I work in an office setting, and many of my coworkers are not “dog people.” They are unable to understand my relationship with my dogs, and they think I am crazy for having so many four-legged family members. In fact, they don’t view dogs as family members at all, to them, dogs are just pets. These are the type of people who fail to understand that dogs have feelings and should not be forced to live a lonely existence tied to a dog house in the backyard. These are the people who may buy their children a cute puppy, but 6 – 12 months later, when that puppy is still chewing on their furniture and having accidents in the house, they will dump the puppy off at a shelter. They don’t understand that a dog needs affection, training, exercise and mental stimulation to become a well-mannered family member. They also don’t understand that adding a dog to the family should be a commitment for the dog’s entire lifetime. One of my coworkers gave away her 12 year old dog, because her 4 year old son and the new puppy were too rough with him. Instead of teaching her son to be gentle with the dog, and teaching the new puppy manners, she gave away a dog she had lived with for 12 years!
I have a daughter, and I am aware of the differences between raising a child and raising a puppy. I don’t place unrealistic expectations on my dogs by trying to get them to act as humans. However, I do consider myself a dog mom, I do talk to my dogs and I do spoil them. They get birthday presents, and there are wrapped gifts under our Christmas tree with their names on them. But I don’t give them these gifts with the mistaken belief that my dogs understand it’s their birthday or that it’s Christmas Day. I give them presents because they get excited when they are given a new toy, and watching them joyfully rip open their presents makes me happy.
|Lad, enjoying his Birthday presents, even though they were pink!
In the last 50 – 60 years our relationship with dogs has radically changed. When our parents were children, no one brought dogs to puppy play dates, to help their puppies develop appropriate social skills with other dogs. There were no doggie daycare facilities, to keep dogs happy while their humans went to work. There were no Petco and Petsmart stores, where we could take our dogs shopping for toys, treats and food. There were no dog parks, areas specifically designated for dogs to run and play. Our dogs now share our lives, our homes, and often our beds. We take them hiking, for rides in the car, and even on vacation with us.
|Scarlett at the dog park
Why has the role our dogs play in our lives changed so dramatically? Is it because our lives have become so busy, that we now feel disconnected with our friends and family? While we are in constant communication with our loved ones via text and email, we spend less time at family gatherings, and few of us sit down each night for a family dinner. Dogs allow us to still have that connection with another living being, and they force us to slow down and take a break from our hectic schedules. Knowing they are at home waiting for us, waiting for the simple pleasure of a walk around the neighborhood, we are forced to step away from our computers and jobs, and make time to accommodate their needs. They remind us that there is more to life, and they teach us to once again appreciate the little things, like a walk in the woods or on the beach.
|Lad on one of our hikes in 2010
Dogs don’t care about computer games, videos or online chats. They prefer to get outside and explore their world. Have you ever watched your dog during a walk? Unlike us, he doesn’t rush along trying to get to a specific destination while overlooking the journey. He takes time to smell who has come before him, and to notice that bird or butterfly passing overhead. He will stop to greet other dogs or people, which forces us to cast off our anonymity and actually meet our neighbors. Because of my dogs I have met the lady down the street who rescues greyhounds. Because of my dogs I have joined a collie club, making friends with other collie owners. Because of my dogs, my daughter and I travel to dog shows on weekends and spend time together with our dogs, pursing a hobby we all love.
|Mariah, on a camping trip at a dog show
They bring so much joy into our lives, and leave us far too soon. So I for one, intend to spoil them as much as possible and treasure every moment with them. So those that choose to live their lives dog-free may never understand why we live this way, but you do, don’t you?