Sunday, February 18, 2007

Invasion of the Fur Children

Do you ever read news stories about the Baby Boomers that make you wonder if they have lost their minds, or maybe just their common sense? Many of the tales about the Boomers are just a marketing ploy, of course, as the cohort spans almost 20 years and seems to include just about everyone, even those of us born in the 1960's who really have little in common with those born just after the war. Anyway, I caught this story on MSN about how the Boomers are now spending more on their snooty dogs than they are on children:

Who's your baby? If she's got a wet nose, nasty breath and canines that make confetti of your new pair of Manolo Blahniks, you're in excellent company: Spending on children is plummeting in the U.S. as we lavish ever-larger amounts on the other little beasts at home.

Take Pepper, a 5-year-old wire-haired dachsund who "fell into a tub of butter" when owners Maurice and Valerie Teich brought him home. Maurice buys and sells steel internationally; Valerie is a banker. Pepper leads a good life on Manhattan's Park Avenue and vacations in the fashionable Hamptons. He joins the Teichs each morning at the breakfast table for oranges, yogurt and toast before donning his leash and jacket. (Should he wear the shearling? The red Burberry with brass buttons? The Ralph Lauren?)


The other day, I was at a local public relations meeting and one of the women there told me she worked for the DIY network; we laughed about a show they have on called Barkitechture where owners learn to build doghouses for their pets; there is even a book out entitled, Doggie Homes (DIY): Barkitecture for Your Best Friend. The PR person told me that the one predictor of who watches the show is if the person has a yearly birthday party for their dog. When I howled at that, she sheepishly admitted that she hosted a dog B-day every year, "Look, I don't have any kids, my dogs are my kids," she explained.

"Uhh, they are? Really, dogs are kids?" I thought -- but no, I was not rude enough to say this out loud. Apparently, many Americans feel this way, referring to their animals as their "Fur children."

So maybe one can let the Baby Boomers off the hook if they have already had children and now because of an empty nest are looking to their fur children to lavish their attention on, although I have to ask, what happened to spending time with the real, live human grandkids? And if people are having fur children instead of real children, what will happen to the human race? And what about retirement, long after your fur children are dead, will you end up in the doghouse because you blew a wad of cash on a dog instead of planning for retirement etc. Just a few questions for those who can't tell the difference between an animal and a human being.

113 Comments:

Blogger Duck said...

Helen
The problem is that they can tell the difference, and they prefer animals. I have a few friends/relatives who have remained childless by choice, so this is a touchy subject to discuss. For one of the couples I know, border collies fill the role of fur children. The wife is totally involved with the dog agility sport, which takes up lavish amounts of time and money.

Of these childless by choice couples I know, the choice has not been totally mutual, but is the choice of the woman. In both cases the woman has a very successful career. I don't know if that is the universal trend or not.

1:30 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Wow, dog agility sports, I never knew these existed. Really, to each his own. I understand that humans are hard to interact with at times and that not everyone wants children--a good choice for some people. But it seems to me that some people enjoy pampering pets while they simultaneuously seethe comtempt for human beings--this is bothersome.

1:41 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger LissaKay said...

I love my cats. I love my kids. Some days, I much prefer the company of my cats to most people. In fact, most days. They don't talk back, they don't whine or cop a 'tude. They don't ask for money or a ride across town to visit friends. They are happy with a treat every now and then, regular meals, a clean kitty box and a sunny spot to sleep in. I consider them to be members of my family.

But I don't and won't spend ridiculous amounts of money on lavish items for a creature that doesn't know, care or even recognize the difference between a diamond studded collar and a plain vinyl one. I don't buy lavish things for my kids either.

I just love them ... cats by scratching and petting and cuddling ... kids by cuddling, listening and being there. Money can't buy that!

======

This is a side-splitting (albeit with some potty-mouth words) look at what those little accessory dogs might be thinking about all that:
http://tinyurl.com/ccgxb
Warning again! Potty-mouth words!

2:11 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear doctor Helen,
Some people get a lot more from their pets than they do children,it's not rare that you
never see the children till lying on your deathbed and then become the greatest thing since sliced bread.

2:18 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far, my husband and I only dogs and no children. We adore the dogs, and no doubt some of our attention is probably a reflection of misplaced childrearing instincts.


We have no contempt for human children though, and I'd guess neither do most of the people who lavish attention on their pets.

Having pets is so much less demanding that having children. Pets demand so little of you and provide what seems to be affection in return.

Certainly, children are the more meaningful endeavor, but for people who have already raised kids or for people who don't have children although they might like to, pets are rewarding.

2:35 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Lissakay and anonymous 2:18:

Certainly, it is wonderful to love animals, we used to have two cats and I was heart broken that we had to give them up because of allergies. However, there is something a little odd about dressing your animal in expensive accessories, spending cash that you may not have--I have seen people get medical treatment for their animals regardless of cost when they would not go to medical tests of their own, or fawning all over the animals while ignoring one's family or worse, insisting the family treat the dog like a high status member when they clearly do not want to. And I must admit, I have seen people french kissing their animals and it makes me rather nauseous.

People like yourselves or anonymous 2:38 above who find pets rewarding and also like people etc. sound like lovely human beings. It is the excessive committment to animals to the exclusion of people etc. that bothers me. But that is just my opinion--others, I am sure, will differ.

2:43 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Webutante said...

Terrific post, Helen.

I have several family members who have retreated into dogdom and have centered their lives on their animals. Over time, I believe this fixation actually socially and emotionally impairs you.

I couldn't agree with your point or your questions more.

2:45 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i am childfree, my fiancee is as well. we find that animals give more unconditional love than human kids. we dislike badly behaved kids, which in these days is a majority of them.

i have always lived with dogs, so i couldnt live without one, i know with children it would be a bad idea for me to have them, i have a few problems so does my fiancee, which doesnt make us good parents. we know that.

but we have all this love to give, we give a lot to each other, but we have lots left over, so we give it to our pets. is that so wrong, there is a perception that when a parent gets a baby the animals are generally surplus to requirement, and are dumped.

there is an excessiveness in a lot of animal lovers, we are not one of them, we know the difference between animals and humans. and we actually prefer animals. we dont have kids and wont have kids which is both our choices, animals are better for us.

3:36 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous "Eric Blair" said...

I don't mean to disagree, friends, because I have had dogs most of my life, and actually competed in some of the "dog sports" out there.

Much as I love dogs, they are NOT people.

So far as unconditional love, I know what is being written, having experienced it myself.

But I have never seen a dog choose to spend time with an owner over getting a cookie. So I don't know about the unconditional part.

Maybe I have the wrong dogs.

Regardless, they are great company, and "listen" well (though I suspect they are listening more for the crackle of a treat bag than my own problems). But nothing compares to watching my sons discover the world.

Just my experience, friends.

3:43 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, people are more important than animals, and we should probably consider the morality of how much we lavish on our pets vs. how much we do to take care of less fortunate people.

But, with dogs especially and their pack mentality, having pets usually improves your quality of life with very little demanded of you.

Just like animal rights advocates seem nutty when they value animals more than people, pet owners too seem nutty when they value animals more than people. But it's not really an either/or.


Oh, and I hate the Baby Boomers. In my opinion, this animal spoiling trend from them just reflects another way that they can one up each other while theoretically doing something positive. Everything is ALWAYS all about them. They'll try to shift social costs on to others so they can choose who and what to pamper.

As they are defined as a generation, can you think of a more hypocritical self-interested group?

3:53 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Steve Skubinna said...

I hate the boomer labels. That generation includes military vets, and blue collar workers, and folks who have raised families, and people who have never leased a Beemer or bought a second home in Aspen or Hilton Head. As Dr. Helen points out, much of the Boomer mythos is marketing, and nearly all of it is BS.

As for dogs - I have two, and they are not children. I am fully aware that they are another species, and that they look on me as their pack leader, not father. Self indulgent pet owners are just another Boomer stereotype, but stereotypes are built on truth.

