Some pet parent perspective, please!

Deadbeat dog! Either they ruin the furniture or they force you to protect the furniture with the world's tackiest blanket.

Deadbeat dog! Either they ruin the furniture or they force you to protect the furniture with the world’s tackiest blanket.

My ambivalence towards pets is by now well documented. I consider the dog and four cats that reside in my house to be penance for all my past and future sins. They are my hair shirt – quite literally.

I’m at peace with the unlikelihood of my ever being named goodwill ambassador for the SPCA. Worst-case scenario, if I ever become single again, I won’t be able to answer personal ads from women who are nuts about pets and John Cusack films (“Must love Must Love Dogs”).

Yet each time I mention that I’m not an animal lover I feel the need to point out that this does not make me an animal hater. I do not hate pets. I do not neglect or mistreat my family’s pets. I do not push cats off my lap… all the time. I simply think pets are these four-legged jerks who have evolved to take advantage of human sentimentality. But I don’t hate them.

I shouldn’t have to make this distinction but increasingly in our society you are either with pets or against them.

And here’s one reason why: “pet parents.”

My children were watching “Duck Dynasty” the other day. (Do I like “Duck Dynasty”? I do not. Do I hate it? Not even. I simply don’t see the appeal of a show aimed at making the viewer feel simultaneously superior, envious and mostly bored. I’m ambivalent; see how that works? ) As I was leaving the room rolling my eyes, a dog food ad came on that mentioned something about how four out of five pet parents agree that most dogs would be just as content eating juice-soaked meat-tray liners straight out of the trash. Or something like that. I wasn’t really paying attention.

But “pet parents”?

“Pet parents!” I shouted. “We’re ‘pet parents’ now? No, we’re not! We’re pet owners! What’s wrong with ‘pet owners?’”

My children reacted the way they do when they hear the dog scratching at the door: they didn’t.

But as I walked away to shoo a cat from chewing a houseplant, I couldn’t let it go. It gnawed at me like a puppy gnaws a favourite pair of dress shoes. “Pet parent” is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Three years ago, the SPCA asked us to "foster" this cat and its two siblings for three days. There's a sucker born every litter...

Three years ago, the SPCA asked us to “foster” this cat and its two siblings for a week. There’s a sucker born every litter…

Most of us obtain our pets through some kind of transaction. Therefore we own our pets. I will grant you that one might “adopt” a pet but this is not the same as adopting a child. I accept “adopt a pet” only because it beats the alternatives, such as “long-term leasing a pet” or “kidnapping a pet.” But unless you or your spouse pushed out that litter, you are not a “pet parent.”

What’s implied by “pet parent” is that domestic animals are our “pet children.” Again, I will grant you “pet companions” and “pet friends” and will concede that pets can provide satisfaction, love and the physical comfort of an empathetic, mobile heating pad. But the only way my pets are like my children is that I provide them food and shelter and they don’t clean up after themselves.

Notice I say they are “like” children. That is not the same as being children. My love is like a red, red rose but my love is not literally a rose, though I am a bit thorny. (And if I keep that up, I may be scanning personal ads sooner than I think.)

So why should I care? It’s just a dumb euphemism. Why disturb my children’s enjoyment of a mediocre reality show with my ranting?

Because “pet parents” is not the natural evolution of language. It is the forced language of lobbyists, the manipulation of marketers – but with significant ramifications. We already spend a ton of dough on Fido – over $48 billion on pet care and services in the U.S. alone. By further humanizing our pets, we’ll spend even more. That’s fine; it’s a dog-treat-dog world. But the implication is that if you don’t do everything you possibly can for your pet children, you are a bad, bad pet parent. And you will be judged.

Worse, though, is the ever-growing suggestion that pets are equal to humans. It’s not a long walk (without a repressive leash) from “pet parent” to “pet police” to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Chihuahua. And from there it’s a short Frisbee throw to publicly shaming scoundrels who are “ambivalent” about pets. Before you know it, the dog will be sitting at the table and pariahs like me will be tied to a tree in the back of the yard, howling at fate and barking at the neighbours.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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40 Responses to Some pet parent perspective, please!

  1. El Guapo says:

    Get fish.
    Much easier to manage.

