I’ve always wondered why some people treat their pets like children, but to each their own. Yet it fascinates me how times have changed. I’m not talking about regular pet owners – but the ones that bring them into all stores, including the ones that sell food and have health codes to abide by. These are the ones that ignore the no dogs off leash signs and just do whatever they choose. If your child is afraid of their often unpredictable, aggressive nature, that is their problem; they will let their god – oops – I mean dog – do whatever they please.
There was a time where people left their pets at home except for the occasional car rides and walks in the dog parks. That has all changed in the metropolitan cities; there is shortage of places to take your dog if you live in the city, so these dogs are brought to the same parks as our children play. Now they are dressed up, put in purses, are the beneficiaries to estates, and with the invention of doggie bakeries and daycares, often live better than our children.
The reason why this is particularly a sore topic for me is because my toddler is afraid of dogs. I have a good friend that treats her two pit bull cross dogs like children and leaves them off leash in playgrounds. When she was considering adopting them, she had a trial period with them and in the first couple days, used my daughter who just turned one year old as a guinea pig to test their behavior around her. At the time, my daughter couldn’t walk and seemed okay with them getting in her face and almost being pushed over by one, but now she has developed a fear.
Fear of dogs is a very common problem amongst toddlers. My daughter had a dog jump on her and now everywhere we go, she says “no dogs”. As parents, we did not teach her to fear them, like my friends with dog babies incorrectly assume. Rather – she formed her own opinion and no matter how much we try and expose her to dogs to rid her of her fears, she still refuses to go where they go. This makes it challenging to go to the park or playground where they dominate the area – unleashed and often their owners so far away that you wonder at first if they are a stray pet.
Where I live, the dog people and child people it seems are quite evenly divided. The parents with real kids want to take back the parks for humans and force dog owners to abide by the rules. The dog-baby parents think that children have too many parks to choose from so it should be them that leave to find another park.
This appears to be the era of pet entitlement. Pets can go where their owners go, and even when there is a sign in a store saying no pets (with the exception of seeing eye dogs or dogs in training to help others, ) these signs are often ignored. Recently an employee’s nose was bitten a dog that an elderly lady brought into a DIY store. In the story’s online comments section, the dog people blamed the woman for leaning in to pet it.
More recently, we have attended family holiday events and over the last few years, dogs were listed on the online RSVP reply by a few childless people as their “plus ones”. There were so many people that brought their large dogs that they ruled the house, running about and trampling on the little kids – making it difficult for them to play.
Don’t get me wrong – I like dogs and grew up with them as pets. However, especially when children are involved, we need to exercise caution. There have also been a handful of stories over the year of babies or small children that have been killed by a family or relative’s pet lately that attacked even though the pet had a calm disposition. It is disturbing. We must remember that no matter how much a dog is socialized or raised as our baby, they are animals and are therefore unpredictable in their behaviour. They must be watched when they interact with children since even the most good-natured dogs can have a mood swing.
I am just waiting for the day when it will become the norm to invite dogs to weddings and funerals – or perhaps they will have their own “mock weddings” and funerals in the same places we do. After all, they are just as much a part of the family so why not?