4:08 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Eric -- have to disagree with you somewhat. Dogs aren't people, as in human beings, but they certainly are sentient beings with emotions that they share with us.

One of my dearest friends of my life died last year at 16. Sam, an eighty pound Samoyed/Doberman. He was a brilliant animal who understood extensive 'Tarzan talk' and very definitely would spend time with me over a cookie. It's all in how you raise them.

Deep friendship is usually defined emotionally -- even among humans -- rather than intellectually. That's why children are allowed to grow up.

4:08 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

I don't anyone has lost their common sense at all. Kids are expensive and time consuming. Many people enjoy having a companion but don't have the time, money and effort to devote to human reproduction. A pet can lower blood pressure, reduce depression and provide happiness to adult humans. I'd rather see people spend their money to pamper their pooch than waste it on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or bad food choices. To each their own.

4:58 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Cathy said...

Pets and children are not an either/or thing unless you are talking about the hateful "anti-breeders" movement ()http://happilychildfree.com/index.htm. Our dog is very much a part of our family, but she is not our child. She is loved, but not pampered. Pets can have a powerful impact on those who love them. I would worry less about people who over-indulge their pets and more about people who treat them as disposable accessories.

5:54 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love dogs and I do hate children. And yes generally speaking I find that dogs are more worthy of love and affection, and respond back with more love and affection, than humans. I can watch tv images of children dying of hunger in Africa and , frankly, I do not give a shit. On the other hand the the vision of a suffering dog makes me cry. During Hurricane Katrina all I could think about were the poor animals suffering. I freely admit all this and do not understand why people like you seem to take for granted that human suffering and love is more worthy of attention than animal suffering and love. humans are the cruelest most depicable creatures ever. And by the way do not assume that I am some kind of tree hugging liberal. I am not. I am definitely right wing in most of my views.

6:54 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger dadvocate said...

This is a pet peeve of mine. :-)

I like dogs but don't love them. I have two which are strictly outside dogs. The keep the varmits away and the deer out of my vegetable garden. I love them for that and the sense of protection I get from them.

"...animals give more unconditional love than human kids." Dale Carnegie said to be like man's best friend, act like you're glad to see everyone. Dogs do this unfailingly to their owners.

But, I like kids. Kids are tougher to deal with than dogs. Maybe, I like the challenge. Mostly, I like sharing and exploring the world with kids. I learn so much and have a lot of fun.

I almost get nauseous when I run into someone who dotes on their dog like a baby or child. It's great to play with a dog, train it (I watch the dog agility competition on TV sometimes), etc. But there is a line between species gets blurred by too many.

7:14 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous "Eric Blair" said...

Sigh. Compare Anonymous 6:54 and Oligonicella. The former is clearly a troll trying to get people stirred up (or a person who requires some kind of anger management). Oligonicella is polite and makes her point.

I haven't had a dog quite a nice as hers (?) apparently. But here is something in Oligonicella's side of the discussion.

I used to have genuine problems dealing with people. I would expect too much of them, not appreciate their own points of view, focused too much on my own needs. So I had many, many relationship problems with friends, lovers, and family.

Then I got a dog.

I quickly saw that what I *thought* I wanted from people, I could get from a dog (nothing nasty folks, c'mon---you khow what I mean). That freed me up to allow people to be...well, people.

So in that sense alone, dogs have really helped me.

7:47 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Edward said...

"Barkitecture"? Just an excuse to resurrect Bauhaus.
But seriously, "Pepper leads a good life" because his home is Manhattan's Park Avenue, where his companions are a banker and a commodities broker.
I'd bet dollars to doughnuts Pepper would be happier with a full time child, or a larger family; without regard to wealth.
Dogs are social animals. They have emotions. They recognize and respond to ours. You can build a relationship with one. But a relationship is a responsibility, and you owe the dog attention, not wealth.

8:38 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger gliderguider said...

Helen, I was born at the end of 1962 and I'm with you that the label "Baby Boomer" doesn't seem right. My parents (born during the war) were boomers, have like much of the rest of their generation been lucky financially and have retired with a large nest egg.

If I must have a label then "the leading edge of gen-X" seems to fit much better than "the trailing edge of the baby boomers". If for no other reason than "had the chance to learn to program a PC before leaving high school" marks a huge chasm betwen those before and those after. (Or, "played 'space invaders' before leaving school" for the general public ... it's a matter of being comfortable with technology, not necessarily a wizard)

9:18 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Jim said...

Helen, I recently went to a local park with my twin sons who are 11. At the next table were a couple with a stroller. They were too young to be baby boomers and they were showing all kinds of affection to what we thought was a baby. Then the woman reached into the stroller and pulled out a small dog (you know, one of those little "yippy" dogs). Since kids sometimes can ba a little outspoken, one of my sons blurted out loud enough for all to hear "Wow, I thought that was a baby in there! It's just a dog." I know the couple was insulted, but my son was expressing out loud what I felt as well. Lately I have been seeing more of these dogs in baby carriages with owners cooing excessively over them. I find it sickening. I even see homeless people with dogs, expecting me to give them money so they can feed their dogs. I think more pet owners are becomming obsessed with their animals, preferring animals over human companionship. I understand the need of childless couples who crave affection. My wife and I suffered through years of infertility before having children. But few childless people understand the true joys of parenting. I can say from experience that raising one snot-nosed bratty kid is worth more than owning a hundred perfect dogs. Most people don't know that when a dog is lost in the woods for more than a few weeks, they go wild and may not even recognize their owners. Because they lose their fear of humans, they often have to be shot.

9:36 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Myrtle Hocklemeier said...

Helen,

And many don't just choose to treat their own pets like people. They want others to do the same. My online friends are telling me that their county pound won't let them adopt because they work and the dog will be outside during the day...or they must bring in their other pet first to see how they will bond. Private rescue groups are even more strict and have future "owners" sign agreements that they will allow unannounced drop in inspections and pay attorney fees if the group insists on reclaiming the dog, and you can't imagine the ridiculous details they insist the owner agree to before adopting.

There are laws in Italy outlawing humiliating hair do's for poodles and regulating that owners must walk their dogs three times a day. It's only a matter of time before it happens here.

9:39 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger PJ said...

To answer your questions:

1) I won't ever have grandchildren, so that question doesn't arise. But the way most children are raised today, it might be preferable to spend time with the pets.

2) Come on now! At 6.5 billion people, that question isn't relevant, and may never be. Although considering little things like global warming, a smaller population might not be such a bad idea.

3) You mean you can't have your dogs (or cats, in my case) and plan for retirement at the same time? Horrors! I guess my Roth IRA and 401(k) accounts are just illusions, then.

Condescending much, are we?

9:58 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Steve Skubinna said...

So, anon 6:54, what are you still doing on the planet? Or is it just people other than you that are the problem?

And PJ, your point #2 is a non sequitur. But at least you spare us your ignorant prejudice on what number you'd be willing to share the planet with. And the answer to your final question is, yes, you sure are. Extremely. Thanks fo rasking, though.

More posturing from self aggrandizing posers, both of you. Too precious to stand it.

10:21 PM, February 18, 2007  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Eric -- his.

11:34 PM, February 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't have kids, my 2 cats are my defacto kids, but I don't spend tons of money on them. they get their food, shots(vet bills) litterbox expenses and dental treats. I never buy store toys for them, or beds from Pet stores, an old pillow covered with a very old towel is just fine.


loving your pets does not mean spending lavish amounts of cash on them. Fave toys is old tennis balls they bat around on the floor, a ball of yarn I chain sticthced together, the drawstring from a pair of pants I no longer have, etc...

my cats are my kids I take of them responsibly, but I do know where to draw the line.


-anon gen x cat mum.

3:26 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen said:
"Wow, dog agility sports, I never knew these existed. "

Wow, dog agility sports have been around for years, if not decades. I can't believe you didn't know they existed.

6:08 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Ellen said...

