As I sat at home on a recent Saturday afternoon flipping through the pages of Time magazine, I came across a horrible essay entitled “Demoting the Dog” by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen.
In it she described how much she had loved her basset hound when she and her husband received him as a wedding gift. They both fell in love with him, like most pet owners do. They adorned their home and offices with framed photos of him, and would call each other when he did something cute.
Then she brought a baby home, and this poor dog’s world came crashing down around him.
She practically hates the dog now, and the baby has completely replaced his role in their lives. And she has the nerve to write about it!
“Before I knew it, I had withdrawn from him his exalted former status,” she said. “In the span of a few months, I had demoted him from pal to pet to pest.” She goes on to describe it as “the hate that dare not speak its name.” Is this woman crazy?? “The dog follows me like a bad smell, settling at my feet as I read my child a bedtime story, panting on my knee as I cook my daughter’s dinner.” How horrible! It is a wonder she can survive this torment.
Now, I know that “a baby changes everything,” but one thing it should never do is crowd out a pet who has previously enjoyed your love and attention as a member of your family. The dog didn’t choose to have a baby – YOU DID. And it is cruel to expect him to merely step aside as you begin a “new phase” of your life.
People like her infuriate me. But I know she is not the only one.
My husband and I have two adorable cats that are truly princesses in our home. And although they are nearly identical in appearance (twin silver tabbies from the same litter), each one has her own unique personality. On our frequent trips to the pet store, we always look at what my husband calls “the less fortunate pets” in cages at the Humane Society’s section of the store. Every now and then we read a tag that says, “My owner had a baby and had to give me up. I love to cuddle on your lap. Will you take me home and love me?” And my heart breaks.
Pets are part of the family, whether you have kids or not. They cannot speak for themselves, and WE are their advocates in this world. I grew up with both cats and dogs, and unless there is a severe allergy or aggression issue that you’re dealing with, almost any situation can be worked out. Pets add so much to our lives. I find homes without pets a little empty, even if they are filled with children instead.
Would someone throw their first born to the curb because their new baby is “so precious”? I think not. But that is what people are doing when they abandon their pets when a baby arrives. And the poor thing has no idea what happened.
My sister just had a baby, and she took great pains to make sure her dog understood that he was still important to them. She and her husband still take him for walks, play with him, and do most of the things they used to do before they had a child. They always knew they wanted children, so when they decided to get a dog several years ago, they also knew they would integrate him into their lives fully. Sure, they haven’t been thrilled when he has barked at the mailman when they just got the baby to sleep. But that isn’t a reason to get rid of him! And it is certainly not a reason for the seething hatred that this writer seems to feel for her pet.
In a way, the people who give up their pets are better than Ms. Cullen. At least those pets will be given a second chance for some attention in a home where they can be happy. I hate the thought of her basset hound sulking around the home, wondering why no one pays attention to him anymore.
Shame on her.
When you bring a pet into your home, it is the same level of commitment as having a child. If you aren’t committed to taking care of that pet for the rest of its life, please leave it for someone who can.