dog

My Dog Is My Baby And I Deserve To Be Treated The Same As Any Parent

by Ana Luisa Suarez
Ana is an Associate Editor who loves animals and food. A good taco and a snuggle with her dogs is all she needs.

Let me begin by saying this: I have a lot of respect for all hard-working parents and I love children.

I have four incredible nieces who I wish I could spend time with every day. Without question, they are the coolest, funniest girls I know, and I’m not just saying that because they all can read!

That being said, I am just so sick of people saying that because I don’t have human offspring, I am not a parent. I am the mom of a fur baby — a silky terrier named Tyrone who is seven pounds but feistier than a Rottweiler — and he is in every way like a child to me (he just so happens to have a lot more fur than human children).

Now, I’m sure all of the parents out there reading this who don’t have fur babies of their own are already firing up to write an angry comment directed at me about how I know nothing about parenting because I have a dog, and not kids. And they are wrong.

Ana Luisa Suarez / LittleThings

I’ve watched my sisters raise their daughters and I have been the supportive sibling and aunt along for the ride — the good, the bad and the very messy. I’ve changed my fair share of poopy diapers, I’ve been thrown up on and I sure as hell have gotten peed on, too.

Still, when I talk about Tyrone, and his needs, with the parents of children, I can see them start to mentally check out. Apparently Tyrone’s well-being isn’t as important just because he is a dog.

People tell me that dogs and babies are two completely different things, and yes, thank you, I’ve never noticed that one! The issue for me is not being considered a parent just because my child is of the four-legged variety.

Janine Ngai for LittleThings

Tyrone came into my life when he was found on the side of the road, in the middle of a torrential downpour, by my sister Jess. He was soaking wet, shaking like a leaf, and he had the saddest eyes imaginable. How anyone could just leave him on the side of the road, where he easily could have been hit by a car, I still cannot fathom. The second I saw his face, I was in love, and there was no turning back.

I never had to change Tyrone’s diapers, I never went through the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding him, and I never suffered through sleepless nights because he was teething.

Still, that doesn’t mean Tyrone has spent the last seven years just fending for himself. Every moment I am home is spent with Tyrone by my side. He makes messes like a child. He gets into fights with his six siblings (five crazy cats and one very docile senior dog) like a child. And he knows when he has done something wrong, and he’ll hide if he thinks he’s in trouble.

Ana Luisa Suarez / LittleThings

I bathe him, and he fights me tooth and nail about getting into the tub (he hates getting his ears wet). I feed him and we argue over whether or not he’s allowed to eat cat food (for the record he’s not, my best friend who is a doctor has told me that is a no no). I play with him five times a day in my yard because he is a growing boy who needs exercise. And I lay with him every night and tell him I love him.

I, too have sleepless nights, just like any parent. Tyrone regularly kicks me while he’s sleeping, and he wakes me up when he changes from being the big spoon to the little spoon in my bed. He jumps on me every morning at 7 a.m. demanding food and attention.

I have heard it a million times: Tyrone is not my child because I didn’t give birth to him, and it’s probably the silliest argument that I’ve ever heard. Giving birth to a baby is not what makes someone a parent, though I am not discrediting how tough labor must be (go moms, that looks rough)!

Janine Ngai for LittleThings

Dogs also aren’t considered “babies” because they can change owners. Sure, that is true, except children often also pass through many hands. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and even complete strangers, take in children when their biological parents cannot care for them for any number of reasons. Would you say these people aren’t allowed to call themselves parents if they spend months, maybe even years, raising someone else’s child?

There are also those who physically cannot have children, so their dog, or cat (cats deserve love, too) becomes their child. Would you honestly feel right telling that person they’re delusional for loving an animal who has given them joy and purpose? Dogs can provide a deep sense of comfort, without speaking a word, that no child can.

Ana Luisa Suarez / LittleThings

Yes, I leave my dog at home while I go to work, while it would never be acceptable to leave a young child home alone, but that is because they have different needs. Tyrone can manage on his own during the limited hours that he is without me or my boyfriend, but he mainly spends those hours asleep. Tyrone still misses me mind you —he waits by the door for me and actually vibrates with excitement when I get home — and I have a suspicion I miss him more than most people miss their kids.

Here’s the kicker about being considered a second class parent: Not only do I not get the same recognition as parents, I don’t get the same advantages to care for Tyrone as the parents of kids do.
Currently, I work for a dog friendly company, but I haven’t always been so lucky, and in the past, if Tyrone got sick, I would have had quite a hard time getting an entire day off from work to take care of him and take him to the vet. I imagine the response from most bosses for a request like that would be, “Can’t you take him on your day off — he’s just a dog!”

But would any parent wait to take their child to the doctor on their day off, if that day off wasn’t for another four days? And the big difference between Tyrone being sick and a toddler being sick is Tyrone can’t tell me what hurts.

Ana Luisa Suarez / LittleThings

Similarly, pet parents don’t have the luxury of asking to leave early from the office to feed their animals (whereas most employers would never question an ask like this from the parent of a child) or time off in the vein of maternity leave to care for newly adopted fur babies.

Bottom line: For the most part, us parents of fur babies just don’t get the understanding that we need to care for our pets. Given the many hours I have spent training my own fur baby, caring for him and pouring every ounce of love I have into him, I can say without question that that’s just not right.

The day I do have human children, I honestly wonder if they would love me the way that Tyrone loves me. Is it wrong to call yourself a parent when you get such unconditional love? If I died tomorrow, Tyrone would probably be more lost than my boyfriend. And I think that goes to show just how much he needs me, like I need him.