Dr. Helen, it's not just dog agility sports. There are people who dance with their dogs:

http://www.worldcaninefreestyle.org/video_clips.htm

7:52 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wow, dog agility sports have been around for years, if not decades. I can't believe you didn't know they existed."

Yeah Dr Helen, get with the program. You're supposed to know about all dumb dog sports.

7:55 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous willbdone said...

Oy! Don't get me started...

A few weeks back we had a babysitter cancel because it was her dogs birthday.

Years ago when I worked in a veterinary clinic, the thing that freaked me out the most was when FiFi's owner would come in start channeling Betty Boop. They would anthropomorphize words to whatever they thought the dog was feeling.

Entirely too many people do this. You would be surprised!

They've seen one too many Disney movies, with all those little talking creatures I suppose...

As much of an animal lover as I am, I have always questioned peoples priorities where they would leave their fortune to their "fur children" when real children/elderly/the poor are out there going hungry.

8:02 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Lou Minatti said...

Children are an inconvenience for selfish baby boomers. Selfish baby boomers can stick their beloved pekinese in a kennel when they take their annual 2-week European vacation. You can't do that with a child. Children just are not the right fashion accessory for them.

Perhaps we should adjust social security benefits for selfish baby boomers who don't want children. They will be getting a free ride on the system since their SS benefits will be paid for by today's kids.

8:40 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Marc said...

People can spend their money on whatever they want, including their "fur-children". But don't expect me to play along with your fantasy.

We've really lost our confidence as a civilization if we can't laugh in the face of people who throw birthday parties for dogs.

8:46 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like pets, but...

Pets provide a quick dose of affection at a low investment of energy. Pets don't require college or come live with you when they lose their job; if they turn into hellions you have them put down; pets don't care what you want to talk about. They will also be dead when you're old and want someone familiar; they won't bury you or pass on your looks, your quirks, your memories. To the extent people praise them over people, it's because they are still objects despite the Burberry collars, while human are subjects and a lot more demanding. An object is useful mainly for what it can do for me.

What is happening here is that people permit themselves to become emotionally stunted, seeking the easy quick reward over the long demanding reward. In short, it's the same phenomenon that leads people to masturbation instead of marriage.

8:51 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at how many Baby Boomers (and younger people) get a second dog as a "friend" for their first dog.

Man's Best Friend is dog. Dog's best friend is not Another Dog.

9:18 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those people who prefer to "raise" pets instead of children, because they feel children are too difficult, ungrateful, whiny, controlling, etc., don't they realize that children eventually grow up?

I really believe that those who CHOOSE to raise pets instead of children (the ones that CAN have children, but have chosen not to--ESPECIALLY "DINKs") are a very selfish "breed." I also think its their way of not being "locked in" to any real long-term parenting commitment. Dogs and cats have a maximum life expectancy of about 15-20 years. When that pet dies you have the option of whether or not to get another pet--not so when you have children.

Also, those who claim to have better relationships with their pets than their children, should think long and hard about the reason why that is so. If issues of controlling something that cannot talk, having that thing be totally dependent on them for life, and otherwise does what it is told to do, makes them feel "whole," then we're talking about a whole new set of issues, and it's probably better that they DON'T have children.

/mom of 2 VERY active preschool age boys.
//no pets, no plans for pets, unless you count highly expendable aquarium fish.

9:21 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all couples are childless by choice and, for financial or other reasons, adoption is not always possible. And I suspect some of those people may find it easier to say they choose not to have children.

Baby boomers, men and women, were sold a false bill-of goods in the 70's that said you should wait until at least your 30's before getting married and beginning a family, regardless of the fertility consequences. Regardless of how you felt at the time about women choosing full-time careers, that aspect of waiting was a lie, perpetuated by a marketing culture eager to sell lies.

And now there are many people
living with the consequences of that lie. I don't doubt the sincerity of anyone who says truthfully they don't want children or they prefer the company of animals.
I just think it's important to remember that not all childless people feel that way.

9:38 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This idea is explored somewhat in the book (not the movie) _Children_of_Men_. The motivation there, though, is the inability to have children.

9:39 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My in-laws have always treated their dogs (always a poodle) like a human child. When my husband was a kid, they referred to their dog as his "brother." The dog got a birthday candle in a hamburger each year on his birthday. When my husband told me that, I laughed. If only a yearly birthday treat was the extent of their doggy excesses.

The dog they have now is a horror. I have always been a dog lover, but I HATE that dog. He is allowed to do whatever he wants. They treat him like his wants are equal to a person's wants. (I'm not talking about needs here. Needs must be met. Wants are not mandatory.) That dog believes HE is the pack leader.

(In our house, our dog has no doubt that I am the pack leader. Sadly (IMO), she considers herself superior to my husband in the pecking order, and he doesn't seem to know how to change his status.)

My in-laws allow their dog to harass people at meals, lying under the table and barking until someone slips him some people food. When guests come over to their house, the dog jumps all over them, slobbers on their hands and faces, and makes a complete pest of himself. And my in-laws permit it.

Until the dog was about 7 years old they both worked all day, and felt guilty about leaving the dog alone so much, so when they were home they couldn't bear to discipline him.

It astonishes me that they allow the dog to behave so horribly when I know they didn't stand for bad behavior from my husband, their son.

Things might have been different if my mother-in-law had been able to have as many children as she wanted (three or four), instead of just one. And she spent ten years trying for a child before my husband was born. She has SO much love to give and such a desire to mother that it needs another outlet. (In fact I found her devotion and attention rather smothering when I joined the family. Thankfully there's now a grandson to absorb a lot of that.)

Before I met my husband's parents I had never met anyone who elevated their dog to the level of a human. It was shocking. I thought they were an aberration. Sadly, they're not.

-a sensible dog lover

9:47 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Maddad said...

I think it has a lot to do with way too much free time.

And I've got an anecdote to illustrate, of course. I'm one of five kids, we had a dog when we were growing up and the dog, while a part of the family, was just a dog. Now we're all grown, parents are retired, grandkids live far away and my parents have inherited a cat. They dote on the cat. I think they treat the cat better than they ever treated any of us kids. (I'm wrong, I know, but it's perception that wins out over evidence.) It's so bad I think my older brother is actually afraid of losing his status.

I have four boys, a dog and a cat. The cat's a cat and the dogs a dog, I'm sure when the kids are gone, my wife and I will pay more attention to the dog and cat, if they're still around. In fact, I know this'll happen. We've had the cat since before we had kids and the cat used to get a lot more attention, vet visits, baths, ear cleaning, etc.

I think the cat's happier now, that we have less time to annoy it, and the dog is a dog.

9:48 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't mind how folks spend their money, time, and affection. If they want to spend it on pets, which are admittedly easier, that's fine.

I just dislike the self-deception that calls them "kids." To see pets as in any way equivalent to children is to misunderstand most of humanity. By engaging in that fantasy, you cut yourself off - not only from children yourself, but from that portion of humanity which sees human nurturance as central to their lives (and yes, there are ways to engage in human nurturance without having children of your own).

I have to think it will gradually change our attitudes toward all human beings to have increasing numbers among us who come to see animals as of similar importance. Not for the better.

9:53 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Chris in Austin said...

It's amusing to see posters discussing the "unconditional love" they recieve from pets.

Dogs and cats are social parasites who have evolved to make humans think they are capable of unconditional love.

I'm a biologist by academic training and primary hobby; I have owned dogs and currently own three cats. Every time I observe these creatures I am more convinced there is nothing there but a highly evolved social parasite.

I'm not completely knocking them - our cats eliminate a large number of field mice, outdoor cockroaches, pigeons and on one occasion, a litter of baby possums. I don't want any of those pests in abundance in my backyard.

In some respects, humans have evolved to value these animals. And they DO have value.

They just don't have value as a substitute for children.

It's unfortunate too - these same cretins yammering about unconditional love and who truly believe a canine loves them as much as a child, have never held a newborn and seen true unconditional HUMAN love. Of course, many of their attitudes may be the result of their own substandard emotional upbringing.

