Back in my childhood when I and my siblings got a puppy, our parents made it pretty clear that Jerry – as our much beloved mutt was called – was definitely a pet = an animal that lived with us. One that needed to be trained to pee & poop, to be taken out at least twice a day for long walks, rain, shine or snow. And a dog whose life and caretaking were our collective responsibility. And this was in the 1960’s when grooming salons, let alone pet daycare centres, were totally unheard of.Or perhaps available to the upper crust owners who ran with poodles in the very chic neighbourhoods or exhibited their furry friends in dog shows! Us the ordinary folk, we had pets we walked, shampooed, groomed and whose poop we scooped.
Times they are changing, and I’m wondering if perhaps for the worse? In my apartment building I ran into a young couple who carried in a baby pouch a chiwawa dressed in a design parka with a fox collar – yep, real silver fox fur! The way they kissed and cooed at the dog made me truly have to bite back the comments I was dying to make: don’t you think kissing the dog on the mouth is not such a hot idea?
If I go by the number of dogs I see walked and sweet-talked to in my neighbourhood alone, dressed with genuine leather vests and hot pink padded booties, you’d think I live in Scarsdale or near Central Park, NYC. People seem obsessed with their dogs, talk incessantly about their dogs, and lo’ and behold, some probably even sleep with their dogs! If Jerry still lived, he’d be bewildered. He always had his very own bed he loved and would not have dreamt of sleeping with us. Yes, we cuddled and played ball with him and he caught flying frisbees and herded us like a champ, but Jerry knew his place as a dog.
What’s going on with this trend of replacing kids with pets? Mostly with dogs or so it seems to me. I’m making this point only because I just don’t think it’s such a great idea to use pets as a replacement for having offspring. Owning and taking care of a dog is great practice for the responsibilities that come with parenting, but dogs deserve to be treated as what they are. Animals with their instincts, needs, and habits that sure are not the same as ours. I’d say know your dog and you know yourself.