If you are a dog parent, you’ve probably had a comment or two tossed your way that simply rubbed you wrong. There are certain “sentiments,” when said to a dog mom or dog dad, that are akin to the tone-deaf singers on shows like American Idol or The Voice — they should not be heard.
No matter how well-intentioned some things might sound internally, there are some comments I’d rather not have tossed my way. If you don’t have dogs — or even if you do — take my advice and don’t say these things to any dog parent you know. Take a peek at this list and see how many touch a nerve. Better yet: How many of these have you been told?
1. “I bet you don’t have any kids.”
Many of my friends have human kids and they also have dogs, and both varieties are considered a part of the family. I made a conscious choice not to have human children, but I’ve always had a strong affection for dogs. It doesn’t make me any less of a human being to not want human children, but it really sucks when people assume that millions of us love dogs so much because we lack babies.
2. “When he dies, will you get another one” or, “Your dog died? Well, then get another one.”
We don’t replace a family member by simply accessing someone who happens to look like Grandma or Mom or Aunt Susie. The same holds true for dog parents: We don’t replace Ginger with Misty. For some of us, life without the pitter-patter of dog feet is simply not an option. I never thought I would want to commit to another dog after my first Cocker, Brandy Noel, died, but here I sit, with a snoring dog at my feet. He is my “never again,” yet this decision was mine and mine alone. It hurts deeply to hear things like “get another one,” as if I just lost an eyeglass case. Some things are irreplaceable, and dogs are high atop that list for me and millions of other dog lovers worldwide.
3. “I’ve heard that breed is mean.”
Michael Vick is mean. Puppy mill owners are mean. Dogs who are trained to fight because they are beaten or taught to attack are mean because of people. Punish the deed, not the breed, as the adage goes. About 95 percent of the folks I meet when I’m out with my Cocker Spaniel smile, wave, ask to pet him, or simply want to know more. There is a small but annoying five percent who remind me they were bitten by a Cocker Spaniel or a Cocker Spaniel once snapped at them. It always seemed to have happened when they were a kid. How many Pit Bull parents or Rottweiler moms and dads are completely fed up with hearing their breed is mean? Even if you think it, don’t say it at random when I am perusing the toy aisle at the pet supply store.
4. “Yuck, you let your dog kiss you on the face or mouth?”
With my eyes closed and my lips puckered, you bet your wigglebutt my dog smooches me on the mouth. It gets better: Sometimes he licks my ice cream cone and eats off my fork, too! I know all about germs and bacteria and cross contamination and zoonotic diseases, oh my! For those of us out in public who let our dogs lick our faces, we simply have no need for snide comments. If you don’t allow your dog to lick your face, more power to you: Just don’t begrudge me poochie smoochies.
5. “I’d never spend that much on a dog, I’d sooner put him down.”
This is one of the cruelest comments I ever had the misfortunate of hearing. To date, this has not been said to me, hopefully because my “don’t go there” aura shines brightly. A dog is a living, breathing being, and where someone spends their money is none of someone else’s business. I’d sooner live in a cardboard box than not spend money on my dog’s health and well-being. From grooming costs to cancer treatment and everything in between: When a good dog parent says “I do” to a pooch, it should be for keeps. Telling me to put a dog down in the name of cost savings is grounds for dismissal from my life, and I know I am not alone in feeling this way.
6. “Do you think you’re single because you dote so much on your dog?”
I am not single, but my single friends tell me they’ve heard this on more than one occasion. Seriously, who says this and thinks it’s a good thing? Not only is it hurtful, but it’s disrespectful and just plain not nice. I’d rather be single and happy with my dog than stuck with someone who thinks doting on a dog is in some way not the norm.
7. “Spank that dog; he’ll never learn to not _____ [fill in the blank] otherwise.”
Putting your hands on a dog as a form of punishment is not only wrong but harmful to the relationship you want with your dog — it’s counterproductive, in fact. No matter how upset you are or what the dog did to frustrate you, hitting/spanking/slapping a dog is never appropriate. Hitting a dog to teach him not to growl at a child, not to chew a shoe, not to bark, or because you are frustrated is harmful and just plain mean. If you tell me this to my face, I will respond in kind and tell you to your face how wrong you are. Don’t say this and most importantly, do not do this. Seek the assistance of a behaviorist if you need help with pet parenting. If you feel hitting is appropriate, don’t get a dog, get a punching bag and some counseling.
8. “You can come but don’t bring the dog.”
This one might rub a few folks the wrong way, but many of us just don’t travel without our dogs unless absolutely necessary. In fact, I can count the times on a little over one hand that I’ve taken a trip without a dog in the past 20 years. I am happier, healthier, and better for having a dog sharing life with me, and that includes road trips, vacations, holidays, and visits with like-minded people. Granted, I know my dog can’t come to your wedding or to someone’s funeral, though I’ve seen pooches at both. If you simply do not want my dog at your house because you just aren’t all that into dogs, then sorry: I’m just not all that into you.
On that note, I have been so very much into the folks at Dogster for over a year now. This will be my last article for Dogster magazine so that I can concentrate on my other work in the pet industry. I’ll be writing that dog book I’ve been pining to accomplish since a little Dachshund named Candy first captured my heart. On that note, tails wagging, don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a person because of your big love for dogs!
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