In the end, many of them voluntarily choose to remove themselves from the gene pool. I'm not sure that's all that bad a deal for the human race.

10:13 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous TSUGambler said...

It really bothers me when people treat their pets as children, but not nearly as much as when people treat their children as pets.

10:30 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Um, cats and dogs as evolved social parasites? Surely as a biologist, you know evolution is not a targeted process.

So you know, my degree is biology and I have forty+ years at the subject.

Perhaps you might consider what in your emotional upbringing makes you need to throw invectives around like that.

10:35 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Nick said...

My Aunt and Uncle have a sign on the wall as you walk into their house that says "Dogs are kids with furry coats". They've always had dogs in their lives, and don't have kids. Of course, in their case they couldn't have kids, so their pets became a natural substitute.

I always laughed at the sign a bit because most of their dogs weren't treated as kids. They were hunting or working dogs, and didn't sleep in the house. It wasn't until their last dog that they actually started treated him as a child, and it was horribly devestating to them when he died a few months ago.

But eitehr way... what's really wrong with that in that case?

10:47 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Private rescue groups are even more strict and have future "owners" sign agreements that they will allow unannounced drop in inspections and pay attorney fees if the group insists on reclaiming the dog, and you can't imagine the ridiculous details they insist the owner agree to before adopting.

And this is a bad thing, exactly, why? All the rescue org is trying to do is safeguard the animal they just placed. There's nothing wrong with that.

I know someone that adopted a lab puppy, then 8 years later when he and his wife had their second child (the wife stays home), he complained that it was "too hard" to take care of a dog and 2 kids.

This is selfish and heartless. The dog didn't ask for these two owners, the owner asked for him. What did the dog do to deserve being left out in the garage in the cold, and being shut out of the family? Nothing.

If you agree to take care of an animal, that is a lifetime agreement, and if it were up to me, these owners should be fined or jailed for shucking the responsibility that they agreed to take. This is just another example of human selfishness and cowardice; it should be treated as such.

TV (Harry)

10:54 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Dr Helen, get with the program. You're supposed to know about all dumb dog sports.

More posturing from self aggrandizing posers, both of you. Too precious to stand it.

We've really lost our confidence as a civilization if we can't laugh in the face of people who throw birthday parties for dogs.

I'm amazed at how many Baby Boomers (and younger people) get a second dog as a "friend" for their first dog.

Dogs and cats are social parasites who have evolved to make humans think they are capable of unconditional love.

I have to admit - I don't think I could see a blog comment thread dripping with more arrogant condescension if I went to Daily Kos.

The fact is, spending on pets is way up. The reason? Pets ARE part of peoples' families, as it should be. It sounds like some people have a problem with that.

After reading the above selfish, hurtful comments, please again explain to me why people are so much better than dogs. Because I'm not seeing much evidence of that here.

TV (Harry)

11:06 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

TV (Harry),

In your warped world, people should be jailed for not taking what you deem proper care of a dog? And you think others here are dripping with contempt? Take a look in the mirror.

11:23 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Fatmouse said...

'Cause you're a wuss, Harry.

Pets are great people-substitutes for those who can't figure out complex human behavior. People are hard to understand. Dogs are easy. Give them food and pet them and they'll follow you around. Wow, love and affection with no hard thinking required!

You know when all this is going to get worse? When artificial intelligence is able to fake a convincing conversation. In Japan there are already "Date Sims," where you "date" a virtual girl on your computer. Of course they're ridiculously simple and unrealistic, but once you're able to come home and be greeted by a holographic hottie (who you can always just turn off) human interaction will go down the toilet - if the rush to animals is any indication.

11:28 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Cecil Moon said...

Dr. Helen,
Well balanced people manage to give their pets care, love, atention, and dignity. They avoid extremes in all phases of their lives.
I treasure the love of 5 children and 20 grandkids. I also observe the unconditional love of two great (inside) dogs. I am tolerated by 3 cats. Since the closest family is 1000 miles away I have much more opportunity to be with the critters than the kids. They keep me active, caring, playing and outside my acknowledged tendency to be self serving. Being married to a wonderful animal loving woman helps.
For the poster above who was concerned by the plight of the Katrina animals I have this: you're presence with my wife in Slidel, LA would have been welcomed. She spent over two weeks there with other volunteers with Noah's Wish as part of the animal rescue unit. I stayed home with our gang of pets while she helped with the needs of lost, strayed and abandoned animals. Her impression was one of respect for the people who selflessly gave their own time and resources to care for these helpless animals.
She came home elevated by her association with these people who actually cared for anonymous pets who desperately needed their help. For more information on how you can help these folks, bring up www.noahswish.org.
Thanks for the forum.

11:58 AM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

I too wonder about the highly evolved social parasite view. Part of my disagreement comes from thinking of pets as highly bred social symbiots. We have bred the pet animals for their pet like qualities. Breeding occurs much fast than evoloution I would guess.

But this is way outside my field, how about some of you biologists chiming in please.

Trey

11:59 AM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous William said...

There is a LOT of truth to the idea that many of us made a mistake in waiting to have kids until we were in our 30's. My wife and I were one of those couples, and unfortunately we found that my wife went through premature menopause in her mid-30's. (Yes, it does happen.) We are now navigating the adoption process but I earnestly wish we had tried for kids in our 20's.

And I don't see how pets can begin to be a substitute for kids.

12:03 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 9:21 AM-

I really believe that those who CHOOSE to raise pets instead of children (the ones that CAN have children, but have chosen not to--ESPECIALLY "DINKs") are a very selfish "breed."

Yes, people who choose to have pets instead of children are oh so selfish. Completely unlike myopic mommies such as yourself who bring children into an already overcrowded world just so they can have little replicas of themselves, to fawn over and make believe they are the most precious little beings EVER.

Btw, the next time you go out to eat, to a movie, etc., please leave your 'VERY active preschool boys' (read: undisciplined brats) at home instead of allowing them to run amok and ruin an otherwise enjoyable time for the rest of us.

12:07 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a biologist, but I do volunteer at an animal shelter. In the case of dogs, they have been primarily bred to perform service functions; hunting, herding, protecting, pest control, etc. There have been pet animals for millennia, but mostly they've been of practical use until the last two centuries.

There seems to be two separate issues going on in this discussion. One is the obvious question of whether the iconic cases presented are healthy, and whether they are representative or extreme. The second question is that of acceptable vs unacceptable lifestyle.

Sure, one can find many examples of fools in any population group. How far one generalizes from that speaks more to the qualities of the critic than the criticized. In the case of people doting on their pets to an extreme degree, its not what I would do but if that's what they want and its not hurting the pet there are far worse things going on. Jefferson's famous quote on whether there is twenty gods or no god is appropriate here.

Concerning the second somewhat occulted topic, its sadly amusing to me that our society is still very uncomfortable with folks who can't or won't follow the script. Marry too young or too late or not at all, too many kids or too few, drive a car that's too nice or too crappy, there is an infinite space of criteria that must be satisfied to avoid condemnation. 300 years later we are still in the grips of Puritanism, only the rules have changed.

The above comment about pet lovers not being capable of figuring out "complex human behavior" is classic. In family life, work life, and in performing volunteer work, I've had all the experience I want in venal, dishonest, and Machiavellian behavior. For the most part, I'd rather hang out with dogs. You enjoy complex human behavior? Fine, go get a job as a prison guard and report back.

12:25 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Johnboy said...

Dogs can be the best thing for you, if you let them. They’ll help you have far more human interaction than you’d probably have without them.

Think that “dog birthday party” is stupid? Well, the other dogs didn’t get there by themselves. Their owners brought them. So the dogs just gave the people the excuse to get together and have a good time.

Same thing goes with people who take their dog to the “dog park”. While the dogs play and get exercise, the owners meet and talk and become friends. Many years ago, when living in a different town, I brought home a mutt from the shelter. Just by coincidence, a lot of other people in my neighborhood also got dogs. I happened to live on a corner with a big yard. That yard became “dog meeting central”. The result? I made many lifetime friends; people who brought their dogs over to my yard to play with my dog and others.

