real life

'Yes, I am one of those people who calls my dog 'my baby'.

It’s pretty hard for me to get upset after reading an article about dogs. After scrolling through pictures, memes, facts or stories about our canine friends, it’s hard to imagine having anything other than a smile on your face, right?

But when I read a piece titled ‘Pets Are Not Children, So Stop Calling Them That’, I was a little offended.


The author was arguing that those who call their dogs their “children” (guilty) “sincerely believe that what they’re doing” by raising an animal is akin to parenthood.

Yes, I refer to my dog as my ‘fur baby’. She is, for lack of a better term, my child. I even call myself ‘mum’ and my husband ‘dad’ when we’re in her presence.

Meet my 'fur baby', Cleo.

Everyone who knows me also knows about my dog. I throw pictures of her curled up in a ball on my bed, running on the beach, and 'OH LOOK HERE SHE IS SNUGGLING HER TEDDY' in the face of anyone who may be forced to listen.

But I am under no illusion that being a proud dog owner comes anything close to 'parenting'.

Look, she's sleeping. Are you looking?

When we first got Cleo, she was a six-month old rescue pup who had clearly never experienced rain. It poured for the whole first week we had her, which meant she barely wanted to step outside of our house, and yes, that meant there was mess everywhere.

Add to that she's spent most of her life locked in a cage and was hardly toilet trained, and you have an experience that I have often described to friends as 'like having a child'.

Like a child, I also force Cleo to pose for annoying photographs for Instagram with me.

I've often made plans and had to cancel them because 'we can't leave the dog alone'. Being out at work for 12 hours while Cleo is at home means that sometimes, going out on a weekday isn't possible or responsible.

Am I saying this is just as hard as bringing home a newborn, dealing with a tantruming toddler or arguing over curfew times with a teenager? No way.

Running with a dog on the beach is NOT the same as raising a child, obviously.

Have I ever looked at my sister-in-law with my three-year-old nephew and thought, 'Oh, I know exactly how that feels'. No.

But looking after my dog is the closest experience I have to raising a human. It's my connection to feeling responsible for another living thing.

I'm not raising dog to become a 'good person' who will one day fend for herself in the big wide world, going off to university and contribute to society in a positive way (although, I do like that mental image, I must admit).

Not everyone agrees that pets are like your 'baby'. Here's the argument. (Post continues after audio.)

I'm simply trying to make sure my dog has the love and attention she needs and deserves, and that she doesn't bite off my neighbour's hand every time they come in contact.

I guess Cleo and a toddler have that in common.

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