When you were growing up, did you think to yourself that you wanted to be a dog parent one day? You know…raise a family of dogs or other pets and not have human children? Not me.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of the day when I would have about five kids, I would live in the country and have a farm. I would grow old there, have grandkids and some cows, maybe a few dogs too. Yes, I had always loved animals too. In fact, briefly I entertained the thought of being a vet…until I realized I couldn’t stand to see an animal hurt. Yeah. That may be a problem.
It was always my intention to have two legged children, but life and circumstances led me to other paths. I felt unfulfilled and and I just wasn’t happy as I got into my late 20’s. I felt I had missed out and I didn’t know where I fit in. My friends were having kids and building houses. They seemed to have their lives together, and I felt that I was always searching.That’s when Skanky and Mr. Scotty came into my life. They were two dogs that needed homes, discarded in our neighborhood, and they were amazing. They spent the day at my grandparent’s home while I was at work, and they spent the evenings with us and the weekends. But Skanky and Mr. Scotty were pretty self sufficient. They needed me, but as individuals, they had their freedom too. We lived in a rural area and they roamed free, being dogs and being happy. I was happy that they were happy. And I didn’t realize till after they were gone how much they had fulfilled me. Until they were gone. I felt that emptiness again. That is when we welcomed Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake into our lives after Skanky and Mr. Scotty passed. About three weeks to be exact. We didn’t last long.
Unlike Skanky and Mr. Scotty who had just “shown up” to our home, we picked Brickle and Digby out from a shelter. And from day one, I knew that each one of them were very different from their predecessors. Brickle needed me. He really needed me. Digby needed me too, to love and to cuddle. And I felt somehow fulfilled knowing that I had saved them. There was an immediate connection, unlike any other that I had had in the past. I knew in my head that they weren’t my real, blood, human children. And I knew in my head that a human child relationship must feel different. But I didn’t care. And as the days and the weeks passed, and I realized how much they meant to me, it was scary. Unlike human children, we know the time with our dogs is not forever. Facts are facts. And so I tried to tell myself that I was crazy for loving my dogs so much. I tried to tell myself that they were not my heart and soul. But as each day passed, it didn’t matter what I told myself. They were my kids. And I didn’t care what anyone else thought.
But for me, the term of dog mom or dog parent didn’t fit that much. I have never liked labels. For me, I just knew that since I didn’t have human kids, the emptiness was filled with my boys. I could “mother” them and love them like any parent. But I didn’t need to be called a parent. Some people do. And that is fine too.
It hurts me when I see people arguing that dog parents aren’t real parents. Or that they don’t love their furkids as much as human kids. It also hurts me when I see dog parents telling moms of beautiful children that for some reason their furkids are better than having human kids. Why do any of us judge how another person lives their life? Why can’t we just accept that fulfillment comes in many different forms? And why can’t we accept that the paths that lead each different person to where they find joy and love are different? If you haven’t walked down that same road (with a leash or not), you cannot judge.
For me, my paths and my life led me to be where I am now. And I am happy that they did. My life did not turn out how I imagined it, but I will never second guess that. Why? Look at them.
And look at what you have. And know that no matter what you call yourself, if you are fulfilled, that is all that matters.
-Rachael Johnson, Girl Person, 2 Traveling Dogs