Then there’s the all time dog “benefit” – walking. I get about 6 miles of walking in per day, with the dog; 2 miles in the morning, 3 or 4 miles in the evening, and maybe 1/2 mile before bed. Would I go out and walk that same distance on my own? Doubtful. As a side benefit, I meet all sorts of people on the walks, other people walking their dogs, people out in front of their house (especially parents of little kids who get to pet my very friendly dog), all sorts of folks. You’ll also find that other dog owners you meet on those walks are usually quite friendly. When the 2 dogs meet, the owners have an instant mutual interest and friendly talk starts.

I know for more people in my neighborhood than most of my neighbors for the simple reason that I walk the dog and get the chance to meet folks. My wife walks the dog less than I do but, when she does, she invariably comes home and tells me that she’s met somebody who knows “Ed’ from my walks and introduce themselves to her.

So the dog gives you an “excuse” to get some exercise and meeting new people comes as a side benefit, By the way, once the dog gets the habit of going for that walk, he’ll pester you no end until you take him for the walk, That’s good. Walking is good for you and the dog makes sure you get what’s good for you – and him. This morning it was 12 degrees with 20 mph winds. Ed made sure that I got my exercise. That was good for me. You can also get some fresh air by taking the dog out into the back yard and playing with him. Throw a ball, whatever. You’re outside doing something rather than sitting in front of the tube, or computer.

Contrast the above with a suburban lifestyle that goes something like this: Up in the AM, get in car, go to work, get in car, come home, go inside, eat, watch TV or whatever. On weekends the routine shifts to getting in the car and driving on errands. You don’t meet new people. You don’t get any exercise. You’re removed from interaction with new people.

So maybe some of that “dog spoiling” isn’t all wasted on the dog. Maybe a good bit of it is actually good for the owners too.

12:41 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the first 2 years human children are adorable and a joy to have... then it is all downhill for the rest of your life

For the first 2 years puppies are a misery..... then they just get better and better and better....

I had four children and I can tell you that the investment in them sure wasn't worth what I had to give up in my life...

I now have a Boston Terrier service dog and wouldn't trade her for any amount of money nor any child in the world... for those who think kids are great more power to them... my husband and I are tired of putting up with other people's rude, loud, obnoxious, snotty children and avoid any places that cater to them... our service dog however, in her stroller I might add, is welcome everywhere and constantly complimented on her behavior....

1:09 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Karen said...

Check out the comments from the "pets are children" people and you can see why our society is doomed.

Of course, other races and cultures have tons of children and just as nature abhors a vaccuum, so do societies. Cultures that don't have children will die off and be replaced by those that do. In the present, the parasite pet owners will be cared for by those who bothered to have children and whose children grow up and contribute to social security and the GDP of the nation.

Anonymous 1:09, the fact you regret the investment you made into the lives of the 4 children you claim to have had, is a bad reflection on you, not on your children. I feel sorry for them.

1:18 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen Asked:
although I have to ask, what happened to spending time with the real, live human grandkids?

My Response:
I might can answer that. I've refused to provide grandkids. So has my sister. Pets are what my parents have got to spoil.

There's a lot of that going around.

Lamont

1:21 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger BJ said...

Why all the hostility towards Boomers? Judging by the rudeness on this thread and in society at large today; we obviously didn't do very well at parenting. Perhaps more of us should have chosen pets.

Boomer self-indulgence? The 12-45 demographic spent $4 billion in 2006 on cell phone ring tones, with the over 25-45 age group accounting for 45% of sales: generational pot, meet kettle.

As to the SS canard, Boomers will receive less than a 2% return on their investment of the highest generational percentages on gross wages to date.

Boomers are responsible for a great many technological and scientific advances we take for granted...including the means to communicate in this forum.

Boomers also began the Green movement, volunteered for the Peace Corp in third world hell holes, demanded and worked for civil and gay rights, and reproductive freedom. Boomer women opened professional doors and pushed through glass ceilings to the point that in many professions gender equity is a reality.

So, yes, I'll take those accomplishments as a legacy and ownership of foolish Boomers dressing Fifi in Gucci.

1:36 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Laurence said...

What about situations where a couple is incapable of having children on their own, don't have the time to invest in raising children properly so they're not a burden on society and themselves, and have made the conscious and willful choice to raise semi-independent pets like cats?

1:59 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Hey William, please excuse my butting in, but I have two words for you: donor embryos.

My wife and I were in your position, premature aging of the eggs. No meds or treatments would help us. So we were going to adopt, we had the home study and were about to look at the first bunch of pictures and bios.

Then the fertility clinic called and asked us if we would be interested in donor embryos. We said "no, we could never aford that" then they told us how much it would cost. Roughly a third of an in US adoption. Color us dumbfounded.

The fertilized eggs are donated by other couples who have had successful in-vitro programs and had left over eggs that they wanted to share. So they more or less matched us with the biological profile of the wonderful couple who shared, and now we have 4 year olds!

OK, do not be frightened by the plural. Twins are more common than our triplets, and single babies are more common than pairs. For us, the process and the outcome has been a miracle from God. You can check out the kids at my blog for visual confirmation.

If you want, leave me your email at my blog and I would be happy to correspond about any questions. Of course adoption is a wonderful blessing too. I was adopted, and it has been a wonderful, loving experience for me. But there are interesting options.

Trey

2:07 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous wbd said...

Ahhh the felines...You won't see THEM dressed up in Gucci. The indignity!

2:19 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

Anonymous 12:25, you are so right. People have a lot to say if you don't follow society's script. It's amusing now, when we all can shake our heads at those are so willing to judge those that veer from the path. However, we need to be vigilant to make sure the intolerant never gain too much power.

2:49 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger knoxwhirled said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:29 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger knoxwhirled said...

generational pot, meet kettle.

... here's the thing though: Boomers tend to actively believe they were and are God's Gift to Mankind while actively being just as shallow and self-indulgent as other generations. That's why they're viewed as so insufferable, and with such contempt.

3:30 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous NotABoomer said...

bj I think that you're attitude demonstrates why younger, and older people are generally fed-up with boomer posturing.

Firstly this forum was developed by a guy in his mid to early thirties.

secondly - ring tones ?!?, 12-45 demographic !?!? ring tones ?!?!

thirdly you could fit every boomer who'd volunteered in the peace corp a/o third world hell-hole into a moderately sized ampitheater.

fourthly - vietnam, cambodia, child abandonment, est, cultism, disco, dictator worship, jimmy carter, ddt ....

One thing that is true is that the boomers have been incessant self promoters, and have never forgone the opportunity to elevate themselves by degrading other generations of people. This will most likely be their enduring characterization - as self-righteous, decadent, infantile scolds. It's not fair, but then payback is a b!tch.

4:03 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can speak from experience about this!

My mom, though she did the best she knew how and eons better than her mom did, was really a rotten mother. Drugs, drinking, shacking up with men one after the other and dragging me along with her. I ate almost all my meals out (thank God for a great metabolism!) and a lot of times there was no food in the house. When that happened and mom hadn't given me money for McDonalds and there was no sugar in the sugar bowl for me to munch on then I'd eat the margins in my books. All my books were marginless at one point.

It was a weird existence I suppose, though definitely not as bad as it could have been. I survived, my mom finally grew up, got sober, and married a wonderful man and we have a very good relationship now. She's a fantastic grandparent too.

I. Just. Hate. Her. Damn. Dogs.

She has two chihuahuas that she babies endlessly. She got one and then another to as a doggy pal for the first. And now that the first one is failing in health she's looking for a third to make sure the second dog won't get lonely when the first dies. These dogs get taken on vacation with her because she doesn't want her best friend, a smoker, to care for them as she's worried about second hand smoke. She cooks meals for them, especially if they're going out and the dogs can't come, then they get boiled chicken tenders. Makes excuses for them when they nip when I would have gotten a smack on the face for a wrong answer. I could go on but it just gets more silly.

