Do This With Your Pet: Be a parent

, , 1 Comment

People always kind of laugh when I say that I believe raising a dog is a more socially responsible thing to do than having a baby. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m all for making babies. Been practicing for years. However, I’m not sure if all of us need to be baby makers. And perhaps non-baby makers with dogs might just be the happiest “parents” of all.

Here’s the thing with having children: There are a lot of humans on this planet already, and if the population growth rate continues at this clip, we’ll need to build a second floor around the whole earth. And give everyone trundle beds.

So, I suppose it’s a good thing that some of us are waiting longer to have kids, which means fewer fertile years and therefore less time to have big families. The low product of these people is balanced out by the litters from Jon and Kate and Octomom. Childless at 31, I imagine I’d fall into the former category. But my hesitation about procreation isn’t solely feeling weird about creating more gas guzzlers. Indeed, it’s more selfish than that: apparently, parenthood is really, really hard. Children are expensive. They consume a lot of time that could be spent watching shows other than iCarly.  And studies repeatedly suggest that people’s happiness declines significantly after the birth of their first child. When I ask my sister what it’s like to be a self-employed single mother with two young kids, she tells me that it makes her think hell would be a nice place to vacation.

But you know what I bet they don’t have in hell? Puppies. As I picture the ninth circle, there are no dogs licking my toes when I get out of the shower. No one jumping up and down with excitement every time I come home. No one begging me to throw a saliva-soaked tennis ball.

Apparently, the bursts of oxytocin that we get from cuddling with our pets is on par with the chemical rush that happens when you love an infant. In this way, it’s almost like dogs have evolved to trick us into hijacking the nurturing tendencies we were biologically meant to use on our own offspring. Given the devastation some humans have wrought on the world, maybe they are actually doing us a favor.

In this way, dogs might be the ultimate tools in family planning. For instance, they may require you to be home at certain hours. “They keep me out of trouble,” says my friend Steph, who’s single and sleeps with her two Jack Russells flanking her head. “I can’t not come home. And I can’t bring just anyone over. If I’m trying to not fall into bed with just anyone, dog ownership is as good a tool as wearing ugly panties or not shaving my legs.”

Tulipan, an Argentinean  condom company, recently debuted a series of ads that show happy young couples who seem

to be having oodles of fun with their dogs. In one picture, they’re building a sandcastle with a golden retriever. In another, they’re giving a beagle a birthday party. Aren’t these the kinds of stills that we picture when we imagine having children? Those are the Facebook pictures we’ll post. We’ll edit out the shots of the tantrums, the financial woes, the years of teenage angst, and all the other moments that usually don’t come along with dog ownership. The only words of these ads: “Fun now, kids later.” Indeed, this drives home the point: Dog parenting is a lot easier than child parenting. And, if you fail miserably, the consequences just aren’t as grave as the fallout of being a really crappy parent.

And yet, people find it hard not to judge those of us who devote much of our lives to their pets. In AdWeek story about Tulipan’s campaign, David Gianatasia writes that “these folks seem to be getting obsessively close with their furry friends.” Obsessive? As someone who puts a lot of energy into dog ownership, that smarts a little. I know what it’s like to roll my eyes at someone else’s expressions of love. I once nearly lost my pupils inside my head when a woman at a flea market introduced me to her “daughter” Dolly—Dolly being a bonnet-clad chicken being pushed in a stroller.

But the chicken was happy enough. And my dog Amos seems glad to be the recipient of all the affection I may one day give to a small human. I do worry that we sometimes use our dogs as surrogate children in ways that don’t benefit them. Dressing pups in outfits that they don’t appreciate or comprehend; breeding to encourage deformities that we think are cute but don’t do any favors for the dog’s health; creating human-level standards for cleanliness and manners that cannot be realistically met by thumbless non-English speakers who live a foot off the ground. But if you’re good to your animal—and are respectful that what is good for a pet is sometimes different than what is good for a human—then I don’t mind if you talk to him in a baby voice or use warm wipes on his bum. Just don’t do anything that would actually require a condom.

[Images via Tulipan]

This post originally appeared at


One Response

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published