  2. I love animals and have always had pets, but there are limits. I find the whole “fur babies” and “pet parent” thing quite creepy. And please, don’t post pictures of you kissing your dog on the mouth (was that a tongue? Ewwww). I’m going pet-free as soon as this latest bunch of barfing, pooping and yowling freeloaders kick off. I fantasize about the day where I don’t have to deal with other creatures’ poop. When I dream, I dream big.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      It’s a good dream.
      We have a large supporting beam in the basement of our house, literally a piece of tree holding up the house. The cats use it as a scratching post and it’s slowly wearing away. In 72 more years they’re going to bring that mother down!

  3. byebyebeer says:

    I find some satisfaction watching pet parents become people parents, because that is when their furry children (blechh) usually revert back into plain old animals. I realize this makes me sound like an asshole, but it’s probably more wrestling with the guilt that I once adored my cat like a baby and now he is just a very old cat we very often have to shoo off of our laps.

    p.s. your pets are adorable!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’ve often called pets owned by young couples, “Children In Training.” But they have no idea, do they. Ha!

      Somewhat adorable. The cat in the closeup is my least not favourite.

  4. Amanda Fox says:

    In our house, I am not a pet owner, nor a pet parent. The animals own me. Make no mistake however, they do NOT own my husband. They irritate him LOL.

  5. Mooselicker says:

    I hear horses are pretty self-sufficient. Plus they can double as a car.

    My opinion isn’t far different from yours on this. It’s probably the same opinion I have on kids. I like them both, but I’m not sure either are really for me. I’m at a selfish age. I don’t want to have to clean anyone’s butt except for mine.

  6. There are many many people who go overboard with their love of animals, to the point of being a bit loony. We get calls all the time from people concerned that they see a dog inside a locked car on a 60 degree day! Oh no, I tell them, really?!!! Let me break the window and save it! Geez, people who take their animals on car rides are typically people who love their critters; they’re probably not trying to suffocate the beast slowly. I also like people who say they “rescued” their pet. Really? So what, it was trapped in a frozen lake and you pulled it out or you ran into a burning building past 4 children to reach it and save it? Come on!

  7. haha! The hair shirt comment cracked me up! I know that it’s literal because I’ve had my fair share of pets. To be honest, I’m at a point in my life that I actually say, I prefer the company of our four legged friends to anyone else. Hands down. Give me a good old retriever or lab and I can live out the rest of my days knowing that my guy will always be there for me. People- not so much. I love ’em all. (you can’t fool me- I can tell you’re a softy. I know these things.)

  8. javaj240 says:

    I feel EXACTLY the same way about animals as you do, and I even “own” one. Well, two if you want to include my teenager in that statistic. Oh, does that make me a bad human parent? Whatevs. Here’s my take on pets: They are children that never grow up. My only saving grace is that I have a cat, not a dog, and the best that can be said about that is this: Cats are far less needy than dogs. They are, however, smarter and tend to elude capture when capturing is necessary. Dogs will go with anyone, anywhere, so long as there is meat involved. So, that’s the up side of cat ownership. The same principle applies to adolescents, unless you have one of those weird vegetarian ones… and then you might just substitute broccoli for ham.

  9. MissFourEyes says:

    Pets are not children. Children grow up and learn to flush the toilet, with pets we have to lug around that pooper scooper forever. I’m with you. I guess we should be scared.

  10. Pet Parents?! Hell, already feel that way raising a teenager.
    Said teenager, at age 10, named our cat Lizzie Borden. She’s also been a vegetarian since age 11. and is now 19.
    Luckily she detests PETA… and pet parents.

    Dug the hair shirt comment’ still grinning over that.

  11. Katie says:

    I’m against the pet parent thing, too. I mean, I’d never say I “own” my animals in front of tem… I say they BELONG to me. I think it’s so creepy when middle aged women subsistute a pet for a baby and when they’re talking about their parents, they call it the pet’s grandparents. It’s creepy.

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  13. Doggy is a furry beast, he stinks, he carries crap on his fur which is like velcro, he’s not allowed on the sofa or bed.
    I love him but he’s still an animal, on the wild side for what it seems, I’m afraid he’s gonna get to hungry and eat me, children wouldn’t do that, would they?

  14. I’d have to agree with you – and I also don’t keep my child in a purse and carry it to the maul. You were brave to post this – least you be shunned by all the people in your Township.. now you’ll be obligated to bring your dog to PetSmart and wonder why it’s going nuts over all the other pets’ scents. Personally, I think – bring a cat! Bring a Tasmanian Devil… and please don’t get me started on people dressing their dogs up….that’s just wrong.

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