I'm glad my mom's a changed person now but I feel irrationally jealous about these two stupid dogs sometimes that it's all I can do to not stomp on their wee little heads.

Good thing we live in another state.

5:58 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you care what people do with their lives? Just because they may like to dress their dogs up (which to me is totally stupid), it's their life to do as they please. Are we all supposed to conform to what you think is right? Why do you have to criticize them? Why do you have to give them names (fur people)? I think you need to get a life!

6:24 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

"The scraggy old chicken-necked women" strike back

6:25 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Helen,
As a mother of four under seven who is going through great financial difficulties right now (Florida skyrocketed to the third most expensive state to give birth), your post was extremely painful to read. It is very hard to read anything about exorbitant amounts of money being spent on animals.
I used to kind of laugh at things like this, but that's changed and it is only because of our personal finances.

Anonymous mom of two boys called these particular dog owners a "selfish breed" to which another person called her selfish and immoral. I relate to anonymous mom. I'm sure those who've gone through hard times will recognize these thoughts, the hurt and bitterness of seeing animals, bad habits, etc. being lavishly indulged when you are despairing. We started asking ourselves how did this happened which was followed by who's helping us and what separates the helpers from the non. Like most families, we have a whole swath of classes represented from the filthy rich in San Francisco to the poorest whose home was only good enough for migrant workers when they passed on last year.
The childless or few children parents were least generous, or flat out contemptuous. My baby's Godparents, former Mexican migrant workers, were among the most helpful. The latter have no pets as family is so bountiful, I guess.

As to the second poster who called anonymous mom selfish... My good friend and mother of 8 used to run across people like that a lot in public back in the eighties and nineties. Perfect strangers would seethingly ask her when she was going to get her tubes tied (her oldest just became an Air Force officer). I had some reactions like that after my first two but then something happened. Rude comments became less and less and began to be replaced with people cooing and showing awe. One stranger even said that God loved me having my babies!

The public's reaction towards us supermoms has definitely changed and for the better. I believe it is because people have seen their society change so quickly and dramatically in front of their very eyes. And aging has helped people re-evaluate society and how their choices played out in their lives and how, en masse, they've shaped society.

6:47 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger Eric said...

A few disjointed and disconnected thoughts from a sincere dog lover...

While I have always had dogs, and never had children (thus I can't compare the two), I'd like to pose a question: might it be that some of these dysfunctional and neurotic dog owners are better off not having children?

I don't believe in animal rights, and I don't think dogs are people. Nor should they be treated as people. But there's a lot to be said for unconditional love. It's why Harry Truman said "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

True, dogs require less work and commitment, but they really can't substitute for the interaction and mental stimulation we get from people. If you don't believe me, compare watching a dog show with watching a people show on TV. Anyone want to try a dog chat room on the Internet?

As to children, I don't have much basis for comparison, but I've seen some that are worse behaved than your average dog.

And at least with dogs, if they're out of control, they can be legally impounded and dealt with.

A final paradox. Why is it that society generally treats dogs better than humans? If a dog is homeless, diseased and sleeping in the street, we intervene and take it to an animal shelter. Yesterday I saw a "homeless" man sleeping on the subway who was so smelly that it was unbearable to everyone. I remarked that we would not allow a dog to be in such a condition in public. We have places for them to go, and people who are paid to look after them. Don't people deserve at least the same level of care?

7:06 PM, February 19, 2007  
Blogger forgetfulmuse said...

I can't believe people actually use the term "fur children" in earnest! LMAO!



I think pets are great, don't get me wrong; but when there's an unhealthy attachment to the pet, which is often the case where the pet is a substitute for a child, the whole thing just gets to be a bit sad. Then again, if someone is that unhealthy, perhaps it is just as well such horrifying neediness isn't passed on to children.

I think Mercurior has summed it up well in spite of himself when he says, "we find that animals give more unconditional love than human kids [emphasis mine]". [pause while I gather myself up from ROTFLMAO] Kids aren't meant to give US unconditional love, it's the other way around. Also, who says the animals are giving us love anyway?

The problem here is that most city people are sentimental about animals. Maybe it's all because of Sesame Street.

10:08 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous marion said...

You know, it's ironic...we have people lavishing funds and energy on their "furbabies," and yet the shelter population where I live only gets more crowded by the day. People throw birthday parties for their pets...and yet, every time I go to Petsmart, I see animals looking for a home because their owners, I kid you not, moved away and left them behind.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this...except maybe to say that, *on average*, I'm not convinced we're necessarily treating pets better than we have in the past. We're certainly not spaying or neutering them at anything close to responsible levels. It's just that more people are exhibiting extreme behavior. We watch dog and cat shows and people ooh and awww over the specific breeds...and then they go out and buy a breed that looks cute without thinking once about what that animal's personality will be like. Which is probably how I ended up the owner of a healthy two-year-old purebred Siamese cat who had been taken to the SPCA. She's a great cat - but she wants to be with people. All of the time. If what you know about Siamese came from "Lady and the Tramp," you'd be very disappointed in her.

FWIW: I think the extreme behavior thing applies to human kids as well, sadly.

10:38 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Kevin R.C. 'Hognose' O'Brien said...

Heh. I wonder how these people feel about how other cultures see their "fur children" (geez, I gag to type it).

For instance, in Korea, they're livestock. cf recipes:

http://wolf.ok.ac.kr/~annyg/english/e5.htm

http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal/2006/07/join-us-for-some-food-and-mischief.html

Likewise in Hong Kong. Some decades ago a Boston Globe (I believe) story on the British authorities' fruitless attempt to wipe out the dog trade contained the unfortunate phrase, "tender young Chow puppy."

It was at one time a delicacy in Zanzibar as well:

http://www.congocookbook.com/c0164.html

For the record, I love dogs, and prefer mine scampering about the yard or curled up before the fire, not sizzling upon it; but prepared Korean or Chinese-style, it's undeniably tasty.

Cat, on the other hand, is edible but not especially palatable.

11:23 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eric, the reason stray dogs get taken to the pound but homeless people don't is that dogs have no rights but homeless people do.

Cities came up with the pound thing not because municipalities were interested in rescuing dogs, they did it because they wanted to control what was thought to be a public health issue. These days pet dogs have fewer communicable diseases than people do, but 50+ years ago it was another thing entirely.

You see so many homeless people today because back in the 1980s, some federal judge ruled that the mentally ill could not longer be hospitalized against their will if they were not diagnosed to be a danger to themself or society. Plus these days the meth epidemic is turning a lot of people into zombies. There's a whole different level of effort for a private shelter to care for a stray dog than it is for a homeless shelter to care for a person with a mental illness or a mind damaged by crank.

11:30 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

forgetfulmuse, some of the most doting "fur-parents" I know are farm boys. Hell, I work with two retired Nam-era military pilots that both grew up on farms and yet they both spoil their dogs.

11:35 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous ed said...

Hmmmm.

1. i am childfree

No offense to anyone explicit or implicit, but that right there pretty much says it all.

In a previous age the term would have been "childless" and a term of dismay and sadness. Now it's a term of voluntary choice.

Good, bad or indifferent. It does rather describe the current age.

2. Kids maybe expensive, irritating at times, excessively obnoxious and expensive. But I seriously doubt that a dog can give you grandchildren. So what happens when someone turns 85? They're still going to be doting on yet another dog?

3. Frankly it seems likely that someone who chooses a "fur child", which is an extraordinarily objectionable term btw, rather than an actual child may be making an irreversible decision. Child bearing becomes progressively more difficult as a woman ages and the idea of having children at a late age seems more wishful thinking than reality.

And yes adoption is one avenue, but that road can be as filled with difficulties as a middle-age pregnancy. I wonder how many future elderly people will be out there alone save for their various pets and regretful that they didn't have a child?

4. Frankly I like cats a great deal. I've grown up with so many cats that it seems that I can talk "cat" to cats. I also very much like Shelties as they are very intelligent dogs.

