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Childless by Choice and Equality Under Dog

dog mom

I never wanted kids but having dogs woke up a motherly, protective instinct I wondered about—as in “would I be a good mother?”

Answer: Yep, I am a pretty damned good mom. In fact, better than average for sure.

I recall being in the hospital to have my uterus removed back at the turn of the millennium. Hospital beds were pretty full due at the time, so the only spot for me was on the maternity ward. Some friends were horrified for me, but I took it in stride. It didn’t bother me to see women pacing in labor. I was there to have my wretched pain go away. Besides, my then partner, now wife, snuck our Cocker Spaniel into the hospital in a baby blanket to see me. Squee.

Life is pretty damn good for me from a childless perspective.

Being childless is a choice and has zero to do with my sexuality. I live with, share life with, love, and am legally married to a woman since 2014. You see, I met and fell in love with my now-wife in 1992 but the law would not allow me to marry her legally until 2014.

Some lesbian couples have children by choice: they have that calling, it is a yearning deep within and they want/desire kids for a variety of reasons. The Bryants never had that calling.

And then came Brandy. And now there’s Dexter.

brides

I feel like a mom to our dogs. I am not alone in these sentiments. Darlene feels like a mom to our dogs, too.

Even though we consider ourselves dog moms, we know that dogs are not children. If the fates honor me with my dog-sharing life for a solid 15 years or more, unlike a teenager at age 15, my dog isn’t asking for the car keys, won’t enter the dating world, and will never become a source of gray hair as I worry because he is out 10 minutes past curfew. His time is getting limited, at this ripe old age.

The lifespan of a dog is short — a flicker, if you will, compared with a human’s. He will pass from this world and leave behind a hole in my heart where it used to be, well, “whole.” I’ve been down this road, and I will again and again. How about you?

I live a bit more vicariously and in the moment since becoming a dog mom: And after all, aren’t dogs always living in the moment? They’ve taught me well, these creatures kids called dogs. I’ve yet to see my dog worry about what just happened, or panic at something that’s going down tomorrow. Dogs have taught me to live life to its fullest because at any time, it can end.

Dogs live short lives; we know this when we accept the responsibility of dog parenting.

There are two issues that tend to make this dog mom’s blood boil when it comes to dog parenting and loving my spouse and those are:

  1. People who don’t like the term dog parenting. Solution: Don’t call yourself a dog parent.
  2. People who don’t agree with same-sex marriage. Solution: Don’t marry someone of the same sex.

A few years ago, someone commented on this blog, saying, “Maybe I am just an old grumpy hag but I love dogs for who they are: descendants of the wolves with incredible characteristics that go back to the beginning of time,” Grumpy Old Hag wrote. “Anthropomorphizing dogs does not honor them with the respect and adoration they deserve.”

Humanizing our pets has taken a stronghold on this country; in fact, some might argue that “dogs are the new kids” is becoming a worldwide trend. Dogs are very child-like and remain that way for life; they are not humans and I am sure the majority of pet parents would agree on this.

tote bag

So if Grumpy Old Hag is reading this—and for all the naysayers who sneer at the notion of dogs as kids—love is not limited to one species. I do ascribe human attributes to my dog and I always will.  I know, however, he is not a human, but is a kid and oh so much more.

I spoil my dog and will continue to advocate others do the same. He certainly does not need eight leashes, four water bowls, a weekly trip (or more) to the pet supply store, organized play dates,  a blog inspired by his life with mine and a canine-centric career choice. Dogs, however, complete me, in a complete uninhibited, selfless, loving way that does not mirror any notion akin to wolves. Treating my dog as a kid makes me happy, plain and simple. I am sure my kid would be happy with an old blanket and ratty tennis ball as a play toy.

cocker sleeping

Here Come the Brides

It was with great pleasure that our dog was able to attend my surprise “wedding” in 2014 when my spouse swept me off my feet and romanced me from the skies and to the core of my soul.

If you missed it, a surprise proposal took place, which you can read about here.

Fast forward to present day and the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of same-sex marriages in states like Ohio and a few others that ban them. Most trusted resources expect the Supreme Court to side with same-sex couples at some point this summer. This means same-sex marriage would finally be legalized throughout the United States.

I wonder, though, what does this mean if it does not happen? My love won’t change. Who God made me won’t change. Being in love with a woman won’t change. Loving and parenting our dog won’t change.

Family is family. The definition of family has evolved but I will agree with those who want to preserve the sanctity of it: A family need not be related, though. According to Merriam Webster, a family is defined as, “any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family.”

And what is traditional? Is a single parent family traditional? Is a straight couple without children considered traditional? What about two vertically challenged people who adopted children from overseas: Are they traditional?

A family is a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation: And that affiliation is love. Family should also be rooted in consenting adults doing what is best for their own unique microcosm of life. Same-sex couples should be allowed that legal piece of paper proclaiming their marriage and there are countless reasons why, as I detail here.

lesbian married

One Nation Under God

As of this writing, same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states. By the end of this Supreme Court term, either same-sex couples will be able to wed in all 50 states…and this is the goal and hope…or same-sex marriage bans might be reinstituted in most of the states where they’ve previously been struck down.

