There are few situations I dread more than a young couple with a new pet they refer to as “our child”. I’m not talking every young couple with a pet, mind you, but specifically those that refer to him or her as a kid. Though you might expect these to be the most involved and conscientious owners, and oftentimes they are, just as often you see them about a year or two later with a stroller and a decidedly changed attitude. And then you don’t see them at all.
Note to Allison: You Personally Shouldn’t Get a Dog. Don’t Speak for Me.
Case in point: Allison Benedikt, the author of the recent Slate piece “The One Thing No One Tells You Before You Have Kids: Don’t Get a Dog“, her story of dog ownership gone awry that unsurprisingly begins with her boyfriend surprising her with a border collie/American Eskimo mix she hadn’t asked for. And it went OK, until she got pregnant and suddenly realized her dog was not a child, it was a dog, and she didn’t really want one after all.
I have no problem with people who refer to their pets as children/furkids/what have you, as long as they do so with the understanding that their pet is, in fact, not a human child surrogate but an actual animal. Loving your pet like a kid: fine. Expecting your pet to act in proxy for a human until an actual human comes along, then resenting them for not being a human: not ok. And therein lies the difference.
The problem I have with pieces like Allison’s is that it dismisses her pet with a shrug and an “oh well, this is what happens when you have kids, amiritelol?” And the answer to that is, it doesn’t have to.
The Truth About Dog Ownership After Kids
When you bring a new baby home, the dog slips down a notch and experiences neglect the likes of which you promised wouldn’t happen but happens anyway. This neglect applies equally well to your spouse, yourself, other children in the house, your career, everything. This is not a unique phenomenon. But guess what? Your dog forgives you.
Your dog is not a human. I repeat, your dog is NOT A HUMAN. This means several things:
1. Yes, Allison, they will continue to do things like shed and lick themselves and all the other things they did before. On the plus side, no diapers.
2. If you pressured yourself to participate in doggy weekly playgroups and aromatherapy sessions and are feeling guilty that you no longer want to do that, that’s on you. Your dog doesn’t care. Because he’s a dog and doesn’t get guilt. Give him a brushing (see 1) and a bone and you’re all good.
Parenthood Isn’t The End of the World for you Or your Pet
Seriously. People have been doing it for thousands of years; yes, things change afterwards, but you deal and get through it. If you have an epiphany afterwards that what you really wanted was a human, not a dog/cat/whatever, that’s on you, not the pet.
If you truly are in a situation where it can’t work; severe allergies or safety issues or the like, do the right thing and find a good home yourself instead of placing the burden on a shelter (in which case it might be the end of the world for your pet).
If there is one thing I could tell anyone before they have kids, it’s actually very simple: Don’t get a dog unless you want a dog. Because surprisingly enough, they’re going to stay one long past the time you bring home baby.