But pets aren't children no matter how much people may wish they were. I think there's going to be a lot of very unhappy people in the future because of this sort of choice.

11:37 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say I don't understand the complaints of the Florida mother of four who posted at 6:47pm. What does someone else's money have to do with you or your kids? Whether they spend their money on dog sweaters, $1000 bottles of burgundy, or cubist paintings, who cares? Why aren't you even more hurt that John Edwards just finished building a 28,000 square foot house & gym? (that is correct, twenty-eight thousand square feet!)

11:41 PM, February 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely. Those with pets and no children are clearly so selfish.

But the worst? The worst has got to be those with no children AND no pets. Unbelievably selfish bastards.

How can they possibly defend this choice?

10:17 AM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger forgetfulmuse said...

Anonymous said...

forgetfulmuse, some of the most doting "fur-parents" I know are farm boys. Hell, I work with two retired Nam-era military pilots that both grew up on farms and yet they both spoil their dogs.


Of course there are exceptions. That goes without saying. In general, however, it is city people who tend to be overly sentimental about animals. My dad tells a story of his father getting attached to a pig they were raising specifically to be eaten (they lived on a farm), and then crying at the dinner table.

There's nothing wrong with having attachment to pets, it's just when it becomes all-consuming. Truth be told, this all-consuming attachment to and emotional dependence upon one's children reflects the same psychological problem that is unrelated to pet ownership. It just happens to manifest itself that way a lot, and sometimes in a rather tragic and comical fashion.

12:06 PM, February 20, 2007  
Blogger Heather said...

For those people who prefer to "raise" pets instead of children, because they feel children are too difficult, ungrateful, whiny, controlling, etc., don't they realize that children eventually grow up?

I think they HAVE made that realization. The cute baby you can dress up and snuggle turns into a sullen rude weird-looking teenager. The cute puppy you can dress up and snuggle stays cute and snuggly its whole life.

4:41 PM, February 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh- and another thing. Those who only have one child. So selfish.

5:38 PM, February 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Marion. I have fur babies and I freely admit they are substitute children. However, I don't dress them up, or lavish gifts on them. I do, however, bring them to the vet regularly, buy them premium food, spend lots of money on a fence to keep them safe, and spend time with them.

It does bother me to see pet spas with facials and other amenities when there are homeless pets that are euthanized each day.

However, some of these over-doting pet parents are also active in animal charities so I suppose some good can come of it.

But what does bother me is the judgemental attitude that we each should live our lives as others do, and should act as others do and enjoy as others do. Just live and let live people!

7:38 PM, February 20, 2007  
Anonymous TMink said...

Heather wrote: "The cute baby you can dress up and snuggle turns into a sullen rude weird-looking teenager."

Well, not necessarily. Parenthood is not without trials, but for many of us, the process is overall a joy. Still, attitude is everything, well, certainly a big thing. I do not work with adult sexual perpetrators because I think they should be locked up for the rest of their natural life and I am afraid if I let them in my office my bad attitude would rise out of my body and choke one of us in the room. On the off chance that it would be me who was choked, I let other people work with them.

So it is probably a good thing that potential breeders with poor expectations of their life as a parent eschew humans for companion animals. It does remind me of Harpo Marx, a doting father, who adopted many children. He had 9 windows in his house and adopted 9 children for the joy of seeing 9 smiling faces waving to him as he drove home from work. One for each window.

Trey

11:13 AM, February 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris in Austin made a good point regarding emotional development. I am an animal lover, but I see over-pampering and anthropomorphising pets as a form of animal abuse. A 49 year-old woman (I no longer have contact)I know bought herself a "designer dog" - half miniature French poodle, half Maltese more as a fashion accessory than a humane wish to own a loving pet. She "spoils" the animal to the point of satire. She even feeds the dog in her own bed! She has not trained the dog, so it's behaviour is appalling. The woman's complete lack of empathy for anyone - human or animal makes her completely ignorant of her dog's "real" emotional needs. She spends $100 per week on food, toys and humiliating doggy-designer gear! She keeps the dog within a few metres of her at all times, and becomes screechingly hysterical if the dog leaves her sight for even a few seconds. She reacts to even mild criticism of the dog with overblown outrage. Many times I have witnessed this peculiar phenomenon whereby she projects her own emotions on to the dog (usually inappropriate upset), then grabs the dog on to her lap and cuddles her fiercely despite it being obvious that the dog didn't want this physical contact. This woman is truly personality-disordered: specifically, she fits 9/9 DSM criteria traits for narcissistic PD, 5/9 for histrionic PD and 5/9 for borderline PD. So while on the surface she appears to be pampering the dog, I consider that she is actually abusing the dog and as such is not fit to own a pet.

5:43 PM, February 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two cats and no kids, but I would rather it were reversed. I'm female, mid-30's, and want to get married and have kids, but it has so far been impossible to find someone in my "You're so young! Why not wait? What are you in a hurry to start a family for?" generation to begin this endeavor with.

Then, there is adoption. I tried. I was turned down. The social worker said that I would do whatever it takes to do what is best for my child, but she was licensed to find the BEST POSSIBLE home for a kid and mine wasn't it. Basically, I was good, but not quite good enough. After being turned down when I tried to parent, I turned my love toward beings with no such qualms regarding my qualifications.

So now, I have two cats and no kids.

8:06 PM, March 06, 2007  
Blogger serket said...

My sister says that it is sad when animals die in movies, but not when it is people. She is a huge dog lover, although she doesn't spend a lot on luxuries. My grandparents went on a church mission and my sister stayed at their house while they were gone. She was explicitly told not to get a dog, but she did so anyways. She might have had two at the same time.

She moved into a trailer with two big dogs. Fortunately, the trailer park owner made her get rid of them. My aunt's neighbor had a dog that supposedly considers herself a person and doesn't like other dogs. I saw her a few times and she was really friendly to me.

7:01 PM, March 29, 2007  
Blogger Diane said...

I'm one of those people that the rest of you seem to hate. *smiles*

See, I can have children and I've chosen not to. My husband and I grew up in large families and we feel that we've basically "done our time" with children.

We can make ourselves be patient, but children can sense when you are doing something out of obligation.

I get sick a lot, and I have no wish to put on a smile and take care of kids while I am puking my guts out. My husband hates the unenviable job of all parents: Being in charge and having to say "no!"

Why should we have children when there are so many people out there who can do so, and enjoy doing so? It's not like the world is missing out on two amazing parents! It's missing out on two, at best, mediocre parents.

As for the pets, why yes, the cats DO absorb our residual parenting urges. We can spoil them rotten, and we're the only ones who suffer. I can take a day off when I'm sick, and not have to worry about neglecting them.

And we spend a great deal of money on them getting them the best care possible. I have a $350 litter genie so I don't have to scoop. I buy only the best cat food. I pay $60 a month for asthma medicine for my cat.

And I'm supporting children and other people when I do it. The money has to go somewhere, and it's going to the people who make these products, the farmers who grow them, and venders who sell them. They do an honest day's labor and they receive a wage in return.

I don't buy diamond studded collars or clothing for the cats, but if I did, it wouldn't be anyone else's business. It's my money. Not yours. I have a 401k and a hefty retirement savings. You'll never have to support me.

But when someone who doesn't truly want children has them, they usually do a bad job at parenting. They raise children who cannot support themselves, who are abused or neglected, and the rest of society suffers. My cats? Never going to be a burden on anyone but me.

Frankly, I see a whole lot more selfish with that than I do with my spoiling my fuzzy overlords.

9:36 AM, June 19, 2008  
Blogger Andy Baker said...

