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Pets? or Meat? or Children?

Updated on April 16, 2010
Companion dog
Companion dog

Species Confusion

Species might not be the right word--is there a better one for the recently rampant confusion among Americans whether animals are pets, meat, or children? If you remember the Michael Moore film called Roger & Me or the documentary called Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint you may recall the woman Rhonda Britton who sold rabbits as either pets or meat. Pet lovers were horrified by her prosaic attitude. In the USA, not many other animals are tagged this way. Maybe ducks? I have never heard of anyone eating his or her cat, dog or hamster. And people haven't eaten goldfish for decades.

Americans prize certain animals—cats, dogs, and horses—very highly. Instead of seeing the animals we have domesticated (or who have domesticated us, as some believe) as potential meat sources, many people these days seem to regard them as replacement children. Pet lovers get more extreme all the time!

The girls are here

My sister, who has lived several states away from me for over twenty years, will frequently interrupt telephone conversations to say something like, "Oh, wait a minute! The girls are here." Silly me, the first few times, I thought she meant some kids from the neighborhood. But, no, she means two clumsy Labrador retrievers who whine at the door until she lets them in. Then she soothes them in baby talk for several minutes because they had to wait for her to accommodate them. A co-worker may say, "I have to go home and take care of Sam." Is it her turn to watch her child? No, she has to let the dog out.

My neighbor spoke in a gentle, coaxing voice, "Come to Mommy, sweetheart! Come to Mommy!" Not a toddler, but a small dog eventually responded to her plea. How common is it these days for people to call themselves the Mom or Dad or Grandparent of a dog? It doesn't seem to be quite so common for cats, maybe because they are so much more independent! 


Unpopular dish of dog food
Unpopular dish of dog food

Pet Food

Pets have their own stores and often specialized (not cheap) food. Feeding the dog is one of those family rituals that seems to have gone awry. People cook for their pets, not just heating up a can of dog food share scraps from the family table,but especially for the pets.

My sister-in-law, no matter how tired she was, would cook up scrambled eggs every night for two plump and spoiled Jack Russell Terriers. Another friend who kept three chickens in her suburban backyard would gather the hens' eggs up, scramble them and feed them back to Ruby and her companions. I shuddered a bit at the cannibalistic nature of this good-hearted action.

My old boss described a David Letterman-style "stupid pet trick" she had perfected with her dog. She would take a big drink of milk, lie on the floor and let the dog lap milk out of her mouth.

How many times have I heard my brother say, “That dog’s butt is cleaner than a human mouth?” or “Dog spit is known to cure wounds.” I have yet to hear anyone celebrate saying, “My significant other has this wonderful dog breath that makes him/her so kissable!” And I haven't heard of hospitals replacing antiobiotic ointments with wet dog tongues either. 

People share ice cream cones with their dogs. People encourage dogs to clean up the floor when there has been a spill or when a toddler is learning to feed himself and throws food around. People let their dogs lick the plates before the plates go in the dishwasher—even after the plates have gone in the dishwasher!

Cat family at Grand Canyon
Cat family at Grand Canyon
cats in strollers
cats in strollers

Dogs Reign Supreme

In Boulder, Colorado--and other places--it is not proper to say you own your pet; you are its "guardian". (Not sure how that works for pigs and chickens and ducks!)

In some places, you could get in as just about as much trouble for shooting your dog as you could for shooting your child. Setting aside the very real issue of abused animals for now, it's considered cruel to put your dog out of it misery yourself. (Why isn’t it cruel for me to kill mice—they squeal real loud in the trap; I’m sure they’re in pain and suffering fear.) If your dog is old and dying, you are evidently supposed to take it to the vet and have him or her put the pet “to sleep” rather than put it out of misery yourself and burying it in the backyard with love and tears.

Dogs get their own parks now. Dogs get their own beaches too. These are good things because not everyone wants to be nuzzled in the crotch by your pet at the park nor swim with your dog on the beach. As a concession to common sense, tax dollars are spent and scenery interrupted by dog care stations where little plastic bags are available for people to pick up after their pets. This is a good idea, but is all this paid for out of dog registration fees?

