Taking a scroll through my Facebook news feed—the equivalent of a cigarette break, if I smoked—I stopped short.
Swiping back up the page, it was confirmed that the words I read were correct.
The article was titled “Some Moms Are Urging People to Stop Calling Their Pets ‘Fur Babies’.”
Let it be known that it was written well, I enjoyed it, and it did not bash dog moms. It was an interesting read with a thoughtful perspective.
My initial reaction wasn’t based on the fact that my family and I refer to my beloved Vivienne as a fur baby. Because we do. That along with Dog Mom, Crazy Dog Lady, and some other fun labels from time to time.
The reaction was a tornado of feelings—shock, bewilderment, and a loud “you’ve got to be kidding me.”
The article explored viewpoints and opinions. It was said that some mothers are offended by the term fur baby and comparisons of pet owners to parents of little humans. The upset included level of care, the ease with which people can take a vacation more easily when it’s a pet versus a child, and the fact that pets don’t require middle of the night feedings or diaper changes.
The mention of when a baby says “mama” or “dada” for the first time pulls on the heartstrings and is something a pet will never do.
It also quoted dog trainers and other acclaimed experts who said that we can deepen our relationship with our pets if we allow them to be animals and not treat them like little humans. They expressed the need to accept dogs for what they are—because being a dog is good enough.
Heck, being a dog is even better than good. Who is to say that referring to our pets as “babies” equates to not allowing them to be animals?
All points made were mostly valid, respected, and appreciated. But I don’t fully agree and will share why when we get to the end of my rant.
As I contemplated the piece, a flurry of questions and thoughts cascaded in my mind.
Have we, as a social institution, lost our sense of humor? Why is it that everyone gets offended so easily these days? Why can’t we allow people to be who they are and respectfully say what they want—then just let it go if we don’t like it?
The contradictory messages in today’s society are loud and clear.
On one hand, we preach self-acceptance and encourage people to find their voice. On the other, we condemn them when they do and get offended when they don’t say things we like or agree with.
Which is it? Who are we supposed to be and what are we supposed to say anymore?
We talk incessantly of the need to overcome people pleasing because we lose ourselves in the process. If we are encouraging people to stop people pleasing, then why in the heck are we constantly in hot water for offending others? Aren’t we allowed to be ourselves anymore, or are we requiring people to fit into so many molds that they lose themselves completely, forcing them to become robots with canned responses and no personalities?
Would it be possible for us to lighten up a bit?
Humans are complicated, messy, and imperfect. Life can be difficult, but I think we are making it so much more difficult and stressful than it needs to be. We’ve lost our sense of humor, but our sensitivity is in overdrive.
And being offended by the talk of fur babies is just one example.
So why don’t I agree with many of the points made in the article? Here are my top six reasons:
The term fur baby implies that this person thinks of their pet as a baby or child.
My fur baby is not a baby or a child. She is a dog. A slightly over five pounds little wonder who brightens my world with her very existence. But let it be known that she has a full wardrobe and a stroller. Oh, I almost forgot the car seat!
Why the clothes?
Because it is fun to take holiday pictures and share the cuteness so others can get a laugh—even if it’s at my expense. Clothes are for photos only and immediately removed. The little one is a nudist at heart and loves to be naked.
Because when it is two degrees outside with a wind chill factor that makes it feel like 20 below, a sweater or coat will keep her warm and protected from the bitter cold. She doesn’t have an undercoat and she is tiny in stature. The breed is known to lose body heat faster than bigger dogs. Fact.
Why the stroller?
Because the blazing sun that beats down on the pavement is extremely hot, potentially burning her sensitive paws, and because one of the biggest threats to healthy paw pads is the salt used to melt ice on driveways, roads, and sidewalks. Prolonged contact can lead to chemical burns on a dog’s paws—any dog. Fact.
The stroller hasn’t been used, but I trust that when my fur baby grows old and walking poses a challenge, it may be put to the test. Dogs love to run free in the fresh air and though running may no longer be an option, the stroller will allow her to come for a walk, bark at some birds, and feel the wind on her furry little face.
Why the car seat?
Because if, God forbid, we are in an accident, she will be secured and kept as safe as possible. She also won’t be at risk for getting loose and getting hit by an oncoming car or running off.
So for those who sincerely believe that I think my dog is a baby or child because of the clothes, stroller, and car seat—think again.
Pets do not require middle of the night feedings or diaper changes.
Babies grow up; dogs never do. Children eventually take care of themselves; dogs never will.
A dog requires care throughout its lifespan. My dog will never prepare her own dinner or clean her bowls. She will never put her own harness and leash on. Like a baby, she is completely dependent on this human to ensure her every need is met.
Any pet owner can speak to the sleepless night(s) when they nursed a sick pup back to good health or cared for a senior dog who does indeed require diaper changes.
And if you’ve ever had a rescue, you may have been up in the middle of the night for feedings as they can be so damaged that they may not even know how to feed or hydrate themselves. Been there, done that.
Babies tug on your heartstrings so much when they say “mama” or “dada” for the first time. Pets will never do that.
Pets may never speak your name, but there are a lifetime of instances that pull on the heartstrings.
Like the first time she comes when called or succeeds with house-training. The way she cries when you leave the house each and every time. The canine kisses, licks, and wagging tail that greet you when you walk through the door—forever.
It’s much easier to go out (dinner or vacation) when you have pets and not a human baby. It’s emotionally harder to leave your own child where doggie day care is easy.
For some, it’s easier to get a babysitter than it is to get a dog-sitter. The breed I have is mischievous and stubborn, not to mention so tiny that she could easily get herself into trouble when left unattended.
If it is emotionally harder to leave one’s own child, why are there so many children in day care by choice, not need? Children who could be home with their mothers who aren’t working or don’t have to work for financial reasons, but choose to?
Doggie day care is not easy for some of us. I would never want to put my dog in an environment where she may get attacked by another dog or get loose and run away. I don’t want to trust an outsider to care for my dog because after all, she is my fur baby and not just a dog to me. Only if there were a dire need, an emergency, would the thought ever cross my mind.
To say it’s easier may be the opinion of some, but I think it comes down to our level of attachment, the depth of our love, and what our circumstances will allow.
We thought we loved our pets like children, but until we had children of our own, we didn’t understand just how much you could love another living being.
For those who are not physically able to have children, this could be an offensive statement. True animal lovers do indeed love their animals like they would a child. Pets are part of the family—and might be the only family they have. They care, nurture, and provide for them in every possible way.
I am not in any way comparing a human child to a pet, however, I find it unfair to judge someone’s capacity for love.
A pet may fill the emptiness and take away any sadness. I can almost guarantee that we know how much you can love another living being. We may just be shocked because we never knew that we could love a dog as much.
Pets will never be human and we should embrace the things that make them pets.
Just because we love, dote on, and maybe dress or coddle our pets, doesn’t mean that we see them as humans. We do embrace the things that make them pets and, in some ways, they surpass humans.
The blind trust an animal places in us. The unconditional love that it gives to us. Being an animal with its four paws, wagging tail, and playful nature is what brings us an endless supply of joy.
In closing, please don’t be offended when I call my dog a fur baby.
Dog mom, fur baby, and other fun labels are meant to be, just that—fun. Period.
These words are not said to hurt feelings, cause harm, or start fights. They are not intended to be taken seriously, but rather serve as light-hearted banter with the aim of provoking smiles and laughter that allow us to momentarily escape the heaviness of life.
And my fur baby agrees. (Wink.)