Pet or child

I have bitten my tongue. I have subtly done a double take and questioned the speaker. I have rolled my eyes and pretended I didn’t hear the insult. I have held my peace for years, but today I put myself in front of the steam roller of society and speak my peace to an increasing population of folks who insist on referring to pets as children.
If your walls reverberated from my scream of protest, I apologize. I didn’t intend to shake the foundations of your world. I just wish people would consider how insulting it is to children and to most parents to hear a pet called a child.
During my childhood on a working dairy farm, animals were not referred to a children. Cows provided milk, bulls became hamburgers, cats chased away rodents and dogs corralled the cows, entertained the kids and protected the farm. Every animal had an important role. Poocho, our loving collie-mix, followed us around, snuggled up to be petted and broke down screens when she thought our lives were endangered. I missed her something awful after she was gone.
The first 10 years after I married all my immediate neighbors were either retired farmers or had grown up on a working dairy farm. We all had pet dogs and cats. Our next door neighbor, a retired Amish-like farmer and his wife owned a Chihuahua. They taught him to chase a ball, held him in their laps and petted him as they talked. They loved the dog, spoke fondly of him, but they never referred to him as their child, their baby or any other form of human. He was their pet. He filled their house and the empty hours between visits of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
As the mother of six children and ten grandchildren, I feel the bile rise up in me every time I hear someone insult my 30 years of parenting by referring to a pet owner as ‘mommy’ or the pet as ‘her baby’. I mutter to myself, “yeah, just see how long you can get away with putting a two-year-old child in a cage and leaving it there, or locking them outside with a bowl of water and a dry bowl of food for hours on end. See how well it goes over with the Department of Human Services if you leave a child to his own devices every day for hours on end while you go to work, shop or just visit for the day.” The rules are different for pets than they are for children. Although the majority of pet owners do not even consider taking their dogs to a few sessions of obedience school, every parent of a school aged child must make sure their child has years of schooling – or answer to the courts.
Even the mindset for training a child is different. “A dog comes into the world wanting to please and a child comes into the world wanting to BE pleased. A dog comes into the world wanting to obey, and a child comes into the world wanting to BE obeyed,” wrote John Rosemond in response to one who said training a child was like lot like training a dog. As a father and author of several books on rearing children he just chuckled at the statement.
We have had a host of pets: cats, dogs, a possum, a yard mole, ducks, hamster, gerbil, guinea pigs, canaries and fish. We currently have two cats. I have written about their antics as well as those of my children and grandchildren – who not only can roll over, play dead, chase a ball and sit-up – they can also read, write, talk, do long division and hold down a job to earn enough money to feed and house their own pets.