Dogs Are the New Kids: Trite for Some, but True for Me
I am a dog mom. I love it when folks call me a dog mom; I never grimace, furrow a brow, or correct them. In fact, a sense of pride swells in me.
I buy cotton swabs, I use baby wipes on my dog after a muddied walk or rainy day, and I could probably circumnavigate the globe twice with the amount of paper towels I’ve used in a lifetime of what some would call dog ownership. I like to call it pet parenting.
I embrace that I do things with my dog in 2012 that perhaps others who went before me did not (or could not) do with their pooches. I look back on my childhood and cringe: The “family dog” wasn’t allowed in the living room, and I still wonder whether she ever even saw anything above the basement, where she was “allowed” to sleep on colder nights.
Humanizing our pets has taken a stronghold on this country; in fact, some might argue that “dogs are the new kids” is becoming a worldwide trend. Insert backflip and cartwheel here. Science has finally caught on to what those of us with a special connection to dogs have known forever: Dogs have the propensity to feel many of the same emotions humans do. It's even written about in big-name journals such as Psychology Today.
But even though I consider myself a dog mom, I know that my dog isn't a child. If the fates honor me with my dog-sharing life for a solid 15 years or more, unlike a teenager at age 15, my dog isn’t asking for the car keys, won’t enter the dating world, and will never become a source of gray hair as I worry because he is out 10 minutes past curfew. His time is getting limited, at this ripe old age.
The lifespan of a dog is short -- a flicker, if you will, compared with a human's. He will pass from this world and leave behind a hole in my heart where it used to be, well, “whole.” I’ve been down this road, and I will again and again. How about you?
I live a bit more vicariously and in the moment since becoming a dog mom: And after all, aren’t dogs always living in the moment? They’ve taught me well, these
creatures kids called dogs. I’ve yet to see my dog worry about what just happened, or panic at something that’s going down tomorrow. Dogs have taught me to live life to its fullest because at any time, it can end.
I spoil my dog, some might say. He certainly does not need eight leashes, four water bowls, a weekly trip (or more) to the pet supply store, organized play dates, and (the horror, get ready): a blog inspired by his life with mine and a canine-centric career choice.
It's my life, and it's fun. Dexter is happy, too. Dogs need to be well cared for and doted upon to the degree it makes dog mom or dog dad happy and does not put Fido in harm’s way. In fact, if you reread that sentence, there’s a mantra in there.
Dogs live short lives; we know this when we accept the responsibility of dog parenting. I shop in the same stores as moms with human children, yet there is a stigma that in some way it might be odd to consider me a mom. My credit cards are accepted, my legal tender works the same way, I shop and bargain hunt in a similar capacity, and oh: I tell my friends and followers, who, in turn, listen to me and my sagely advice. Then they go to the stores or visit a website and do the same things, as dog moms and dog dads. And I know I am not alone.
“Since moms are the primary decisionmakers for the majority of household purchases, a few years ago mom bloggers really caught the attention of brands and continue to grow as important influencers,” says Paris Permenter of award-winning dog blog DogTipper. "I think pet bloggers have much the same influence, reaching an audience that makes purchasing decisions not only for their pets but also for their entire household.
“Whether that household includes two-legged children or not, I think pet households have many of the same concerns as young families. Pee and poop are ongoing topics in pet households; unlike in homes with growing infants and toddlers, these remain topics of conversation (and purchases) in pet families throughout the years.”
Permenter is a successful professional writer with close to 30 books to her name, many of which she penned with her husband, John Bigley. She has two adult stepdaughters, so the savvy mom of human and dog variety is a parent indeed.
“Love isn’t limited to our own species,” she muses.
I feel like the brands of the world often miss a huge marketplace with us dog moms and dads. The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that “PetSmart Thrives Treating Owners Like Pet Parents.” We’re not losing our marbles, we’re being embraced and converted to dollar signs, for wag’s sake! With the American Pet Products Association reporting an estimated $52 billion projected to be spent in the pet industry in 2012, I realize I am not alone. Hello, brands: It’s me, the dog mom.
Fellow pet blogger Pamela Webster wrote on her Something Wagging This Way Comes blog recently, “I don’t love my dog because she’s the next best thing to having a kid. I love her because she’s my dog. And for some of us, that’s good enough.” The title of her post is “Is a Dog as Good as a Child?” Suffice it to say, this is a hotly contested topic.
Active pet parents do not go gently into the night: In fact, we start petitions and we get people to notice us. Mary Haight of Dancing Dog Blog and Animal Café knows all about this. Thanks to a petition she began, nearly 155,000 signatures were collected asking PetLand to stop selling live animals. The Huffington Post named the petition as one of its favorites. Not bad for a dog mom, eh?
Last but not least: Dog moms and dads go to pet blogger conferences, where my life was changed in 2009. I walked through the doors, held my head high, felt a twinge of nervousness, but wanted to see “what this pet blogging talk” was all about. I left a changed woman. Oh, and the entire event of more than 400 people, dozens of brands, and a weekend of seminars and knowledge-based sessions was pet-friendly. I sat with my dog near my feet as my life changed. Talk about a full-circle moment.
“We’re consumers. We party, we shop, we bathe, we walk our dogs in strollers, we do all the same things mommy bloggers do,” BlogPaws’ co-founder Yvonne DiVita says. “Our community is on the pulse of all things pet: from dogs to cats, rabbits to ferrets, and everything in between.”
The proof is in the numbers for some. More than 5,000 buyers representing 65 countries attended Global Pet Expo 2012, the pet industry’s largest trade show spanning the size of 16 football fields. I was there. I walked among the throngs of people clamoring for the latest and greatest in pet products and services. Someone came back from that trade show and told their friends about those products, shared videos and pictures, tweeted and "Liked," and then did it some more. Guess who? Me and my posse of pet parents who want purchase influencers to know we’re more than the person holding the other end of the leash.
We shop. We buy. Some of us even tuck their
kids dogs in at night. I’m a dog mom and I’m here to stay. How about you?