Thanks Week: Animal House

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This happens a lot:

I’ll be telling some anecdote or other about my kids, and no matter the subject—whether I’m talking about a funny thing they did or complaining about how they keep me awake at night—a listener will follow up with a similar story. But about a pet.

I get it. I really do. There are plenty of similarities between my kids and your pet. They both eat off of the floor. They’re both so cute. They both bite. They both have accidents that jeopardize the return of a full security deposit. They both get sick at inopportune times and in inopportune places, like the bed at 2 a.m. Or the laundry basket right before work. They both look up eagerly when you say something that isn’t their name, but do it with the same inflection as if you were saying their name. Classic.

I generally don’t mind the comparison. Why should I? Families come in all shapes and sizes, and not all those sizes and shapes are human. When listing the members of her family for a school project yesterday morning, my 6-year-old wrote her sister’s name, followed by “little brother” and then “sea monkeys.” (I cleaned up the spelling for her here.)

Pets are awesome. I wish I lived somewhere I could have a dog, at least.

Pets and kids present their own respective joys and challenges. That’s why today I’m thankful for families of all kinds. Some people’s pets are their kids. They’re expensive. They’re worrisome. They’re affectionate and amazing. And they make me a little jealous, because such families don’t panic when they realize that they haven’t started a college savings plan yet.

And even though pets and kids are different, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear about your animal, or that I think less of you if you have cats instead of children. Not at all. When I talk about how my fussy baby kept my wife and I up for 36 hours straight, and then I’m not super sympathetic when you tell me, “Oh, I know exactly how you feel! My cat wouldn’t stop meowing last night!”—when I, in fact, roll my eyes—it’s because I’m cranky and sleep deprived. Also because it’s not exactly the same. Cats can catch and eat bugs if you don’t feed them right away—though I guess kids can, too. Look, just give me this one.

A particular co-worker of mine and I discuss this topic at length, frequently, mostly because I talk about elementary-schooler and toddler issues and she counters with feline and canine ones.

Just a few days ago, I had shared some antic of my son’s, after which my co-worker immediately related a tale about her greyhound. Then she laughed and—perhaps anticipating a remark from me—said, “No, I’m not comparing my dog to your animal.”

Her eyes widened.

“Child,” she said. “My dog to your child. Sorry.”

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11 thoughts on “Thanks Week: Animal House

  1. Mikelly says:

    The real trump card – my kids have had their gonads removed. Nothing brings peace of mind and a good night’s sleep like knowing your kids have no gonads.

  2. susankier says:

    My youngest child just turned 9 and when I started getting that need-to-nurture feeling for a puppy, I got plants instead. I don’t think that works for people who want children.

  3. Amy says:

    Yes, I am awesome. And I’d like to add that the story was about your son trying to catch flies in his hands. Sadie (the greyhound) tries to catch them with her mouth.

  4. Nick says:

    I always find the comparison of pets to kids amusing. I get it. I did the same exact thing with our dogs before we had kids, and then once I had kids, realized all the differences. That said, pets are awesome and a part of the family, regardless if you have kids or not.

  5. franhunne4u says:

    DIfferences? Yes, of course there are differences –

    You have to put up with people telling you they hate your species of pets, but never ever may you say you hate kids ..
    When you are a single mum at fortysomething you are never called crazy old kid lady.
    When you buy a toy “for my children” which is really for yourself, people will just smile – when I buy a valerian-cushion people will just think I am a weirdo if it is NOT for my cats.

  6. Cheryl says:

    I’m so glad you went the non-defensive direction you did with this post. I think most people (myself included) who share pet anecdotes aren’t saying “Pets are exactly like kids.” They’re saying “Pets are a little bit like kids, and as adult humans we can relate to experiences that aren’t exactly like our own, and empathy will bring us closer together.” So us pet-havers appreciate fellow adult humans who can hear it as such. 🙂

    • jesteram says:

      Cheryl, I was surprised by this post when I finished writing it. I sat down to write something a bit defensive, and that angle didn’t turn up much. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about friends of mine who don’t or can’t have kids.

  7. Andrea says:

    “I like meeting other dogs…”

  8. Mikelly says:

    This is a response to both this post, and your post with the bed pictures:

    http://www.thecatshouse.com/#a=0&at=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=0&p=3
    (click the little right arrow at the top-right of the page)

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