Want to hear something really cool? According to NPR.org, in 1996, public opinion polls showed, on average, only 27 percent of the public favored legalization of same sex marriage. This year, public opinion polls put the approval number nationally at well over 50 percent.

We are making progress. Consider that fifty years ago, every state in this country criminalized homosexual sex, and even the American Civil Liberties Union did not object. One of the best articles I ever read that details how the shift occurred where in 2015 my rights may become a reality protected under the law can be found here.

It matters to have the Supreme Court allow same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. I never thought I would live long enough to see the day. My spouse has had hope for much longer, reminding me on occasion that “it’s happening, Carol, just wait and see.”

I watched, I waited, and the time is now. I cannot wait for the day when America will join the ranks of the other civilized nations in granting full recognition to same-sex couples.

For now, I am off to walk my dog, kiss my spouse goodnight, and pray that Love Must Win. It always does.

I am sharing this post with my friend, Ryan Jordan, of Bones & Fishes blog. Please read his dog dad perspective on things. Oh, and Ryan happens to be a gay man, which is just one part of who he is.

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27 Comments

  1. Great post Carol. I was just listening to the story about the social shift in public opinion regarding same sex marriage, it really is amazing. Regardless of public opinion though, you are completely right. Family is made up of the people you love and who love you. My family consists of Kevin and I and our fur-children, and I don’t see anything wrong with that either. Maybe someday it will include human children as well, we will see what the future holds. For right now, I couldn’t ask for more. I love and parent creatures whose happiness and mere existence improves my whole life. Like you said, they would be happy with snuggles and tennis balls, but I love them and love spoiling them a bit. Childless by choice is a decision that so many people just don’t understand and are not very empathetic to. I hope that articles like this can open other’s eyes to the very full and loving lives people without children have too.

  2. I love “love” when it is genuine, real, and everlasting. Take care – Cathy, the Doodle Mom 🙂 that’s how I see myself and that’s what I call myself. I love my simplicity towards life. Dogs have taught me that over the years. Have a good one girl, and give Dar a high five for me!

  3. Great post- thanks for sharing. My 2 human children, now older, call Kilo the Pug “the favourite child”. He triggers many of the nurturing instincts a baby does, and he has many of the characteristics of a human toddler. He is usually very happy to see me and very affectionate (unless of course I am interrupting one of his many crimes). He is so cute- those big eyes are similar to your babies’. Plus I agree, he encourages me to live for the moment and get out up and play. X Susie and Kilo

  4. I am a married lesbian also. We have two human kids, and three puppy kids. Both are my kids and always will be!

  5. Bravo!!! Great post, you are so right! People are people and choose to love who they want to love. And dogs, well, I adore my dogs. As far as I’m concerned same sex marriage should just be called marriage. It’s just two people in love who want to be together, never did get why so many people made such a big deal of it. Good thing is, we have made progress, my sweet brother Don was gay, and passed on in 1989 and when I see how far we have come, well, I just hope somehow he knows. Thank you for writing this, love is love no matter what form it comes in. Oh and I have children too, and I still call my dogs my kids, don’t care who likes it or not!

  6. Amen Sistah!!!!!

    For many, many years I wanted human children more than anything on earth….as it turned out, it wasn’t in God’s plan.

    How do I feel about it? It was meant to be….I am now happy that I do NOT have “human children” because I have the patience of a flea lol………

    Oh and YES I few my dog and my cat as my “furry kids”……..if anyone has a problem with that, then I don’t need them around. My furry kids don’t talk back, love unconditionally and are always there for me, something that I see sorely lacking in many of the “human” children in this day and age.

  7. I have two adult human children and they have been raised with their four-legged brothers and never thought of our dogs in any other way. I worry over all of them and always will. It comes naturally to a parent of dogs, cats, or humans. I can say that teenage dogs are not near as “catty” as teenage girls! LOL!

  8. From one proud pet parent to another: Great article. This reminds me of the famous bronze monument of Booker T. Washington lifting the veil of ignorance at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Knowledge is so important, and exposure to how laws and personal biases of others affect specific individuals through articles like yours is significantly powerful. Love is love. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  9. Such a heartwarming, loving post, Carol. The love you share with your furkid, Dexter and your wife, Darlene is so real and honest. I love reading about your lives together. You’re an inspiration to dog moms everywhere. By the way, you’re not changing the definition of marriage either, you’re just expanding the love for everyone!

