A few months ago, I took an hour-long bus ride on public transit in Seattle. In that amount of time, not one but two strollers were pushed onto the already-packed bus. Commuters did the reluctant shuffle to make room.
When a man in a wheelchair got on, one of the strollers refused to move.
Then someone looked in the stroller. Instead of a baby, there was a dog. In the second stroller? Another dog.
When the yelling began, I stuffed my headphones in my ears and pretended to be anywhere else.
While I haven’t seen a dog in a stroller since, I’ve seen countless posts on social media of friends’ “fur babies.” Pets are treated better now than they’ve ever been. There are Instagram accounts dedicated to our fluffy companions, businesses catering to them and doting “dog parents” coddling them.
I remember the day we brought home Bo, our then-eight-week-old Jack Russell puppy. He snoozed in a blanket-lined basket on the drive, the bottoms of his paws still soft and pink. He couldn’t even bark yet.
Even though he weighed around the same as a human infant and we consider him a member of our family, he is not our baby. And your dog or cat is not yours. I love my dog, and now I even love my roommate’s cat. But they don’t make us parents.
I’m not discounting the responsibility of caring for another life — who is dependent mostly, if not completely, on you. There’s the feeding, the exercise, the sleep schedule, the vet visits (planned or not), training and the general damage. The chewed shoes, scratched couches, ruined carpets. The cost and care of having a pet is not something to take lightly.
But it pales in comparison to raising a child. A dog can’t yell “I hate you” as they slam the door and shut you out. You won’t have to attend parent-teacher conferences, worry about their grades, their future. You don’t have to have those hard discussions about sex or race or the troubles of the world. You won’t have to watch them cry over their first (of many) heartbreaks.
Sure, maybe sometimes it feels like your pet is using you for food, just like a teenager who can eat through the whole fridge and ask for more might. But you’ll never have to worry about your pet describing to a therapist all the ways you failed as a parent. Nope, you can simply give them a treat or a belly rub and they’re all yours.