Every so often someone feels compelled to tell dog people that they own their animals and did not give birth to them.
And dog lovers respond with outrage.
I sit back and think they’re both wrong. My dog is not my child or my possession.
What Is My Dog?
Sometimes I will tell Honey to “go to the dad.” But I don’t think of her as our child.
And I’ve never personally been comfortable with saying I own her. It just doesn’t feel right to me.
So what is Honey to me?
The list is varied:
- family member
- excuse to vacuum at least twice a day
But mostly I think of her as a partner. We work together even when our only job is living a good life.
By thinking of Honey as my partner instead of my child, I see her as an adult with her own needs and desires and motivations.
Yes, I do teach her like I would a child. But now that she’s five years old, Honey knows how to act. She rarely needs me to watch her behavior the way I would if she were my five-year-old child.
I hate the word “partner” for romantic couples. It sounds so business-like.
But I like it for dogs.
I love that humans and dogs evolved to work together. Probably the only other animal that has as close a working relationship with humans would be the horse.
And that’s so special.
Dogs work with humans in protection, guiding, and providing medical support.
Honey worked with me in fostering dogs for the SPCA. She was my full, adult partner with every pup who entered our home.
And I could not have done it without her.
I passionately believe that people who partner in a job with their dog have the strongest relationships.
A Dog With A Job
Obviously service animals have jobs.
I think companion dogs need jobs too. Their jobs may not save lives. And they may not buy any kibble.
But doing a job with our dog builds the bond.
We no longer foster. But Honey still has plenty of other jobs:
- being a dog ambassador for people we meet
- teaching little children the right way to greet a dog
- retrieving objects
- learning agility
- being good company
She’s not so hot at other jobs that dogs do, like providing protection. But you can’t have everything, right?
Are Pet Parents And Dog Owners Bad?
So do I think people who call themselves their dog’s mom or dad are evil? Or that it’s wrong to call yourself your dog’s owner?
Because while I think words are important, this is one instance where actions speak louder than words.
The person who calls out, “Ok Baby, come to Mama,” before taking their dog to tracking training or for a long walk that encourages sniffing is respecting their dog’s needs.
And the owner who tries flyball or cart pulling with his high-energy dog is treating his dog like a partner with motivations and desires of his own.
In fact, I don’t care if you dress your dog in costumes, make her homemade meals, or build custom furniture for her to sit on.
The only thing I care about is whether you’re meeting your dog’s physical and emotional needs and building a relationship that’s loving, stimulating, and enjoyable for both of you.
And anyone who feels the need to write essays telling people they aren’t dog moms might have too much time on their hands.
Maybe they should get a dog.
Your Turn: Are you a dog mama or papa? A dog owner? Or does some other phrase feel right to you?