I am a writer, teacher, and owner of two pugs: Alfie and Waffles. As such words and dogs figure prominently in my day. I set the rhythm of my life around my dogs—when they go in, when they go out, what time they wake, and what time they sleep. Their daily activities are a more faithful reminder of my schedule than any alarm clock.
Yesterday, I interviewed a fellow dog lover for an article I am writing. She mentioned, in what has almost become cliché language, that her pets are like her children. I know another writer who balks at such a suggestion—pets are not our children, he warns. They are different creatures, unique from us, and we do them a disservice when we compare them to human offspring. We should not infantilize or anthropomorphize them, he warns.
The disservice to me is one of language. The word “pet” no longer serves the function that animals, especially our dogs, play in our lives. They have come in from the doghouse, backyard and chain, and share our beds, sofas, and homes. Creatures of metaphor, the closest we humans seem to come in describing the interdependence between our pets and ourselves is the parent/child relationship.
“They are family,” we sometimes also say, illustrating again how integral our dogs are in our lives, suggesting a level of loyalty and fidelity we feel for them. We cannot imagine our lives without Spot or Fido, in my case, Alfie or Waffles.
This is often an issue a writer faces. When it comes to the big stuff—important concepts such as death and freedom and of course, love—words often seem inadequate, so we resort to the tools of the poets: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day….” We turn to metaphor and thus, we describe our pets to the closest similar relationships we can find: children or family members. They are important is all we are trying to say. They mean something to us. They figure in our lives. They fill a place in our hearts.
I do not have children of my own. I have nieces and nephews and my relationship with them is indeed, different from that of my dogs. But, like children, my dogs look to me for the important things like food, shelter and play. I figure in their lives as predominantly as they figure in mine, maybe even more so. We are indeed interdependent.
Perhaps we need better words than child, family member or pet to describe what our canine companions have come to mean to us. Then again, perhaps this truly is only an issue of semantics, a disservice only theoretical in nature. For when I sit curled up at night with Alfie and Waffles on my lap or at my feet, I do not need new words to describe what I feel nor does any pet owner. We know exactly what our pets mean to us.
We know love when we see it.
A special thank-you to Samantha for allowing me to share on her blog. To read more of my work and check out my daily adventures with my pugs Alfie and Waffles, please check out my blog Pugs & Pics (www.pugsandpics.com).
This guest post was submitted by Kim J. Gifford of Pugs & Pics. If you would like to submit a guest post of your own please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org