Pets Are Cute and Loveable, but They Aren't Children

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

I’m now a little over six months into my journey of being a first-time dad. I’m constantly exhausted, I’ve gotten the least amount of sleep I ever have in my life, and everything from my nightly routine to my work schedule revolves around the halfling. We went on our very first road trip to Austin for the weekend and where I used to just roll up some clothes, put them in a backpack, grab a bottle of water, and make for the nearest Bucee’s, I’m now trying to figure out how to fit everything this tiny human needs into the back of the car.

I now laugh at myself from seven months ago when I called myself a “dog dad.”

Before I go on, I want to make something very clear. Your pet is an important part of your family and I, a huge dog person, would never say someone is wrong to treat their pet with anything less than the love and affection they deserve. I think everyone should have a pet at least once in their life, especially if they’re younger and given charge over the creature. It teaches companionship, love, and responsibility for someone other than themselves.

But our society today has gotten confused about what a pet is. It’s a member of the family, yes, but it’s not a child.

Now that I have one, and I’m seeing the world from a different angle, I feel like a man who had the scales lifted from his eyes and I’m seeing a much grander picture than before. Moreover, it made me reflect on the “pets are children” issue and see something tragic within it.

To be clear, this isn’t me smirking at childless pet owners with an upturned nose and condescendingly recalling when I had it so easy. It’s some knowledge that I’ve now been let in on and I feel like others should know it.

To begin, I want to make a comparison between the love I have for my son vs. the love I have for my dog. Bottom line? There is no comparison. The value I put on my son is far and away greater than the value I put on my pet. In an extreme situation where society had collapsed and the only food I could secure to feed my son was to dispatch my dog so that I could cook it and feed it to my child, then I would do it. I’d do it with intense sadness, but I’d do it without a second thought. As my pet has no practical application or training to do anything other than be a house pet, that would be its regrettable fate.

That might be a morbid thought but I want to really highlight something. In Western culture, millennials and Gen Z have put too much value into pet ownership to the point where we’re calling ourselves “parents” when we have a “fur baby.” We equate our responsibility for a pet to the responsibility for a child and even spend an inordinate amount of our resources for it that, to be honest, aren’t remotely necessary for the pet’s happiness.

It’s my honest opinion that it blinds people of my generation and younger to the actual importance of a child and might even distract or dissuade them from wanting a child, which is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions when you understand what a child is.

A child is your connection to the future. It is a continuation of you just as you are a continuation of your long-dead relatives from generations ago. It’s not just the propagation of the species. Having a child is your hand reaching across space and time to build on what you and your ancestors started long ago through the blood of every family member before you. Where you might just see a needy little helpless thing keeping you up at night, God and the universe He created, see a cosmic journey in an epic we can’t possibly fathom. When you’re dead and gone, and have been for hundreds of years, you will still be speaking life to the universe, changing and advancing it until the utter end.

Your pomeranian cannot give you that kind of immensity. It is not your DNA and it doesn’t have your genes. It will not become something greater than what it is. While it is full of love for you and you are full of love for it, it is a shallow substitution for the love and importance of a human child.

Refusing to have one and choosing to be a “pet parent” instead is a form of suicide. You are stopping that story with you. The song ends. All of your time and effort will go into an animal that can’t carry the weight of this cosmic journey.

But I can get the fear of having a child.

My life has become far more complicated and tiring. There’s not one aspect of it that hasn’t been affected. Where my days used to revolve around me, they revolve around a baby that knows nothing about anything including himself. Where there used to be random interruptions to my time by dogs that needed to be let out, fed, or walked, I now spend every moment I’m not working tending to the needs of a helpless baby.

It’s stressful, time-consuming, and often tedious. It’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Someone looking at what I’m going through from the outside without any experience in it themselves would be right to feel intimidated.

But the term “labor of love” is pretty applicable here. My baby can frustrate me to no end but the moment he smiles at me I want to pick him up, hug him, kiss him, and continue bearing whatever I have to do to keep him smiling. His happiness has an effect on me that I hadn’t experienced before. It’s far more wholesome and fulfilling than anything I’d previously understood and I wake up every morning with an aim that is outside of myself. It’s a far greater existence than the one I had before and one that makes me far happier.

My son carries far more purpose than my dog ever did, and while I love them both, the love I have for my dog feels like a molehill next to the mountain of love I feel for my son.

People should not confuse a pet with a child. You have a responsibility with a pet, but you have a purpose with a child.


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