Everybody, I’d like you to meet Liam.
Liam is a thirteen-year-old Australian Shepherd/Labrador mix. He was a gift from my parents on my 16th birthday. He is the sweetest dog in the world. And I consider him my baby.
Wait, hold on. I know that some people think. They think that dogs are dogs and children are children. I’ve actually read a number of articles where people talk about this. At great length. But I have some points that I’d like to make about this particular opinion.
Depending on the breed, a dog can live to be teenagers, sixteen or seventeen years old. Sometimes they can even live longer. In that time, there will be vet visits, license fees, food bills, and more that you have pay for. You may need to pay for kennel visits, pet deposits at apartment buildings, and flight fees. You may have to replace furniture, walls, flooring, or any number of other things that were chewed on, peed on, barfed on, scratched up, etc. Pets are expensive. Without training (sometimes even with training), they can be destructive. Just like children.
Illnesses affect dogs. You take them to everything from routine physicals to possible major surgeries. They need vaccinations and medication. You have to make sure they’re properly hydrated, given a nutritional diet, and given plenty of play time, exercise, and rest. Just like children.
Dogs have moods. Some don’t like people. Some love people. Some bounce around like bouncy balls. Some stare at you with contempt when you interrupt their naps. But regardless, they have to be socialized. You have to introduce them to small children, other pets, people who may be around a lot, and you have to make sure they’re not going to bite or pee on somebody new. Just like children.
Dogs get scared. Storms, bigger/other dogs, the mailman, a random skittering leaf… and it’s up to you to comfort them. Just like children.
And the list can go on and on.
No matter if you’re caring for a human baby or a dog baby, they have very similar needs. Some people want children and a dog or two. Some people don’t like dogs, and some people would rather have dogs than children. Whether you’re “training” for a baby with a dog, raising a family friend to give your child someone to play with, or raising a dog instead of a child, you’re a parent. You’re responsible for the welfare of another living thing. So pet parents, own your parenthood. “Real” parents, we know that what you do is important. Just don’t deny that we’re important, too.