Sunday, February 19, 2012

I'm not this animal's "mom"

If I'd known that getting a dog would cause some people to call me its "mom," I would have hesitated even more than I did. If I had wanted to be a "mom" I would have either given birth to or adopted a child. I didn't do either of those things and I prefer not to be referred to as if I did.

I understand this makes me unique among the DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) dog owners. Many dog-owning couples without kids -- either because they didn't have them or are empty-nesters -- like to think of their pets as their children. They might call them "kids with fur" and refer to themselves as "mommy" and "daddy." I don't get it.

Many people, including actual parents of human children, back me up on this. They know an animal might be considered a family member, but believe that a pet is no son or daughter and a pet owner is no parent.

But some DINKs don't care that they aren't actually preparing Tigger or Bear for an independent life as a contributing member of society. They still like to imagine that their animals are feline or canine offspring. I guess if someone else wants to think of herself as the "mommy" of a 65-pound dog, so be it. I'm practicing my polite responses to being referred to as Ozzie's mom:

Maybe: "Do I look like his mom? I was hoping the laser treatments were working better than that."

Or: "I don't really like being called mom. Maybe we could call me his aunt."

Or: "You know, Bob doesn't mind being called Ozzie's dad, but maybe we could call me Ozzie's dad's live-in lover."

Or maybe I'll just leave it at: "I'm sorry, I'm not into being called Ozzie's mother. I prefer the word owner."

But some people don't like the word owner, I guess because it makes Ozzie sound like a piece of property or merchandise. I'm bewildered by them. The word owner feels right to me.

After a rough start, Ozzie has grown on me and I'm very happy with him, but I might never be an animal lover if that means embracing this odd concept of mothering a grown adult of another species. I'm training and caring for Ozzie, but I'm not sending him to college, setting up a trust fund for him or willing to protect him with my life. This pitbull mix is not going to propagate my DNA or carry my name forward. He will neither comfort me in my old age nor disappoint me by shooting up a supermarket, supporting a candidate like Rick Santorum or writing a blog that exposes all my mistakes as a mother.

I chose not to take my chances with motherhood in part because I don't trust myself to safely raise a daughter or son. I can't avoid making mistakes with Ozzie, but at least there's only so much damage an emotionally scarred dog can do in the world. This limits my fear of what could go wrong with the way this animal turns out. He's not a person and I'm not his mother. That level of responsibility and intimacy is simply not there and I'm extremely uncomfortable when someone suggests it is.

[No, Ozzie's eyes aren't really blue. They just look that way in the photo.]


cindylu said...

I'd applaud if you were reading this aloud.

I never knew people referred to their pets as their kids until I started reading more blogs by 20 or 30-something white women. I'm sure it's not just white people who do this, but I know the way people treat pets differs by class and culture.

Anyway, I think owner or even caretaker would be fine. Also, I wonder if DINKs feel ridiculous calling themselves fur-mommies or daddies when they do have actual offspring or adopt. Oh! I've heard people seriously refer to the pet as a baby's brother or sister. We joke like this I my family, but there is no way I see our dogs, VR and Daisy, like I see my brothers and sister.

Jessica Young said...

For the record, I like response #2 best.

Guy said...

Why AREN'T you sending Ozzie to college? Not even technical school?