Dogs are the new kids: Trite for some, but true for me. There are people who just don’t get it. Recently, while at the park with my dog, I told him “go see Mommy” and pointed at my spouse.
This is something millions of people around the world do everyday, right? Refer to themselves as mommy, mom, or any number of similar references. Dog moms (and dads) have arrived.
When a passerby with two small boys yelled over, “you call yourself Mommy for the dog,” I took offense.
“Of course I do and he responds to it, too,” I retorted, hairs on the back of my neck standing up.
He laughed and shot me a “um, wow, really” sort of look and walked away.
So what if we call each other mommy or mom or any other number of cultural references previously reserved for the human variety. Every dog gets his day, and this dog mom deserves hers a thousand times over. I wanted to see how the Internet defined me, so I Googled myself and came across my dog writings and musings and blog posts.
When I did a Google Image search of “dog mom,” however, not much pointed to me. Then the lightbulb came on: I did a Google Image search of “pet parents,” and there I was with my little boy, smiling for all the world to see. My little boy is a dog, I am a pet parent. At my core, I am a dog mom. Should dog owners be considered dog moms? It really depends on one’s definition of mom.
“You didn’t give birth, so you aren’t a mom!”
Giving birth does not make someone a mom. People adopt. I choose to spend my life with dogs, not children. It isn’t politically correct nor socially acceptable to question an adoptive human parent, so why question a dog mom? In many cases, the whole concept of pet parenting is that pets have replaced children for many of us. Some of us wait longer to be married, have fewer children, and prefer to dote upon the four-legged variety instead of the two-legged species.
We all make choices
I’ve chosen to be a dog mom over a mom of human children, and I am not alone. In the eyes of the law, however, dogs are property. If someone harms your dog, they have essentially damaged your property. This makes you a property owner. Pretty unsentimental and demoralizing, isn’t it?
When’s the last time you sent a card that read “Happy Pet Ownership Day”? I’d much rather get one that beckons, “I love you, Mom.” Some prefer “guardian” or “custodian,” but to me, I am a dog mom. I own a coffee table, but I nurture my dog. From a legal perspective, some might argue that changing the terminology changes the way society treats animals. The last time you walked into a pet superstore, did it feel less like a pet supply store and more like aisles of carefully positioned and meticulously planned items targeted at the pet parent? If you lean toward the latter, you are right on target: Pet supply superstores that treat their customers more like parents and less like owners are seeing an increase in sales. Did you know that PetSmart changed its name from PetsMart to PetSmart over the years, indicating an overall shift in its branding?
The pet industry agrees
I attended the Global Pet Expo, where thousands of pet products were launched to the masses in 2013. There, the president of the American Pet Products Association, Bob Vetere, shared, “I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say pet humanization is evident in every category of the marketplace.”
We’re humanizing our pets and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Science is on my side, too.
Have you heard of HABRI? It stands for the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative, which is in place to form a central database for all research relating to the human-animal bond.
I’m not alone in this line of thinking. Semantics and interpretative definitions aside, all us moms want is to love and to feel loved by our kids. Whether those kids bark or cry, sleep in a crib or take up too much room on the bed, we love them for it. If you are a better person for the love of another, then life is pretty damn good.
Do you like the title “dog mom/dad” or feel that it should be reserved for humans only? Bark at me in the comments! Why is this such a touchy subject to some people?
Here are a few dozen, or more, pet bloggers below that I’d love to hear from on this subject. While you’re here, what are your thoughts? Are you a dog mom? And what would you say if that passerby questioned your application of the word “mommy?”