How I Found My Calling As A “Dog Parent”

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.IMG_6817.JPGThat’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.

IMG_5878Unlike 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.  But 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

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14 thoughts on “How I Found My Calling As A “Dog Parent”

  1. Wendy norton

    Thank you for this, your path mirrors mine. Our path led us to be dog parents only. Circumstances did not allow us to have human children. Our many fur babies have been the light of our lives. Each has been a blessing and joy. We rescue GSDs now, and look forward to making more memories as we continue down this path.

  2. Rebecca L Price

    I am the favorite aunt, great aunt, and 4 legged kids mom. I can’t imagine life without my dogs and horses. I do enjoy the 2 legged ones to, but the 4 legged kids are my life.

  3. Wendy Henley

    Girl I love reading what you write, whether it be from you or one of the boys. I’m fortunate enough to be parents of bot two and four legged kids. In fact I call my son my dog’s name River and River my son’s name Richard. I have gone through a number of adoptions with fur babies and foster care with boys. Would I trade any of these times??? Not one I ota. Now that the two legged kids are on their own my four legged boys are the center of our attention.

    They love you girl as much as any two legged child could and I know you love them the same.

  4. Jacqueline

    Perfectly said, Miss Rachael, AKA Girl Person. You really need to become a writer, I know it’s been said before, but seriously. I have a son, 26 years old now, that I love with every fiber of my being, and he has saved and changed my life on so many levels, even though he has his own beautiful life now. That said, and because this blog is always so honest, I had a devastating year in 2016 with the depression monster and July 3, 2016 I was going to end it and the only two beings in the world that saved me were thinking about what that would do to my son, even though he wasn’t aware of what was happening to me, and my dog, who WAS here and needed me to take care of him. And my dog KNEW something was wrong with me and never left my side and let me cry tears on him that soaked his fur all night into the next day, and the next day, I was ME again. I immediately started weaning myself off of all the BIG PHARMA drugs my doctors had prescribed for me to help me with my depression and RAGING anxiety, resigned from my Hell Job as a supervisor at the Post Office and have never looked back. My finances might tell a different story, but my soul was worth more! I no longer take any medication and I’m a different person this year, and honestly, that hole I was in July 2016, I might not have come out of if my dog wasn’t Here, even though my son is in another city. I’m so glad you chose this path, or this path chose you!! Your blog saved my life too, during this past year. Keep doing what you’re doing!! Love you!!!
    P.S. I can’t wait to listen to The Podcast today!!!!! xoxoxo

  5. Eileen Geoghegan

    This really speaks to me as I too am a dog and cat parent only not kids. All of your posts are so beautiful and uplifting and deep but this one is on a soul level. I have severe PTSD and my dog and cats are IT for me, but as you rightly said just as people’s actual baby’s and kids are it for them to. It’s not a competition or anything but I do feel I can relate to those with kids because of how deeply I adore my pet’s. Please keep the dog blog it has helped me through so many days πŸ™‚ I really love your work

  6. Aimee Satterfield

    Very well said. I don’t have human children but can’t imagine life without my fur kids. I have 3 that sit on the mantel (cremated and still mourned) and 2 that are running around my feet, playing as I type this. They fulfill my life and add so much joy. I am happy to say I will be a dog mom for the rest of my life.

  7. 5 Dog Ranch

    I honestly never wanted to have human children. Just never seemed the right thing for me. But I’ve had five rescue dogs now for probably 20 years. Not all the same five…as one passed on, each and every time I told myself that I was going to get down to a “reasonable” amount of dogs. But then there would be this “unadoptable” dog with that hard luck story…and well, I’d be back up to five again. They mean the world to me. Where I live, what I do, when I do it, all revolves around the dogs. They are great companions and really, my Best Friends. They keep me active and I get to see some amazing back-country I wouldn’t see if it wasn’t for our hiking adventures. Every now and then when I fly home from somewhere and it’s too late to pick them up from their Dog Camp kennel place, I enter an empty house and go to bed without them and wonder how in the world people could tolerate an empty house. They make me so happy. I feel blessed and privileged to be their dog-mom.

    1. Suzanne Reynolds.

      I have said that same thing so many times. How in the world can people live w/o a dog. Not judgement just my heart.

      1. Debra

        My “little girl” is also Maggie Mae, a tiny black “senior” Chihuahua, and she has changed my life.

  8. Joan

    I too imagined a house full of children ever since I was quite young. Unfortunately, life threw some curve balls at me. I lasted one month and one week after my first child (yes, I felt very much a mother), Maggie Mae my beautiful yellow lab, passed away. I adopted Charlie Ray and love him just as much. i am “Mom” to both of these animals, that quite frankly saved my life!! I have tears writing this comment, as it is just nice to know that there are others out there that have similar stories and understand the love we have for animals!!!

  9. Wendy

    I, too, just didn’t get around to having humans. But the love that I get from my fur kids has made me a better person. I am lucky. The universe has surrounded me with other humans in similar situations. Thank you for putting this out there. It is really well done.

  10. Pam

    You are so right! This describes how we feel about our two rescues who we love more than anything in this world! They fulfill us and have given us the life we never knew we wanted – and needed!

  11. Ann Miller

    What a great story. We too were unable to have children but I found dachshunds. Most were rescues and after losing them much too soon from illness, I decided I would only do puppies. That didn’t last long and now I’m a true dachshund mom. Our family of 6 is a very cohesive but each has their own personality and needs. I wouldn’t trade any of my “kids” for the world. I keep telling my husband they they’re small and our six equals one large dog. Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t work anymore so I will have to wait until someone crosses Rainbow Bridge to rescue again. My oldest Rescue is 16 year old Cody. We got him last year and he is a true love. He walked in with his own bed and made himself at home. It’s like he’s been here all his life.

  12. Beautiful <3 I too chose to have pets and it is life changing to know those fur kids love and depend on us πŸ™‚ God knows our path before we are born ~ we are blessed to enjoy the ride called life πŸ™‚

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