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Do Your Parents Babysit Your Dog? My Dad Does, and He Loves His Grandchild!

I never wanted human kids, but I do parent my German Shepherd, Lola -- and my dad helps by watching her when I'm gone.

Kat Merrill  |  Nov 22nd 2016


I never planned to have children. I never really wanted them.

I know that may shock some people. In fact, a few years ago, I was at a meeting of a large group of women, where I said exactly that and there was a very loud group inhale. You would have thought I confessed to eating little children for breakfast, a la the witch in Hansel and Gretel.

But I think there are some “professions” so noble that you must have a real passion for them to do them right. I like kids. And they like me. My friends have always told me I would be a great mom. But I never had a deep, burning desire to have my own children. And I think to raise children the right way and be a good parent, you have to really want them.

Lola doesn't like to leave my side, so it's easy to get a good selfie with her. (Photo by Kat Merrill)

Lola doesn’t like to leave my side, so it’s easy to get a good selfie with her. (Photo by Kat Merrill)

On the other hand, I have desperately wanted dogs since I met my first, our family’s German Shepherd Toro. I don’t know my age — my dad says younger than 5 years old — but I clearly remember reaching up to him, stretching far to wrap my arms around his ruff. He was a big guy, and scared the neighbors when they saw him. But I was in love. Give me 50 dogs, please!

OK, 50 is too many, but you get the picture. So, I grew up and was living my life when I met the first dog I had as an adult. She came after weeks of negotiations, a German Shepherd puppy from a good line of mostly police dogs. She was the last of a litter belonging to a breeder who had major vacation plans, with all reservations and excursions paid for in advance and no refunds.

I could never have afforded that dog – the pups cost in the thousands – but in this case, the breeder broke down just days before the trip and told me I could have her if I paid vet inspection and airfare. I had to borrow even that sum, but it was a done deal. She came to me in a carrier the same size as the one I had at home for my cat.

Pasha was the first German Shepherd I owned as an adult. I got her when she was just 6 1/2 weeks old, and she could fit on a bed pillow. (Photo by Kat Merrill)

Pasha was the first German Shepherd I owned as an adult. (Photo by Kat Merrill)

That puppy took one look at me, and I took one look at her, and we were in love. It wasn’t long before I learned that I had agreed to become a mom after all — complete with lessons about life, training, and discipline, and even potty training. After a few weeks, I was operating on little sleep and my little girl, who couldn’t sleep through the night yet without crying out, had found many things to chew or destroy. I persevered, with love and kindness, and she lived to almost 9 1/2 years of age.

More than 20 years later, I am the proud mother of my fifth German Shepherd. A couple of my girls came to me old or ill, and a couple left earlier than a dog should. But with each of them, I have done many things a mother does: wait, worry, wish, teach, complain, get frustrated, laugh hysterically, cry my heart out.

Lola and I moved a year ago to be closer to my dad. I think she wanted to drive the moving truck herself. (Photo by Kat Merrill)

Lola and I moved a year ago to be closer to my dad. I think she wanted to drive the moving truck herself. (Photo by Kat Merrill)

Nearly a year ago, I said goodbye to a job I no longer loved and moved to another state to be near my dad. Lola, my shepherd, made the cross country drive in the moving truck with me like a trooper. But for some reason, although she spent hours by herself while I was at work just fine before we moved, she can no longer be left alone, not even for brief periods. She panics and chaos ensues.

So my dad, who never thought he would have grandchildren, now babysits my 80-pound shepherd whenever I have to go on an assignment, when I go out with friends, or when I go on vacation. I have to schedule my time around his since he still works some, so he can watch her. I do favors and errands for him in exchange for keeping her so I can work and socialize.

By Kat Merrill Lola finds it easy to wrap her grandfather around her paw. Could you say no to that face?

Lola finds it easy to wrap her grandfather around her paw. Could you say no to that face? (Photo by Kat Merrill)

It’s fun to watch them together. He treats her just like a little girl, spoiling her like most grandparents do their grandchildren. She is big and strong, and sometimes stubborn with me, but for the most part becomes gentle as a lamb when with him. I laugh at things he says about her that would be the same as if she were a human child.

Turns out I am a mom after all. My daughter just has four legs and a tail.