Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Our Dogs Mean To Us...

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 (

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


  1. I agree. They are definitely family. My little Lola (chihuahua pomeranian) was everything to me. I took her with me everywhere. I love the excitement when you first walk in the door to greet them! She always stayed right by my side when I was sick or sad.

  2. Couldn't agree more. We treat our dogs as part of the family. I used to have 2 female dachshunds. Lola, the "mother" doxie and Tatiana is her "daughter". Hubby & I had difficulty conceiving before and these 2 dogs were always there to comfort us and give us happiness. Dogs don't set boundaries when it comes to loving their humans, so why should we?

  3. I absolutely agree. We have 3 dogs at home and I love each one like my baby! And I have two two legged kids also! You make commitment for life when you bring a pet into your heart and home. I also work for a vet, so I have LOTS of furr babies that live in my heart. I'm the lucky one:)

  4. Dogs are a part of our family and we love them to pieces. It saddens me when I see people leave their dogs outside all the time. That is cruel.

  5. I feel the same way about my pets (2 cats and a dog) their darling faces! I love them so much.

  6. I love the name Waffles! Yep, I totally agree. Dogs are indeed family and we love them to death.

  7. Very well put, I'm in the same boat and feel the same way about our pomeranian, although I do have 3 children of my own, and do of course see the obvious differences, since my kids have now left our home, my 'relationship' with my puppy has yet moved into another realm. He is also my pride and joy and I love him so much. Very nice read.

  8. Awww, how sweet... We feel the same way about our dogs. They are members of our family and I know they feel the same way about us! :)