Dogs are the new kids: Trite for some, but true for me. I penned those words for a Dogster article few months ago. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, the topic surfaces again, so I do what any dog mom would do when someone challenges her title: I take pen to paper. OK, fingertips to keyboard, but I write nonetheless.
I wanted to see how the Internet defined me, so I Googled myself and came across my dog writings and musings and blog posts. When I did a Google Image search of “dog mom,” however, not much pointed to me. Then the lightbulb came on: I did a Google Image search of “pet parents,” and there I was with my little boy, smiling for all the world to see. My little boy is a dog, I am a pet parent. At my core, I am a dog mom.
Should dog owners be considered dog moms, especially on Mother’s Day? It really depends on one’s definition of mom.
Giving birth does not make someone a mom. People adopt. I choose to spend my life with dogs, not children. It isn’t politically correct nor socially acceptable to question an adoptive human parent, so why question a dog mom?
In many cases, the whole concept of pet parenting is that pets have replaced children for many of us. Some of us wait longer to be married, have fewer children, and prefer to dote upon the four-legged variety instead of the two-legged species.
I’ve chosen to be a dog mom over a mom of human children, and I am not alone. In the eyes of the law, however, dogs are property. If someone harms your dog, they have essentially damaged your property. This makes you a property owner. Pretty unsentimental and demoralizing, isn’t it? When’s the last time you sent a card that read “Happy Pet Ownership Day”? I’d much rather get one that beckons, “I love you, Mom.”
Some prefer “guardian” or “custodian,” but to me, I am a dog mom. I own a coffee table, but I nurture my dog. From a legal perspective, some might argue that changing the terminology changes the way society treats animals. The last time you walked into a pet superstore, did it feel less like a pet supply store and more like aisles of carefully positioned and meticulously planned items targeted at the pet parent? If you lean toward the latter, you are right on target: Pet supply superstores that treat their customers more like parents and less like owners are seeing an increase in sales. Did you know that PetSmart changed its name from PetsMart to PetSmart over the years, indicating an overall shift in its branding?
During the recent Global Pet Expo, where thousands of pet products were launched to the masses, the president of the American Pet Products Association, Bob Vetere, shared, “I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say pet humanization is evident in every category of the marketplace.”
We’re humanizing our pets, people. Science is on my side, too. Have you heard of Habri? It stands for the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative, which is in place to form a central database for all research relating to the human-animal bond.
I’m not alone in this line of thinking. I asked some people who share their lives with dogs how they feel about the “dog mom” title, especially with Mother’s Day in the air.
“I am raising two dogs as well as a service puppy in training. I provide them with food, shelter, medical insurance, exercise, and love. They have been potty trained, inoculated, and socialized. They play well with others and when they don’t they are corrected and then encouraged,” says Bonnie Swebe of Strongsville, Ohio. “They go to school and learn new things. They receive proper grooming and regular check-ups. I raise, care for and parent my dogs in sickness and in health, and I’ll be with them in the end because we have created an emotional bond. I am a pet parent — more specifically, my dogs’ mom. You don’t have to biologically produce something in order to be its mother.”
Swebe identifies herself as a dog mom and also a dog rescue volunteer, service dog puppy raiser, dog fundraiser, dog blogger, and owner of WelcomePup. Sounds like a dog mom to me.
Mary Patmidis Goodrow of New York expresses a similar sentiment. “We should absolutely be celebrated on Mother’s Day whether our babies are human or not,” she says. “Most humans don’t treat their human children the way I treat and care for my fur baby, so why should I not be acknowledged for that?”
In researching this piece, I knew I wanted an expert who deals with pet people on a daily basis, and Emmy Scammahorn of Virginia fits that bill as a live-in pet sitter.
“Dog moms hire me to provide in their absence what they can’t — the closest thing to love as they can find,” Scammahorn shares. “Only a mom sits at the kitchen table because Shepherd/Beagle Henry won’t eat unless she watches. When Lambchop, an elderly Bichon, became incontinent, her mom faithfully changed her diaper. In terrier Shelly’s last, tenuous days, her mom cooked giant pots of chicken and rice, which she warmed and spooned over Shelly’s dry food, topped with a dollop of pumpkin.”
Semantics and interpretative definitions aside, all us moms want is to love and to feel loved by our kids. Whether those kids bark or cry, sleep in a crib or take up too much room on the bed, we love them for it. If you are a better person for the love of another, then life is pretty damn good.
I’m a dog mom! Happy Mother’s Day to you and your pack.
Do you like the title “dog mom” or feel that it should be reserved for humans only? Bark at me in the comments!
Read more Dogster articles that celebrate dog parents: