Every day my two dogs — Jackson, a cotton ball American Eskimo, and Riley, an athletic black and brown Australian kelpie — battle for possession of a ball.
After four years, I’ve learned they also use these battles to answer a question — who is the alpha dog in their relationship?
Married couples argue over trivial details to unwittingly answer the same question, my wife and I included.
When we adopted Jackson and Riley, I had little desire to have my own children. Why have kids when my canines provide me companionship and affection without the crying and soiled diapers?
Whenever I playfully refer to Jackson and Riley as my kids, I always receive sideways glances from parents with “real” children. But we’re a part of a growing number of people who raise their dogs like their children.
There are many similarities: neither are willing to clean up their toys, both either love or despise taking a bath, parks are constructed specifically for their enjoyment, and if you’re planning a romantic getaway weekend, arrangements must be made with family or friends to take care of them.
I’m not implying raising a dog is as difficult as raising a child — I’ve seen the darkened circles encasing parents’ eyes. Raising a dog, rather, is akin to a parenting internship.
Additionally, the routines you establish for your dog foreshadow the rules you’ll enforce as a parent. I have friends who crate their dog and feed it on a schedule. In the beginning, we tried implementing these routines for our dogs but quickly abolished them. Now they paw impatiently at their empty food bowls and sleep sprawled across our bed at night. They’re spoiled.
My friends are going to be the parents who set and enforce rules in their household; we will obviously be lax in setting and enforcing ours.
Rearing kids without having owned a dog is like learning to ride a bike without training wheels — you’ll figure it out, but you fall less with training wheels.
My perspective on having “real” children skewed after I had a dream about bowling with Jackson and Riley. I had channeled my dormant parental desires into my dogs.
One thing I’d never expected is for my dogs to have cultivated these dormant parental desires. After my dream, I knew I wanted to bowl with my own kids, watch my son take his first steps, or walk my daughter to school.
I’m less enthusiastic to wake up at 2 in the morning to pacify my newborn son, or soothe my teenage daughter after a painful breakup.
One day, hopefully, I’ll be a dad, and if I want to experience those aforementioned moments, I’ll have to deal with dark circles encasing my eyes.
Unfortunately, like many couples, we’ve encountered complications getting pregnant. But I’m thankful we can continue filling this parental void with our two lovable canines.
I’d love to hear how your dogs integrate with your family.
Kitsana Dounglomchan writes about his life and times for Clovis Media Inc.
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