816 North Opinion

January 21, 2014

Susan Vollenweider: A game of ‘What kind of fur kid are you?’

If pet owners can think about their animals as kids, turnabout is fair play, right?

“Did you see that?” Luke shouted excitedly from the front seat. We were driving a rural highway and he was co-piloting.

“YES! Gross!” Noah screamed from the back. I’m not sure why, but the boys think our minivan is Outside Voice worthy.

I played along at their volume. “Nasty! They had collars on! They looked like well taken care of boxers.”

The quick flash of a roadside scene at 55 mph turned into a conversation: What would the owners say when the dogs came home with deer guts on their fur? What does the breath of a dog who had a venison Tartare snack smell like? Would the dogs get sick?

More than just a conversation, it made me think about how I am a different parent with my boys than I am with my daughter.

I treat my children differently because they are different. Moreover, in our house, there seems to be a gender line associated with those differences. That morning I was with the boys, and through their eyes the roadside show was a gross/cool/nasty thing to see. I don’t know about other boys, but mine live for gross/cool/nasty things.

Later in the day, Bekah joined the conversation. She wanted no part in hearing about the gross/cool/nasty- but she was interested in playing another dog based game.

I’ve heard people call their dogs “fur kids” before and I’ll admit the first time I heard the term it made me mad. There is very little similarity between raising a human child and a dog. I’m pretty sure I ranted loudly about this.

I’ve chilled out since then. When people use that term, they are simply saying, “I spend a lot of time and energy on my pets. In return, they give me unconditional affection and are there for me when I need contact with a breathing creature. I pamper and care for them; I can’t imagine life without them. I love them.”

They are not saying, “This dog is as important to me as my human children.”

At least I hope that they aren’t.

If pet owners can think about them as kids, turnabout is fair play, right? This idea isn’t new to me. Google “What kind of dog am I” and you will be rewarded with a screen full of online quizzes. Our method was less computer algorithm, more human observation.

Luke was easy to label: Golden Retriever — strong, outgoing, protective, yet loving and full of a goofy personality.

Labeling Noah took a little bit of discussion. We had to come up with a breed that looked sweet but had a temper when provoked. A smart, thinking dog that was small in stature but didn’t act like it — fearless, confident but appreciated a good snuggle with someone who cares.

Dachshund all the way.

“What about you, Mom, what dog are you?” Noah asked.

It didn’t take me long. When I was a teen our family pet not only was my favorite dog of all time, but had a great deal in common with me, too. She was compact in size, fun-loving yet inquisitive, loyal and protective. My dog even had a common first name.

“I’m a terrier, just like Toto.”

“What about me?” Bekah asked.

Good question. It was easy to come up with a breed for the boys, but none of them fit her. The question was left unanswered until the next day when she sent me a text that revealed not only the perfect fur kid match, but also the difference between my sons and daughter:

“The reason we can’t think of a dog is ’cuz I’m a cat.”

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