Opinion: It’s Not JUST a Dog, It’s My Child: Please Don’t Scoff ✿
The other day, I brought my baby, a shih tzu, to the vet for her checkup and some vaccines.
I used the park card on her, which explained her lethargy after our appointment. She believed we were going out for a walk, that she was meeting other dog friends. Instead, she finds herself in the doctor’s office, being poked by a needle.
My baby, always the fighter, didn’t cry. She didn’t even whimper nor whine. But she remained quiet, refusing to eat even her favorite treats.
In an attempt to cheer her up a bit, I brought her to the mall. Clad in diapers, I carried her in my arms, sat her on a chair, and spoon-fed her restaurant-bought soup to make her feel better. I was cooing the entire time. In the table beside me, a middle-aged couple was giving me looks of disapproval. I could almost hear them say, “look at that lady treat her dog like it’s human.”
In a country where 68% of households are a pet lover of some sort, it’s surprising why many still scoff at the idea of humans treating their fur babies like an actual child.
According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, if you take into account fish, rabbits, canaries, and other animals, the number of pets in the country totals 393 million. The same survey says that of these numbers, 90 million are dogs. This staggering number suggests that Americans are massive dog lovers. Yet, why is there apparent disapproval of pet parents who treat their canine kids like their own?
The Natural Bond Between Humans and Dogs
A brain-imaging study conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital and published in PLOS ONE asked women respondents to look at photos of their children and their dogs. The researchers identified a common network of brain regions involved in affiliation, emotion, reward, social cognition, and visual processing as the mothers looked at the images of both their dog and their child. The findings suggest that these brain networks may be vital in how mothers form and maintain solid emotional bonds with their child and dog.
A psychologist attests to the findings, saying animals make surrogates for children as they appeal to our need to nurture.
Friends with Benefits
On top of the motherly connection fur parents feel towards their canine companion, being a dog parent has many other benefits. A study led by Tufts researchers reveals, for instance, that young adults who care for animals tend to develop deeper social connections as well as other positive traits, including empathy.
A study entitled “Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says that pets can help alleviate symptoms of certain illnesses and ailments.
Pet owners, for instance, are less likely to meet their death within one year of suffering a heart attack, compared to the ones that don’t. Some doctors even advice their patients to get a dog to prevent feelings of social isolation.
These studies actually validate what many other fur moms and I already know: our relationship with our pups can be totally maternal.
On days when my fur baby is acting more lethargic than usual, I’m on my toes, unable to rest nor breathe easy until I’m sure she’s safe from any danger. The sound of her making weird noises in the middle of the night is enough for me to bolt upright in bed.
Having a dog entails hard work. They add to the chores, to the budget, and to the list of living things that you need to attend to. They need food, vitamins, toys, vet checkups, vaccines, and grooming essentials. They need care, attention, exercise, and time to learn new tricks.
Sounds familiar? It may be because that’s exactly how you dote on your human child.
Ultimately, owning a dog is like having a kid because really, there’s no rational reason to do it. Except, having children, regardless if human or dog, has a significant pay off on love and general hilarity. You also get a constant reminder to find joy in small, everyday things. They make you more human.
Some people may argue that treating dogs like children will only lead to misbehaving or obese dogs. But think about it this way: you only get to spend 10 years with your dog, and that is if you’re lucky. Through their limited years, they will look at you with adoring eyes, sleep on your sock because it smells like you, and religiously wait for you to come home from work, even after you leave them the entire day. Their expectations are simple and their intentions are pure – what could possibly be wrong with wanting to reciprocate that?