. I love all of the popular opinions online and I hate all the things I’m supposed to hate. But, there’s a sentiment boiling up on social media these days that I simply cannot stand behind. More and more, I see people chiding pet lovers for encroaching on “real mom” territory. I see people expressing disdain for dog and cat owners that refer to their furry friends as children.
“You’re not a mom.”
“It’s just a dog, that’s not the same as being a parent.”
“Lady, that’s not your son and even if it were, you can’t breastfeed in here.”
People are desperate to point out that because your “child” is in fact a dog, it somehow delegitimizes the responsibility and love involved in parenting. There’s a misconception that a human can’t love an animal as much as another loves their own child. But that’s bullshit, and I’ll tell you why: because in addition to my dog Rosco, I also have a human son, and to be honest with you, I prefer the dog.
When I come home from work, my son doesn’t run up and greet me, give me kisses and show me affection. In fact he’s rude and quiet, and he expects me to just unlock him from the basement and give him dinner. Somehow, Rosco, living in the same conditions and circumstances as my son, still understands what it means to be grateful and to show affection towards your master. My son, despite my punishments and lectures, refuses to ignore all of that.
When I give Rosco a bath, it’s incredibly fun. I get to lather him up and little bubbles come off his fur. I get to watch him run around the yard, nipping at them as if they were little butterflies. He always looks so confused when he bites down and it’s nothing but air! It’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.
Bathing Mason, my son, on the other hand, is quite a struggle. Hosing him down in the garage almost makes me feel like a civil rights era policemen, and instead of fighting for equal rights, my son is fighting my demand that he cleans the gutters before I give him back his Nintendo DS. He’s protesting my decisions as a mother. Because he doesn’t have fur, there’s rarely any bubbles, and Mason is too old to appreciate or chase after bubbles anyways.
In many ways, I wish that I didn’t have a son at all, and that it was just me and the dog. I know you’re not supposed to say that, but it’s how I feel; and it’s how the dog feels too. That’s two people in this household against one; and last time I checked, that’s the literal definition of a democracy. If you disagree with that, you’re not an American. That’s not to say I don’t love my son and I don’t cherish him, I just don’t love him as much as my dog.
One of the hardest parts about being a parent is knowing that your children are going to die before you. Imagine how much worse it is when you know that your favorite child is going to die before the one that you’re sort of indifferent to. Rosco is a big dog. He’s got maybe four years left. I’ll be stuck with Mason for at least twice as long. It breaks my heart every day. But, I try to push those thoughts aside enjoy the little time I have left with my pup.
So don’t go around dictating the terms of parenthood. Don’t tell people they don’t know the joys of parenthood, the emotional connection of a provider-dependent relationship, and the pain of loss, just because they are a dog-mommy rather than a flesh-mommy. I love my dog more than my son, and I’m telling you without a doubt, if I had to choose between the two of them, I’d choose my REAL son – my dog.