Monday, April 16, 2012

Which comes first, the pet (companion animal) or the child (companion human)?

Most MiM's probably consider themselves mothers to human babies, toddlers, teens, or to grown children. But a MiM might also be "mother" to a companion animal, i.e. to a pet.

Which did you (you alone or you and your partner/spouse) have first?

The pet as practice for a kid?
The kid as practice for a pet?

Some upsides and downsides either way. Can't learn to breastfeed (or pump) with your pet, but can learn to be responsible, to love a helpless being, to nurture, to teach/train/grow up another living lovable animal.

Toilet training <-----> litter box
Diaper changing <-----> pooper scooper
Taking for a walk <------> taking for a stroll, and then alas those first steps!
Doggy day care <-----> child care

The challenges and triumphs. The shared responsibilities with spouse. The work-family balance. The feeding, sleep training, getting up early, staying up late, clipping their nails, bathing. Not sure if anyone reads to their pet, like they would to a child, but could certainly sing to either!

Taking them to the vet/pediatrician (the two are periodically confused, for that matter). Does a MiM do some of the medical care for their own pet like they might for their own child?

We had our children first, and then (at the daily, no make that TID urging of daughter) brought a bunny rabbit from the local humane society into our house. Was not even a difficult transition (the more the merrier) and quite a learning, loving, sharing experience for us all. The bunny eats better than the daughter (way more kale, greens, carrots). We don't attempt to provide vet/medical care for our bunny (not qualified!) and are recognizing the importance of primary care. Son and daughter aren't quite sure (it changes day to day) if they are "mother and father" to our bunny, or big siblings to the little guy.

Which did you have first, and why?


  1. Pet first for me... My husband lives 4 hours away due to both of our jobs not being transferable. We would have kids if we lived together. To cope, I adopted a bunny from the SPCA. He is my baby... and a great companion!

  2. We have accumulated three dogs and a cat over the years, half-joking that it was practice for kids. To some extent, it was - we learned (slowly) how to keep up with each one's needs and idiosyncrasies and, overall, they've made us more responsible. Now that we're expecting triplets, we've decided to give away all but one dog. Funny how priorities change so quickly...

  3. Jess, oh gee long distance is hard, hopefully temporary, and I'm glad the bunny is helping you cope! Single parenting.

    Anon, agree, it's like half jokingly practice, but kind of real, either way!

  4. We're pet parents, and will continue to use our "furry kids" as practice for real children! Dogs have to be taken care of; fed; bathed (although not every day); taken to the doctor; given attention; taken on trips or left at the in-laws or in daycare... so yeah, IMO, they do prepare you for the future.

  5. Our first dog preceded our daughter by more than 10 years. I've never referred to myself as a "puppy parent" and I didn't appreciate people suggesting at the time that he was "practice", but we weren't sure we'd ever have kids and I needed another creature in the family.

    I have prescribed for the dogs over the years - probably more often than I have for the kid - with the advice and counsel of my siblings-in-law, who are both vets. My husband (not a doc) does the routine doc visits for both the kid and the dog, and I go when there's something serious or confusing (thank God that's happened more with the dogs than the kid).

    This is probably our last dog - my husband's allergies are getting worse with each passing year. I will be sad.

  6. It is quite disappointing to see comparison of the animal to child.
    So sad - our lives should be invested in humans. Animal is a companion, but child is a spiritual bond, continuation of yourself on this earth.

  7. Dr G: Furry kids!

    Jay: Glad you have vet relatives. Sorry about the allergies.

    Anon: Was meant to be a lighter than that, laughter helps solidify our bonding with and investment in each other (human and other animals).

    [PS, with anon's comment, now I feel like Fizzy a little, but just a little]

  8. Dr G: I have paid people to bathe my dogs. I have never paid anyone to bathe my child, but there were nights I would have been willing to. Now the kid is entirely self-sufficient in the bathing department. The dog is not.

    And thanks for the sympathy...I will be looking for dog-harboring friends to visit...

    And sheesh. My kid has enough to do without being saddled with being a "continuation of myself" - unless that means my genes, in which case, oh well, because she was adopted.

  9. Jay: But certainly your jeans :-)

    Dr G and Jay: perhaps bathing is overrated... maybe a future MiM post

  10. Pet! I had a dog first. Why? Because I thought it was easier to take care of a dog than a baby. But boy, was I wrong?! My dog was, and still is, a lot of work! Not to mention very expensive (food, grooming, toys, etc.). And very needy! Don't get me wrong, dogs or pets of any kind, are wonderful companions and stress-relievers but they require a lot of attention. Babies do, too, but at least babies do not eat cabinet doors and carpet rugs when bored. Haha!

  11. I got a dog when I was just out of residency and finally had a house. I was also single and the dog was my "baby", but he was not particularly spoiled. However, my husband is a farm boy and feels that dogs belong outside. The dog was in the house some before baby, but he now lives in a kennel in the garage with an outdoor run. I feel bad and feel like we should find a better home for him, but I'm still pretty attached.


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