Sixty one percent of dog owners believe that caring for pets fulfills the need to parent, according to a survey of pet owners by the American Animal Hospital Association. But can pets really replace childen? Read on to hear from couples who say "Yes!""Our decision is so permanent, I've had my tubes tied," explains Linda Crider of Spokane, Washington.
Linda and husband Eric are part of a growing number of couples choosing pets over children to fulfill their nurturing needs. They've been married 17 years and refer to their two adopted dogs, Glacier and Wylie, as "kids" to reflect their sense of parental responsibility.
But how can pets take the place of children?
Sixty-one percent of dog owners believe that caring for pets fulfills a need to parent, according to a survey of pet owners by the American Animal Hospital Association. Sixty-nine percent said they give their pets as much attention as they would to their children and 54 percent said they felt an emotional dependence on their pets.
The suggestion is not that pets actually replace children, but they provide enough benefits and meet basic human needs to be a viable option for some couples.
"We can't imagine life without her," says Richard DeBow of Riverview, Florida. He and his wife, Sheila, think of Rhiannon, their 11-year-old Labrador, as their child. "When people ask us if we have any children, we tell them 'yes, a four-legged one'." The DeBows also admit to calling themselves Mommy and Daddy when speaking to her.
This begs the question, will pet parents be deprived of a love and satisfaction that can only be experienced through childrearing? Perhaps. But arguably what they don't know, they apparently don't miss, and what they do have, they cherish.
"She licks my whole head when I get home from work," beams DeBow. "That's what I have waiting for me each day." Rhiannon also snuggles in bed and comforts them if either one is feeling down, according to DeBow.
What about those proud, joyous occasions when parents finally see kids graduate, get married and have children of their own? The Criders point out that they enjoy greater freedom and satisfaction, less complications as pet parents. Perhaps that's a fair trade for some.
Kids and pets do issue similar challenges in rearing. Children and animals will both "test you" so you need to set limits and reinforce them consistently. And "time out" can work wonders on both two- and four-legged offenders. Some pets can be as finicky about their vittles as kids are about their vegetables. And both species need love, attention and stimulation to ensure healthy, well-balanced development.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to pet parenting is that animal companions are only with us for a short time--10 to 15 years, usually. But in that short time, they do satisfy the need to nurture and protect, and to love something that is uniquely part of you--even if not biologically.
"Our life is completely scheduled around their life," admits Koko Welty of Honolulu, Hawaii. "But they are so loveable and they make us laugh every day."
She and husband Gehry, are proud parents to Peach and Pumpkin, both pugs. They readily admit to changing their lifestyle for the dogs, worrying about them while away and sacrificing sleep to care for them as puppies.
But according to Koko, it's all worth it. "When they fall asleep in my arms in the middle of the night, I get a warm spot in my heart and think I will do anything for them so they can sleep peacefully every night."
"Isn't that what parents feel like?"
Like this article? Get more information on pet health by using our Pet Vet page!