A dog is NOT a substitute baby!!

Every now and then trend spotting stories like this article appears in American media trying to stir controversy and generate heated comments.

According to this article published last week, more and more young, educated women in New York are choosing dogs over kids.

Aarrrrrgggghhhh. Or rather, BHOOOWWWW WOWWWW…

As a young ( ahem!) couple who chose not to have kids and love our dog to bits, we routinely clarify that our dog is not a replacement for a child.

The article quotes supporting data ( of course!!).

‘Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a big drop in the number of babies born to women ages 15 to 29 corresponds with a huge increase in the number of tiny pooches owned by young US women, reports the business-news site Quartz. ‘

A comment on the article succinctly sums up our ( and I suspect many others’) sentiments :

“There’s definitely some replacement happening there.” UGH! Replacement? How about DIFFERENT choice. Everything a woman does – run a business, take care of her parents, travel, get a cute pooch, ANYTHING – it is considered replacement. Cuz you know, a woman ONLY wants to have kids so she’ll replace that need/want/yearning/desire/biological pull with something else.”

We have come across, from well meaning to smug to totally clueless comments on how we might ‘think’ that our dog is a replacement for a child, but he is not, and we are deluded and we will realise it when it is too late and what is wrong with people who think a dog can replace a child, blehh blehh blehh..

My polite answer is always as follows.

“It is VERY simple. We love dogs, since we both were kids. We wanted dog forever and got him when we could. We will have more when we move out of the city. Our dream for future features multiple dogs and cats – it is super high priority. We never wanted kids and thus never had one. These two have nothing, repeat, NOTHING to do with each other. We are knowledgeable enough to understand the difference between two totally different species with totally different life-cycles. Sorry to bust your ignorant presumptions.”

I wonder where this logic of ‘replacement’ comes from. After all,people with kids routinely have dogs. My parents had two kids and dozens of cats and couple of dogs since I remember. So did most of our family friends. Majority of pet videos feature kids. And virtually every ad about a canine product features the lush golden retriever playing with a kid as the loving parents look on. What replacement are they looking for? Some hypothetical kid who died in the condom???

I think the confusion comes from what people see- the affection, the attachment, the innocence, the dependence that pets and their humans have for each other. It ‘sounds’ like a baby-parent relationship.

Why don’t we safely assume that adults know the difference between a homo-sepien and a Canis lupus: two totally different species altogether. Hell, that is an easy difference to spot. It is not like toad and frog, who require you to get in-depth of their characteristics to identify them correctly. A dog has a tail, and walks on four legs after all- HUUUUGE difference from a tiny human with two legs and no tail, no??

Just because people are called pet-parents( definitely a better term than owners, but I prefer just ‘ XYZ’s humans’ ) and cuddle with their pets to death, and love to take care of them, and some even go to ridiculous heights of pampering , doesn’t mean that they are some second-rate substitute for a baby one never wanted in the first place!!

We and many others like us- with or without kids, have made and are ready to make adjustments to our lives to accommodate pets because we love these animals and we enjoy spending time with them and feel fulfilment with them.

It is not rocket science to realise that people for thousands of years have loved their pets and vice versa, because, NEWSFLASH- every goddamn thing on this earth is not only about human beings . We are capable of loving non-humans without comparing them to ourselves. It is a beautiful and liberating expereience to love pet animals and care for them like a member of the family and be loved and cared for by them. One doesn’t have to be an animal activist living with Gorillas for a decade or a sobbing non-parent burying her face in the dog’s fur while dreaming about a cute baby to do that!!

Ask my dog who will promptly tell you that he loves his humans NOT as a replacement-canines, but for what we are. It is quite telling that the smug human beings don’t have that clarity and wisdom!!

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Dog Day Mornings..

I am fast asleep when something bumps on my face. The dog is awake. He leans on me. He puts his entire weight in his spine flung across my shoulders, and tumbles down as he scratches himself with great abandon. I push him but he settles down, half on me and half on my quilt, and continues scratching himself.

It is 5 am and I pull my quilt over my head without opening my eyes. Because if he sees them open, he will paw my face gently to tell me that it is late in the morning and I should wake up. And open the curtains. And let the light in. And go out for walk. For there has been an entire night of smells that he has missed out on.

I fling my arms across the husband to form a barrier of some sort, so that the dog can’t walk into his face to lick it and try to wake him up as well. One person woken up at this ungodly hour is enough. I peer at the dog who is lovingly pawing husband’s quilt and trying to play with it.