Restaurants put pet bowls on the sidewalks in many towns so dogs can have drinks. This is a totally nice thing to do. What’s not so nice is for the dogs to be tied up on the side walks and people, including small children, have to walk out in the street or step around mutts, German Shepards and other assorted dogs with no idea of how friendly they are, nor how unhappy / uncomfortable they are to be tied up there.

People take their pets on vacation with them sometimes. At the Grand Canyon last year, I saw a couple pushing three strollers with netting and shading over the tops. Was it triplet grandchildren? No, it was--literally--fat, old cats that were taking in the sights. For Pete's sake.

I offer some customizable pet lovers items in my Woodswalker store on Zazzle and they're popular. People can't get enough pictures of cute cats and dogs!

Who Have You Been Sleeping With Lately?

Dogs are welcome to sleep on beds in hotels, motels and inns across the country. We just got rid of some of the smoke in hotels and now we have to deal with pet hair and pet dander? Yuck. Who knows how clean other people's pets are and if they let them sleep on the pillows? You do know the hotel does not clean that well inbetween guests! Of course, people do smuggle their cats and dogs into hotels to avoid the upcharge.

People do sleep with their pets. The pets get their choice of where in the bed they wish to sleep because they are persistent. People bring their pets, uninvited, to your house. These pets, since their owners are poor mannered, tend to mirror those manners and jump on your bed. If they’re mad at you, sometimes they retaliate by peeing on your bed.

People follow their pets around with little plastic bags and pick up the poop, and not just in the parks. This is a good thing, but seriously, is this dignified? I had a neighbor once with a tiny little dog that scurried behind with a paper towel to catch the droppings before they hit his pristine lawn. Another time, I went walking with a friend who had two huge dogs with proportionately huge poop. I literally could not hold my breath long enough and couldn’t handle the smell of a gallon bag full of fresh, hot dog poop.  I had to go walk way in front of her with her children instead.

Pampered pet shares the blankets
Pampered pet shares the blankets

Separation Anxiety

People want to take their pets into restaurants, libraries, malls, insurance companies and banks. On my last visit to the local car insurance company, the woman at the next window got out a roll of paper towels and a bottle of cleanser. The previous customer had brought his little plaid-clad doggie and set him on the counter. The woman said the dog smelled really bad; she was very upset that she had to try to clean up the smell.

I had earlier seen that same man driving through the parking lot with the dog standing on his lap, looking out the window. There was no room for the man to look out the same window at the same time! He was a driving hazard in the close confines of a parking lot.

In cities, it can be fashionable for people to walk around with tiny dogs in their purses while in other places, people drive with dogs on their laps, peering out the windows or licking their neck. This has to be a driving hazard AT LEAST on a par with talking on the phone or putting on make-up! Having the dog sit in the back seat or on the passenger side is one thing, but on the driver’s lap? I don’t say this often, but there oughta be a law!

Pampered pets

People kiss their dogs goodnight.

People take their dogs to dog groomers where they are bathed, brushed, cut, manicured and so on. How many people get regular manicures? And now we’re forced to watch doggie nail trimming on TV! For Pete’s sake!

People take their dog to doggie day care. I shudder to think of the cost. They set up play dates for their dogs.

People have birthday parties for their dogs. I went to one once; it was fun. The two highlights of the event were watching the little dog play basketball in the pool and watching the adults tasting and eating the doggie treats that they compared favorably to people cookies!

Not only do people buy those boxes of doggie treats, they also patronize doggie bakeries that offer beautiful, nutritious and tasty dog treats.

Is Common Sense A Casualty of Our Times?

People complain about the costs of sending their kids to college, the costs of living in general. But over one-third of Americans own dogs and over one-third own cats! Those dog owners are willing to voluntarily commit to spending $16,000 and more to have a pet around the house for ten years! Yes, pets are known to help with loneliness and health and save lives and so on.

Pets can become part of a family, but can they become your family? Do pets take priority over children? Do they become our children? Do we have crazy dreams they can become our future?

I don't think so! What do you think? Are pets the same as children or has common sense really gone by the wayside?

