Why dogs ARE family. And why I’m a proud pet-parent.
Fact: Caring for my dogs makes me a better person.
Through a dog’s eyes I see a different take on the world: One filled with trust and love. Where each second is a happy moment, and a biscuit means ecstasy. The wonderful thing about dogs is their optimism rubs off on me and in return I’m proud to look out for their needs.
This means stepping up to the responsibility of providing a good diet, adequate exercise, play, mental stimulation, and a safe place to call home. I also take the responsibility of raising a well-behaved dog seriously and continue to work on training my dogs to be good canine citizens.
All of which is why I’m proud to call myself a fur-mum.
Now I realize calling myself a ‘pet parent’ or ‘fur mum’ is divisive.
Hopefully, I’m amongst friends here, but there are people who shudder when people talk about their fur-family or refer to their four-leggers as furbabies or furkids. So as Mothers’ Day approaches this year, let’s paws and consider just why our dogs deserve to be included as part of the wider pack that is our family.
Does your dog care that you have hedgehog hair or a pimple the size of the Eiffel Tower?
That’s because dogs are true friends…in fact a dog is the very definition of friendship.
Take a look at this list of characteristics of a true friend and tick off those that apply to your best buddy.
- Doesn’t judge: A true friend doesn’t think less of you for failing an exam, not getting promotion or being home later than you hoped
- Accepts your quirks: A good buddy doesn’t think it eccentric that you wear PJs to your home office (or the supermarket!) or eat honey and peanut butter on toast
- Is full of positivity and does not say bad things behind your back
- Forgives your mistakes
- Is there for you 24/7
- Is good listener
- Thinks you’re wonderful – lumps, bad days and all
Wowza! That’s a tough list, and yet dog’s truly fit that job description.
We humans are flawed and even with the best of intentions, often don’t manage to be the friend, son/daughter, wife/husband, brother/sister that we’d like to be. Dogs however, set thinking aside and just get on with the business of loving their pet parent.
In fact, I’d say they’re a pretty humbling example of what it means to love unconditionally.
Whether it’s eight minutes or eight hours, a dog notices you’re gone and celebrates your return. There’s nothing quite like that unfailing welcome when you are the center of their universe. Summer does a whole body wag when I walk through the door, whilst Keiko jumps up (okay, I know he shouldn’t) and spins around. I defy anyone not to smile or immediately feel better when returning home to this kind of greeting.
This mark our dogs as caring…and isn’t that what family are supposed to do?
Living in the Moment
Summer lives for a game of ball. She sees a chance to play chase and seizes it, she doesn’t worry about rationing her energy or pacing herself for the rest of the day. She doesn’t recall that yesterday we couldn’t play in the backyard. This ability to live in the moment is inspirational and a gift freely given by dogs.
Our fur-friends don’t live nearly as long as we’d like, which makes me realize the importance of our time together. This means stopping for hug breaks, prioritizing dog walks, and creating their bucket lists so that we get the most out of every moment.
This is sense of companionship and valuing each other’s company is a mark of love. One that’s also found within the closeness of a family.
Delicious Doggy Nuzzles
I can’t be the only hu-mum who buries their face in their dog’s fur to breath deep of that lovely doggy smell. The feel of their silky fur and their familiar scent is hugely grounding and a wonderful pick-me-up. Just like a mother taking pleasure in the smell of her child’s hair, so we pet parents value our dogs on a deeply physiological level.
And as for the times they don’t smell quite delicious… well, having a dog around means there’s always someone to take the rap!
Oh, those licky kisses on your hand or cheek that make you laugh even when you’re sad. Boy, oh boy, are dogs masterful at reading human emotion and know exactly what to do to make the sun shine through a cloud burst. What better therapy than a fur-friend to lick tears away.
Woofy Ice Breaker
When you walk with a dog, suddenly you stop being invisible. Complete strangers strike up conversations in a way that’s simply doesn’t happen without a dog. Sometimes they will even cross the road to meet you (well, your dog – but still it’s a human interaction). All those little connections with the countless “Good mornings,” “Lovely day,”, “Aren’t they lovely” add to the richness of life.
Dogs also allow us to share our deepest sorrows with strangers. Such as the lovely lady I met recently whilst on a photo shoot with a Blue heeler called Libby. The lady had just lost her cattle dog and came over, “I just had to say hello.” She fussed the dogs, who in return sensed her sorrow and were so gentle and compassionate in the way they accepted her pats. And it seemed she just needed what only they could give her in that moment.
Adorable Alarm Calls
Now I’m not a fan of alarm clocks, but I do love the waggy alternative. A doggy alarm clock that leaps on the bed and wiggles you awake means you start the day with a smile.
What you see is what you get with a dog, so when their stomach tells you it’s breakfast time then you’d better get up. Which is fine by me because this transparent enthusiasm is a pawfect example of the honesty of dogs.
I adore love cuddling on the couch with the dogs to watch a movie. In fact, often the movie takes second place as an excuse to sit, relax, snuggle and spend this time with them. Keiko is the best snuggler…a pawfect size from my lap and he loves resting his chin on my shoulder. Six years of snuggling and the thought of those precious shared cuddles still makes me melt for the beauty of it.
It is the role of a parent to teach their offspring to be the best they can be. And when we pay attention dogs have so much to teach us. It comes back to that honesty, how they appreciate small things and value time with you.
My dogs have taught me so much about patience, kindness, love, and contentment. I owe them much in return, including the love of family.
Our canine companions give us a wonderful sense of security. Dogs instinctively protect their fur family and their own size is no barrier to barking fiercely. This is actually hugely reassuring, especially when you’re home with that furry alarm system.
This was brought home to to me on a recent trip away when Sam stayed behind and I was with the dogs in an unfamiliar place. Suddenly I was even more grateful for their company as it made me feel safer. It wasn’t necessarily that either Summer or Keiko would fight off an intruder, but the deterrent of their barking and watchfulness over things was reassuring. If my fur-babies would protect me that way, the least I can do is call myself their hu-mum.
Fitness with your Four-legger
Whether it’s walking the dog or going on hikes together, our canine companions can do our own fitness wonders. They get out us up off the sofa and out into the fresh air. Believe it or not, this year I’ve even taken up jogging with Summer, and we both benefit and love it (although one of us is a quite often a little more keen than the other!).
Owning a dog means getting out there into the world and noticing the changing seasons. It improves our fitness levels and gives a clarity of mind that only comes with exercise. Now surely as a sentient being that enriches life, the least we can do is call our dogs ‘family.’
Just because they are so super cute together!
Indeed, Happiness is a Hound
For a dog, happiness is being with you, and conversely for me my dogs define my happiness. For the adoring way they cock a head to hang on every word, to how your heart lifts as they snuggle close. When a circle is so perfectly complete as life with a dog, haven’t they earnt the right to be called family?
Even according to Science
And finally, from the scientific perspective. Did you know that looking at your dog releases a rush of oxytocin…in the same way that mother’s of human babies experience. Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone that bonds a parent to their offspring. Oxytocin is Mother Nature’s glue that helps cement relationship and fosters protective feelings.
So regardless of your view on ‘pet parents’, please live and let live. If Mother Nature blesses the special relationship between human and dog with oxytocin this has to mean something. For Mother’s Day and every day let’s embrace our inner fur-mum. And for those who dislike such language, if we chose to take on ‘parental’ responsibility for these wonderful waggy, living, breathing, sentient beings, then that’s our choice and zero harm to you if we call them fur-family.