Expecting dad Robert Graves wonders if being a longtime dog owner has made him more prepared to become a parent than non-dog owners
We can all agree that dogs are family. Dogs bring happiness and joy. Dogs need to be taken care of and trained. Dogs need to be loved and, in turn, love you back. And, when dogs pass on to doggy heaven, we lose a large part of ourselves. The whole family does.
Dogs need tons of attention if you want to be known as a responsible dog owner. When I take my little man, Sherman (the German), to the dog park, I teach him park etiquette. When we go on walks, I teach him leash manners. He isn’t allowed to beg, he’s not allowed to jump, and, when I mean business, he knows to stop what he’s doing.
But doesn’t everyone’s dogs?
Hell no! There are tons of houses you walk in, and you’re like… Does it smell like piss in here? Where’d my food go? The dog just chewed up my shoes… I mean, seriously?
That’s because not everyone puts complete energy into training or “etiquette.” That is a serious statement. Please understand when I say this—Not everyone puts the same energy in training their dogs to be “Canine Good Citizens.”
That’s a real thing in case you were wondering.
It takes a special type of pride or determination (or getting lucky with a naturally well behaved dog) that gets you to a point where people go out of their way to let you know they recognize that your dog is well-behaved. And don’t get me wrong, I’m no dog-whisperer.
So my ultimate question is—Does owning dogs prepare you for raising kids?
How preposterous! How dare I ask such a thing? I mean, only an asshole would compare raising his stupid dogs to raising a kid, right?
See, those were the things I had to hear when I used to compare raising my dogs to raising kids. When I was in the Marine Corps, I used to get scolded by parents when I would compare how well behaved my dogs were to people’s kids. Scolded. I would say things like “My dogs know not to run in the street,” ”Bosco (my pit) knows better than to leave my sight,” and it wouldn’t be far from the truth.
But, when you really look at it, there are many, many places where the responsibilities of dog owners and parents overlap. For example…
Dogs need to be fed. And, I mean, good healthy food if you’re looking for your kids—I mean, pups—to have the best health and life longevity possible.
Dogs need shots. And, even after the shots, you need to be careful to follow your doctor’s advice in order to keep your dog from dying from parvo at an early age or rabies from a dog from another
parent owner who doesn’t necessarily take care of their dogs (or follow the rules) as well as you do. (Chicken pox or lice, anyone?)
Dogs need attention. Like all the time. If you don’t pay attention to your dog, they will find a way for you to pay attention—by ripping up your shoes, clothes, furniture, photos, DVDs, trash, homework… coloring on your walls, carpet, wrecking your yard… are you catching my drift?
Dogs need love. You need to love your dog, because if you raise your hand to your dog (and I’m guilty), your dog will develop a certain fear that you can never take back. They also need to be coddled and hugged and allowed to fall asleep in your lap every so often.
Dogs need potty training. Unless you own a candle company (you know… to mask the smell). Kids need potty training, unless you own a cotton field, cotton gin, and a few dozen sweat-shop workers to make you an endless supply of clothes and bed sheets.
Dogs need guidance. You need to teach your
kids dogs what’s right and what’s wrong. You need to teach your dog how to act around strangers and make sure they act right when you’re not around.
Dogs need socialization. They need to learn how to play well with others. They need to learn how to share. Kinda like play dates at Gymboree.
Dogs need toys.
Dogs need babysitters. Even when you leave for vacation, you need to find a puppy-sitter you can trust, or enroll in a doggy day care.
Dogs need bed times. And dog owners need doggies to have bed times too.
Dog owners need patience.
I mean, how can you not see the similarities between kids and dogs?
Does this sound familiar?
“COME HERE! COME H… I SAID… Come…HEY… ungh…” “Get off the couch!” “No.” “DOWN!” No.” NO!” “PUT THAT DOWN.” “Leave it. LEAVE IT ALONE!”
Or what about the quiet? That’s right—the “it’s-way-too-quiet-in-here” quiet. The quiet when you know you’re about to turn the corner and see the murdered twins from the Overlook Hotel standing in the kitchen with your dog on a leash, feeding all of your cookbooks to him… and you can’t do anything but blame yourself, because you should know better than to keep stuff you cherish within the dog’s reach.
These are the same troubles parents have with their kids.
Now I’m writing this as an expectant father. I am about to experience firsthand what really having a kid is like, so, what do I know, right? But I’ve been around dozens of parents raising kids—from birth to college, even marriage. I’ve had secondhand experience and, while I fully understand it’s not the same thing as having your own, I am no dummy. I’m a pretty keen observer, apt to soak in the lessons I’ve learned and also learn from other’s trials and tribulations.
At the time I had my first two dogs, I didn’t have children. I wasn’t expecting children. I wasn’t trying to have children. So, in essence, those dogs were MY children. They filled the role of direct genetic offspring for me, and I looked forward to spending time with them, as parents do with their children. I hated leaving the house for too long, and if I could, I would have them tag along whenever possible. They were my (pseudo) children. They were my family.
I understand that dogs and children are different. I do. Fully. However, I am just asking, am I really that crazy for thinking that maybe… just maybe, if you understand the necessity of raising a “Canine GOOD citizen,” that, while I may not be totally prepared, that perhaps I’m more prepared to be parent than the average guy who is a non-dog owner?