Don’t get me wrong, animal-lovers. I adore my dog Bailey. I buy her toys and dress her in a coat and sweater when it’s cold and bake her treats myself and seek out her sloppy kisses (even though I shudder to think where her tongue has been.) She’ll still not a child, though.
A baby, however – now you’re talking.
I’ve never had a baby of my own, but I think I’m safe in making the comparison because a) I have friends and family with kids for whom b) I’ve babysat. Also, I can read. Babies, toddlers, and the having of same factor into a surprising number of books and magazine articles!
Here’s how Bailey is like a baby: she has no language (although something tells me her ear-piercing bark may be as annoying as a colicky infant’s incessant crying.) My husband and I don’t just clean up her poop, we compare notes on its color and consistency. Sometimes at dinner. We take Bailey to the vet as often as new parents rush their offspring to the pediatrician. She hates baths. She torments the cats without meaning to. She gets treats for being good and gets put in time-out (the powder room) when she acts like a brat. She goes to daycare. She needs her naps. The floor is strewn with half-chewed toys after “playtime.” I’m warmed to my core when she snuggles up close to me, as if that’s the safest and most comfortable place she can find.
She’ll never graduate from college or high school or even kindergarten. (Although I must admit that the “mortarboard” cap they put on her after her final obedience class was pretty darned cute.) She’ll never fascinate me with her changing opinions and personality. Basically, she’ll have two phases in her maybe-twelve-year life span: baby/toddler and little old lady. She’ll spend most of her years on this earth in phase #1.
With children, there are milestones to be dreaded/looked forward to: the “big girl” bed, teaching her to ride a bike, her first sleepover, first date, first car, heading to college, first job, getting married, perhaps having kids of her own…
With a dog, the big milestone is “Hey! She doesn’t poop in the house anymore!” After that, not much changes.
So no, I’m not confused. Bailey’s not my child. But I love her with my whole heart even so.
Plus, you know, sloppy kisses…