A word about our furry friends…or kids

Shortly after Albert and I were married, I took in an unwanted calico kitten.  I named her Phyllis and gave her the run of the farm.   With her independent and usually cranky, bossy attitude, she wouldn’t have fared very well in any other living situation.  If she wanted to mouse in the barn, I let her out.  When she meowed at the door, I let her in.  After about six months, a curious thing began to happen.  I gave up trying to treat her like a dependent pet to be coddled and pampered; indeed, we related more like squabbling roommates.  But we got on well enough as long as I agreed not to pick her up and she agreed to stay off the kitchen table.

This is Phyllis, my hirsute daughter.

This is Phyllis, my hirsute daughter.

When Phyllis disappeared about a year later, my heart broke.  The whole farm became an empty, purposeless place without her.  The grief was every bit as painful as it would have been had I lost a close human friend, which caught me completely off guard.

So I know what it’s like to form a strong, perhaps even strange attachment to an animal, but even that experience doesn’t help me to unravel a bizarre trend I’ve observed in the last few years, namely, people who consider themselves not as loving pet owners but as doting pet parents.  Not only that, they consider other pet owners to be the parents of their pets.  I feel a mixture of amusement and embarrassment every time someone bends down and says to my dog or cat,

“You love your Mommy don’t you, oh yes you do.”

As in the case of Phyllis, it would be a stretch to say that every pet I’ve had considered me their owner, but I can say that I’ve never sensed any understanding between me and my pets beyond that of animal and human caretaker.  I suspect that if they could understand English, any inference that I was more than that would make them just as uncomfortable as me.

Animals that have been raised as children by their owners don’t share my reservations though.  Recently, my seventy-six year old mother related an event involving a visit from my sister and her small dog, Frankie.  Frankie hovered shyly near my sister who sat on the sofa facing my mother’s chair, so put him at ease, my sister said,

“Frankie, where’s Grandma?”

To my mother’s consternation, Frankie turned his head and looked directly at her.  When I was sufficiently recovered from laughing to ask Mom how Frankie’s view of their relationship made her feel, she replied in her forthright way,

“Ekj jleijch daut nijch (I did not like it).”


Poor Mom.  She’s just never wanted a granddog.



5 responses to this post.

  1. I understand. I do sometimes refer to myself as a “people mom” to my pets. In that I take care of their needs like a mom would, but I’m never very comfortable when others say to my dog that I’m his “mommy”. I have 2 kids, thanks. He’s my dog and I think he likes his role just fine. After all, I don’t give the kids belly rubs. 😉


    • Nor would any mother put a collar around their children’s necks and pull them along on a leash (even if they’re tempted some days 😉


      • Exactly!! I have seen kids on leashes before….I try not to judge though. I know how challenging some children can be.


        • I’ve seen it too but aren’t they typically attached to the child’s waist?

          I can just imagine a scenario where they’re tied to the neck like a dog.
          Child: I want candy.
          Mom: No.
          Child: I WANT CANDY!!
          Mom jerks leash.
          Child: Aaaaargh.


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