I shouldn’t have to write this post. But I’m gonna. Because if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say “my dog is my baby,” “having a dog is like having a baby,” or something similar, I would…well, I wouldn’t be rich, because a nickel isn’t worth much, but my eight year old would think I’m rich, so that would be pretty cool.
I’m a mom of two and I am a pet guardian, and I have a little secret for you: Having a baby is not the same as having a pet! Does that mean that the relationship between pet and guardian is not important? No, it absolutely does not. But there are some pretty major differences.
How Dogs and Babies are Different
1. Most dogs don’t like to be carried. Most babies don’t like to NOT be carried.
If you think that difference doesn’t matter, try carrying around a five pound bag of flour for eight hours. Now picture it weighing twice or three times as much and screaming every time you tried to put it down.
2. Most dogs can be left at home alone for a few hours at a time once they’re crate trained and/or house trained. Babies can’t be left alone in the house for any amount of time.
If you can’t see why THAT difference would matter…well, never you mind, dear.
3. A dog will lie at your feet for hours while you write. An infant/child won’t let you work for hours until they’re at least 7 and only if there’s another parent at home for you to repeatedly tell them to go ask instead of you, even when you just had this SAME conversation five minutes ag– y’know, come to think of it, I’m not sure WHEN as a parent you’ll be able to go that long without interruptions.
4. A dog is a big commitment. You’ll probably have them for 9-14 years before they cross the rainbow bridge and you grieve them terribly. A baby is a big commitment. You never stop being that child’s parent, even when you’re dead, because they carry how you parented (or didn’t) with them until their own deaths, at which point they may have already passed on some of those burdens to their children, if they had them.
5. A dog will play fetch with you. It is not recommended you play fetch with an infant. For one thing, they can’t walk. For another, the neighbour thinks it’s weird when you treat your child like a dog. Until about the age of four, anyways, when they start pretending to be puppies. Then it’s cute. And the neighbour still thinks it’s a little weird.
6. When your dog (who is now house trained, long before a baby will be potty trained, I might add) consistently isn’t sleeping through the night you get them vet checked and work on maybe training some more.
When your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, you try to tell yourself they won’t be this little for that long, as you walk the floor until you wear a hole in the carpet, you feed them again, you call your mom/aunt/grandma/friend for support and (if they’re not that sensitive) get an earful about how their kids slept through the night by your baby’s age and all they did was that thing you already tried, so you agonize about whether you’re feeding them properly, whether they’re going to die because you’re obviously an unfit parent, you cry into their sleeper because you’re going on 36hrs without more than an hour of sleep before they’re up crying again and you’re certain that you’ve ALREADY MESSED THIS CHILD UP FOR LIFE AND EVERYONE WILL SAY WHAT A BAD PARENT YOU ARE AND YOU’LL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THAT UNTIL YOU DIE.
7. A dog is already eating solids by the time you get them home, and probably won’t wait until you make choo-choo and airplane noises to be convinced to eat (though you may have to hand-feed them sometimes or add something smelly like tripe to convince the reluctant ones). A baby won’t eat solids until they’re approximately six months old, and won’t do it until you’ve made choo-choo and airplane noises, stood on your head, spun around six times mid-air, begged, cajoled, and begun to wonder whether you’ll be up for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the next Academy Awards, because you’re pretty sure you’ve given the performance of a lifetime right here in your puree-spattered kitchen. Still, you go to bed some time after that with the words of your doctor, the Public Health Nurse, your mom, and that parenting expert on TV telling you that your kid probably isn’t getting the right nutritional balance and you’re failing at that just like you did with their sleep patterns.
8. Dogs are not people, babies are.
I don’t deny that there are definitely some things about being a parent and a dog guardian that are similar. It’s a big decision and you’re responsible for this being. Dogs and children both need checkups and vaccines, they both need to be fed, they both will require love and dedication that you didn’t even know you were capable of giving. But there are some pretty serious limits to that that I’ve only grazed the surface of here. The fact is, however you look at it, that there is absolutely NO reason why the relationships of parent-to-child and guardian-to-pet have to be identical in nature in order for them them to both be valuable. And that’s OK.