  10. I think that there is a mothering gene you have to be born with as I don’t think I was. I never had a desire to have children either and believe that more people are like that than want to admit. While you believe you were meant to be a dog mom, you have a mothering instinct. I wasn’t a good pet parent at first. I didn’t really know how to bond or nurture, our vet kind of gave me a few hints with my first cat and I learned from there. I sometimes think I probably should have been born gay but my brother got that gene instead. Sandra

  11. I’m not sure why grumpy old hag or anyone else sees a problem with all the extra love, play, and attention our dogs receive. Dogs are the only mammal I know of (besides humans) that play well into adulthood and in my home I’m pretty sure Laika gets as much attention as a child would (if I had any) and I see nothing wrong with it, and it does bother me that others might. Patiently waiting on the supreme court decision, and trying not to be embarrassed by the fact that my state of Michigan is lumped into that big mess of being a hold out on equality. Luckily from working in the court system I know a few people personally that are just as frustrated with the system as I am, which makes it a tiny bit easier to deal with. And you’re absolutely right that it all comes down to love. A family is a family, and love is love. My family is who I’ve chosen to live with and love and I couldn’t imagine anyone trying to challenge it.

  12. This was a beautiful post!!!! I am a dog parent, but realize they are not “children” but they are my fur babies, that’s for darn sure! And on mothers day, heck yea dog parents should celebrate!!!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  13. “Anthropomorphizing dogs does not honor them with the respect and adoration they deserve.”

    Um, she clearly hasn’t met any of the Cocker Spaniels I’ve met! Quincy, for example… He’s ridiculous. “Respectable” isn’t a description I’d use for him, except maybe right after a bath when he’s still upset about what he went through and sitting there solemnly and waiting for his requisite cookie. Outside of that, he’s goofy, oblivious, and loves any sort of attention. He actually begs to wear his hats because he knows he gets extra attention when he’s wearing them!

    I can see how some dogs might appear more dignified, but come on… when it gets down to it, they’ll all sniff butts, eat out of the trash, and wiggle in for some cuddles. As long as they’re being taken care of, they don’t care if you call them your kid, your dog, or a dumdum. I call Quincy all three of those from time to time!

  14. I had to go back and read your surprise wedding proposal post! I don’t know how the heck I missed that!!! Congratulations! I’m sorry it is so late!!!

  15. Except for the gay/lesbian part because she’s straight (?), Mum could have written this great post, but as she’s not as talented as you are, she didn’t… She’s born with cats brofurs and sisfurs, and she’s now a proud cat mom. That’s a pawsome and beautiful post ! Purrs

  16. Being a pet parent is not the same as being a parent of humans, but it is parenting none the less. My kitties are my kids. I’ve known that I didn’t want to have human children from the first time I tried babysitting at 12 years old. Pets fit my personality and lifestyle better. In my opinion, it isn’t right to bring a human child into the world just because you think that’s what you are supposed to do. Children deserve your focused love and devotion.

  17. Mom wanted lots of kids, but it didn’t work out. She had a love of animals from the time she was a little girl and the longer she lives without kids, the happier she is to have fur kids instead. Everything happens for a reason, and we are content in our fur family with a human parent.

  18. I have absolutely zero desire to have human children and took steps to permanently assure that I wouldn’t. My coworkers have photos of children in their offices and I have photos of my dogs. So, no children for me, but I will certainly have more dogs in my family!

  19. Excellent post! Families come in all shapes & sizes now! My therapy dog & I work w/ kids, sometimes I can’t even keep track of who’s in their “family” unit. It feels like I blinked an eye and (finally!) my gay friends are able to marry in 36 states! I don’t follow it as closely as they do so the last 2 years worth of change flew by for me. I think there are more than “moral” reasons why there are opponents, I think some of the instigators have money motives; they don’t want shared social security or dependent/spousal health insurance benefits to be paid out, or other ridiculous financial implications. I look forward to 50 states on board. My husband and I also elected not to have children, for several reasons. Our dogs have become our furkids. We consider ourselves a family unit & we love it. Our furkids are spoiled rotten but we don’t prevent them acting like dogs or following their instincts, so what’s the harm?

  20. Love your article….and love the bag, lol! I’ve often said that if “real kids” were as wonderful as “my kids”, I would have a whole heap full, lol. But that ain’t gonna happen! They are our kids, I often give them human attributes too!

  21. Great post! Love your solutions to these 2 points! I don’t understand whey people get their panties in such a bunch about these “issues”. What skin is it off their nose if I call myself a dog mom or you marry your best friend? Get your panties in a bunch about *real* issues, people! How about something like homelessness, or dog rescue or illiteracy or world hunger? If people put the energy they waste into stuff like this into actually making a positive difference in the world think how much better the world would be!

  22. Family is from the heart. Family is a special bond. Sometimes, family is not even of blood. I do have a daughter (an amazing, wonderful person who is also my BFF, and some folks even tell me my daughter can’t be my BFF…umm…yes she can!) and I am also a dog mom. Always have been. My FiveSibes are “the kids” or the “furkids.” My husband even calls my boys my “furry sons!” I was an equestrian in my early years (was it that long ago, really?!) and they were my loves and my big “kids!” There’s so much room in a loving heart – for all species and whomever we choose to love and be loved by. Great post, Carol. And Happy (almost) Mother’s Day to a great fellow dog mom!

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