I'm a bit late to start posting on this blog - it's like a year old, but I've gotta say, after reading through all this, and having suffered an incident with my "reasonably successful girlfriend and her dog concerning an agility class" - really no joke, this thread has hit the nail on the head - with frightening accuracy. My question is, WHAT ON EARTH AM I GOING TO DO???? The dog is a good dog. Really. Wasn't always that way - it was quite naughy, but I ruled with an iron fist, and two years later the dog is totally obedient, well adjusted, and just a plain old good dog - Even strangers on the street comment. Good dog. I know - I've had dogs all my life. They were farm dogs mostly, and my dad bred Goldens for a while, so I know how this works. THIS dog is OK. It sleeps on a packing blanket here at the shop where I work and mostly stays out of trouble, and she's good because she barks when strange people wander in. I live in Brooklyn, NY. This is a good thing. My girlfriend on the other hand needs a little therapy of some kind, or some kind of reality check. She got the dog, now a 70 lb German Shepard, when she was single. She was 28 at the time, and had never had a boyfriend. A little strange because she seems very well adjusted and she's attractive. I have no reason to doubt these facts. I met her and the dog when it was a year old, we soon were sharing an apartment, and I was training a hellion of a beast that used to jump ON MY FACE in to a good dog. I'd smack it in the nose when it would jump. My girlfriend thought this was a great idea, which totally took me by surprise. I figured after the first time that the dog bloodied my lip with its claws and I reflexively slapped it on the nose that I'd be out on the street. I've done this before, I know how to do it right, and I don't hurt the dog, so OK great. Two or three more smacks later and the dog was cured of one of its many issues.

Well she loves this dog. It's got two of it's own special L.L. Bean beds, one at her office/studio, it eats $60 a bag avacado and lamb dog food, $12 a bag liver treats. I eat healthy, I guess I don't have a problem with the dog eating well, to a point at least. She picks the dog up and carries it around over her shoulder, a 70 lb dog. She's a little tiny 130 lb girl. She constantly is wiping its face and ass and ears, which, OK hygiene is good, but there's no need for a fit when we run out of "ear wipes"

And agility class. We drive out to long island on the $4.50 a gallon gas to take the dog to a 90 minute playground exercise that costs another $10, and we'll need a bag of those treats too. She runs, sure she does a good job, sometimes, that's great, but I don't enjoy it. Last week we're there. The dog is having anxiety or something and she's constantly trying to run off the course and back to the other person on the side line, either me or my girlfriend. Finally, I say forget it, and I go back to the car so the dog can finish the class without distraction. This caused a major incident, and predictably a comment pertaining to my level of patients and the what ifs of children and how it makes her think, BLAH BLAH BLAH. OK. It's a dog. You're forcing it to do something that only the girlfriend wants to do. The boyfriend is annoyed, the dog is freaked out and doesn't care about the class, etc. This was a week ago. She brings it up last night. She's acting a little snippy and I gently talk to her, like I always do, and the stupid agility class comes up again, and how all this stuff reflects poorly on my, etc.

She's not a dumb girl by any stretch. She's really really bright, and pretty reasonable on most topics, but this is nuts, and it floors me when she makes the references to my parenting ability. The dog is NOT a child. It's especially not MY child. I can see how she might think it's HER child, but it's not mine, and I think the whole concept is insane. And the other problem with the dog as compared to a kid is that the dog is as smart now as it will ever be. It's always going to be mute. It will never ask me any really great questions, and I'll never be able to explain all the things that we find on the beach or teach it how to tie its shoes. Thankfully I have my sisters kids for that and I positively adore them and they sure like me back, and I don't even give them junk food. They just like spending time with me and we play and learn about stuff and so forth, and they REMEMBER me and know my name. The dog? Not so much. Good dog, I like it and all, and I'd be sad if it died, but its just a dog. Meanwhile, my girlfriend is 32, has one ovary, and the doctor is only pretty sure that we might not have all that much trouble having a baby... but she still wants to travel some more, or so she says, with two passports completely filled with stamps from dozens of countries. I don't want to wake up and realize that my kids would be graduating high school when I was getting ready to retire, or that well.. it's too late, all I can HAVE is a dog now.

What am I supposed to do? Finding a new girlfriend isn't really on the table, and neither is getting rid of the dog. Can anybody recommend a good therapist? I really need help here!!! attack of the furbabies!

11:34 AM, June 20, 2008  
Blogger Shelley said...

What about the person whose choice of parenthood was taken away from them, and dogs are a substitute? My choice was taken away at age 26, 31 years ago. I have remarried and my husband has 4 children and 10 grandchildren. I feel a tremendous sense of loss being around when he has a new grandbaby. I would have loved to have been a parent and to have received the great gift a person can have, a child. My life is my dogs now, and has been for a number of years. They are not my children, they are a replacement, but I have a close relationship with my dogs. My husband is terribly hurt over that. He does not understand how someone can replace a child with a dog. he lost a child 5 years ago, and he was buried on his 18th birthday, and I have no way of relating to his loss. All I know is that greatest grief in the world is for a parent to bury their child. he doesn't understand my hurt when he steps on one of my puppies legs and breaks it, and he wants to take it out and shoot it because it's just a dog. I'm a breeder/exhibitor of smooth collies, and he broke the leg of my pick dog that I had hopes and dreams for, he will not become a champion now, even tho I know there are no guarantees he would have grown up to be show quality, but still, my sense of disappointment is deep. His sense of disappointment is deep over my lack of awe over the birth of a grandchild. Holding that grandchild just puts me face to face with the a terrible loss in my life, the pain is deep, and it's something I want to avoid, and have succeeded in avoiding since I was 26, I'm now 57.

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1:38 AM, April 21, 2009  
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8:36 AM, May 12, 2009  
Blogger 1314 said...

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11:02 PM, May 19, 2009  
Blogger JustaGirl said...

I am 20 years old and my husband is 32. We have decided that we don't want kids because unfortunately in this day and age it is impossible for the average person to 'have it all'.

Unless you earn a lot of money or come from money you cannot own your own home, own an investment property, have shares, have children, travel the world, and still be comfortable with money. Social security's figures shows that the average income for a dual income family is approximately $80,000 - before tax. After tax this figure is around $68,000. The USDA shows that the average cost of a child in this wage bracket is approximately $250,000 from the time the child is conceived to the time that the child is 18 years old. Keep in mind that that figure isn't including Private Schooling, College, or the possibility that the child may stay at home after the age of 18 as a dependant.

Approximately 25% of students attend a private school, and this can cost on average, $6,600 per year. A private 4-year College will set a parent back around $25,000 per year, while a public 4-year college will cost around $6,500 per year.

All in all, ONE CHILD can cost up to around $24,000 per year – most families who have children have 2 children. To have one child, for the 'average income earner' this leaves $44,000 to live on - for the mortgage, cars, insurance, day-to-day living expenses and so on. Also keep in mind that a child is the largest aspect when choosing a house and a car to buy.

The average house (from coast to coast) costs between $141,000 to $250,000 - which equals a mortgage between around $8,000 to $14,500 (depending on interest rates and based on a 10% deposit) per year.

These figures do not look promising - especially with day to day living expenses rising constantly. Generation X and Y tend to 'want it all' - kids don't allow a person several things:

1) Comfortability with money;
2) Freedom to pack up and do whatever you want, whenever you want;
3) Women tend to save less for retirement when they have children, even though they are expected to live longer than men;

But it's not just about the money - some people may spend the same amount of money on their pets as they would their children, but at the end of the day - pets don't complain, they don't hold out their hand for more money, they give you unconditional love, they
don't take up more space than you can afford, you don't need a bigger car, and you can move wherever you want without having to consider if 'the kids will be upset'. At the end of the day, fur children are about simplicity and fitting into the lifestyle that you lead – and before you criticise that, think about how many things you do in a day that simplify your life: Ready-made meals, online banking, driving to work instead of catching public transport or walking, buying online, hiring a cleaner/gardener…

Some people may never be able to understand the love between a parent and a fur child, but it’s someone’s choice. You criticise it because you don’t understand it, so maybe you should try to understand the reasoning before you start criticising. I hope that I’ve brought you some kind of understanding to the decision to love and lavish fur children.

10:56 PM, June 07, 2009  
Blogger 1122 said...

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2:15 AM, June 08, 2009  

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