He continues scratching himself and turns up on his belly. I know he is playfully cycling in air and slowly turning his paws on me now. I have to be firm if I don’t want a full blast of playtime. I pull him closer, feel his strong little body snuggle next to mine and then I pat and scratch his ears into delirium till he settles down to a forced sleep. He even starts snoring, his rhythm slowly matching that of husband’s more loud snores. Great. Now there is no way I can go to sleep. I squeeze my eyes hard and try to count numbers so that I can snatch at that delicious early morning sleep, a luxury denied to me ever since the dog stepped in.

I doze off for a few minutes and wake up again to bright eastern light streaming in the room. The dog has managed to open the curtains. He does that by walking on the ledge with his forehead meticulously pushing the curtains to the sides. He then jumps up and sits next to my face.

I peer from half-shut lids at his face above mine. His velvety mouth flaps quiver in anticipation and he gently whimpers. He knows from my breathing that I am 100% awake. No point in pretending. It is 6 am.

He unleashes his scratchy tongue and cleans the entirety of my ears in one long strong lick. He nuzzles his silken face in my neck and burrows himself till I am forced to let go of the quilt and any comfortable position. Let us go now, I have waited enough. He says, quite forcefully. I try to pull him in the quilt but he puts all the resistance a 15 kg animal can. He pretty much is sitting on my neck now, his tail thumping loudly on the bed.

My eyes feel like lead. The dog has no empathy. He continues to lick and paw and snuggle till my eyes open fully. It is as if they have made a huge noise while opening. Because the dog has now jumped on my face and is now wagging his tail till the entire bed shakes and licking my neck and performing a complex dance move of throwing his entire body in every available space.

I sit up. He climbs in my lap and turns up on his belly and paws my arms and bumps his rather large bony skull on my chin as he slurps at my face all at the same time.

I stumble out of the bed, trying to ignore the dog next to the pot as I pee. The tail has increased its wagging to impossible speed. His eyes are glittering like large black stones. The entire body is shaking in anticipation as if he is going to Mount Everest.

Simple acts like pulling up pants (as he tugs on their legs playfully), putting on a bra, picking up the keys and the poop bag, putting them in pockets elicit profound responses till it is one big whirl of brown hair, long ears, swish of tail and something that looks like legs.

Putting on leash unleashes happy growls and attempts to catch hold of it and jumping and going round the circles at the same time. It is the first walk of his six daily walks, but it feels like the dog hasn’t been let out for over a year going by the exuberance.

Opening the door, walking up to the lift and finally getting out of the building is no effort, being dragged by one enthusiastic morning dog. My eyes have opened by now and I am slowly waking up. The dog is crawling below the cars and walking at the same time, lest any smell escapes him. His long ears sweep the floor and his leg rises again and again as he pees two drops each on every car tyre and lamppost and tree and sidewalk corner. He walks with his nose on the ground and ass high in the air, tail wagging at the delicious smells. He sometimes bumps his head on the car because his eyes are constantly on the ground or looking for his friends. He spots one after another, they greet him and there is the good morning ritual of sniffing each others crotch and asshole with elaborate mannerisms. An occasional threatening bark is uttered if he spots outsider dogs who carefully show their subservience to this obvious galli ka kutta bhi sher.

Potty done, picked up and deposited in the bin. The dog kicks up a storm of dust and debris on the poop-spot with his hind legs. This is definitely a very macho thing to do, going by the expression on his face. The walk back now is revisiting the fragrances, more patiently this time. He takes his time separating several subtle tones in the bouquet of streaks of canine urine. When he licks it, I try not to think of him licking my face just a few minutes ago. He struts on the roads with confidence of a Great Dane. He refuses to believe that he is an English Cocker Spaniel, he will settle for nothing but at least a St. Bernard. School kids walking to their torture pet him, which he tolerates patiently. He greets some of his acquaintances with profuse jumping and licking. When they praise him, he looks extremely modest and sits like an ideal dog who wouldn’t dream of barking at large dogs and licking sidewalks.

The long walk completed, he now wants to go back in RIGHT NOW. He is impatient in the lift and rushes inside the flat and as soon as the leash is removed, he drinks enough water to give the famished kidneys some sustenance. He greets husband by profuse licking and belly turning and furious scratching. In five minutes, he crawls below the diwan and is fast asleep.