In defense of treating pets like children

December 1, 2014

Let me tell you about my boy. He’s 6 years old, smart as a "Jeopardy!" champion and as cute as a baby bunny at springtime. He’s my very own little bundle of joy, and I burst with pride every time I look at him.

Bailey, the bundle in question, also happens to be a dog, and the fact that I call him my baby apparently irritates some people.

I get what they’re saying, sometimes in strident, preaching tones. Dogs are dogs, cats are cats, and they shouldn’t be treated like our children.

Pet lovers know the difference; we’re just asking "What’s wrong with it?"

Bailey is a dog, but does that make him less a favorite son?

I’ve had a long line of pets starting, like most people, when I was a child. Tippy, Tippy Two, Pandora, Fritz and Pancho.

Then there were the cats, far too many to name. As we lived on a dairy farm, there was little chance of the cats hanging around the house, not with field and barn mice and fresh milk luring them away.

The first cat that was mine and mine alone was Andy, a bruising Siamese tomcat who was given to me by a friend. Andy had been the pet of her friend, but when he kept spraying the furniture, the woman wanted him out of there. My friend, Sandy, had Andy fixed and that stopped that.

Andy did not like me much in the beginning, or so it seemed. He would knock things — heavy things — off a bookcase and onto my head while I slept.

We eventually reached an accord and became devoted to each other. Andy was a great cat, and I loved him deeply. Like a son.

After Andy died, I got Sarah, another Siamese with an attitude problem. My mother, who was living with me, decided to get a cat, too, so we also adopted Matt, a Maine coon. They lived with us for 15 years.

Matt was the sweetest cat I’ve ever known, but he didn’t like children. My then-2-year-old nephew, Brycen, found that out pretty quickly. Ask Brycen what a cow says and he’d say "moo." Ask him what the dog says, and he’d answer with "ruff ruff." Ask him what the cat says and he’d hiss.

Next came Bailey, a black Chihuahua and, like Matt and Sarah, a rescue pet. He was 3 when he came to live with me and cozied up inside my heart.

They were all my children. I spoiled them with toys and treats and, for the cats, pricey scratching posts, kitty condos and the finest catnip money could buy.

Bailey is no stranger to my largesse, either. His toy bin rivals Brycen’s, and I never tire of talking about him and his antics, like the one about how I bought a set of stairs for him to use to climb up on my bed (because he didn’t seem to be able to on his own). I was trying to lure him up those steps using his favorite treats when he suddenly jumped up on the bed beside me, proving that he could do it all along; he just needed the right incentive.

I take him every year to get a picture with Santa. Like most children, he does not relish sitting in Santa’s lap, but he does it for his mommy. That would be me.

I’m not apologizing for loving animals and for calling them my children. I celebrate his birthday. I hang a Christmas stocking for him. I fill my iPhone with pictures of him.

I am sorry if that offends people with, you know, actual human children. Dogs may be dogs and children may be children, but love is love.

 

 





 


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