The Costs of All That Unconditional Love

People think nothing of having to spend thousands of dollars replacing pet-damaged carpeting and furniture or having to install hundreds or thousands of dollars of fencing.

I knew of a family that spent their children's college fund on cancer treatments for their dog. It was more than $10,000 and gave the dog less than another year to live. The children were willing participants in their own funding depletion.

My old boss (mentioned above) was willing to leave $10,000 in her will (so she said) to someone who would care for her aging little dog when she was gone. Other people leave the bulk of their fortunes to their pets.

The average American pet owner easily spends $1600 on each dog per year (based on an 2005-06 American Pet Products Association survey that I saw second hand). That figure does not include the initial cost of a pet, ranging from free to hundreds or thousands of dollars. It does not include the heroic measures that jack up spending at the end of life for pet, whether accidents, knee replacements, cancers, etc. Nor does it include the costs of fencing or furniture replacements.

And does it amaze you as it does me that people will let their expensive landscaping be decimated by dog urine, uncollected excrement and dog digging? How many entire back yards have you seen that are not usable by people--let alone small children--because the family dogs have turned it into a smelly, ugly mess? 


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    • PopcornSalt profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from wandering about

      Thanks, Dineane! I'm glad you liked it. My friend above was mostly teasing me. I have since told her that we did have dogs at our house and, while they were generally more agreeable than my siblings, I didn't get them confused either! Thanks for commenting!

    • dineane profile image


      10 years ago from North Carolina

      well written hub - no hate mail from me :-) even though I KNOW I'm my kitty's "mommy" ;-). I tease my daughter about her "sister", but she knows I have no confusion about the difference between my child and my pet.

    • PopcornSalt profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from wandering about

      Oh, Nancy, I'm sorry to hear about Goldie. I know how much you loved her and how she was part of your family.

      BTW, I totally agree with you about the dog food and the non-nutritious stuff it has in it. Do you remember when Amy's dog killed a squirrel and ate part of it? She was astonished because she had no idea that beef-flavored dogfood and so on was one of those indicators that dogs are naturally carnivorous. I'd hate to look at the dogfood labels for whats really in there-probably mostly cereal.


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi Deb,

      As someone who just lost our beloved 13 year old Golden Retriever, I can warn you, you're going to get some nasty mail here!

      While I DO agree with a lot of what you have to say, and see it all happen everywhere too, I happen to be a person who used to feel like you. I was discuss ted by most pets, and afraid of dogs. Then, I got a a Golden Retriever puppy! My life has been changed forever!! I too used to make fun of the way people act with their pets! (OK, and STILL do sometimes -- especially those silly dogs in a purse!) I did not like pets! Especially dogs! I was afraid, and allergic, and annoyed! I had no idea the intense love and companionship a dog could give. Cats are probably the same, but I haven't been converted there yet (I am VERY allergic to them) -- so see, I am still walking both sides of this fence!! haha. Just like children, the poop, the whining, the responsibility, the cost, is all overwhelming sometimes. BUT WORTH EVERYTHING!!! (Well, maybe not ALL the costs. We did pay to keep Goldie alive, nor did we pay to keep her ashes around! I'm much happier having a photo of her healthy, younger self in view.)

      If everyone in the world could experience a puppy of their own, and the love IT GIVES US, there would be so much more happiness in the world. It can't be explained. Just like people love or our sex drive! You cannot believe the intensity until you've been there. My neighbors across the street cook for their dogs and convinced me to cook for Goldie during her last few sick months. (You can't believe the crap in commercial dog food!) They also came over, along with the retired couple next door, and spent Goldie's last hour and a half with us, crying and petting her before we had to take her to the vet and ask him to kill our dog before our very eyes. Rick and I both cried like babies -- for several days! OUT LOUD! I could not believe it! We did not cry that hard when our parents passed away! But they weren't with us 24/7 especially the last 3 years of retirement!

      So watch out for the comments! Most people will forgive you here though. They know you haven't experienced this kind of love, and will feel more sorry for you than angry!

      More than anything, I hope some day YOU get a dog! Trust me! Your life will never, ever, be the same, and the quality of your life and capacity to love will improve beyond belief!

      Nancy (a/k/a Goldie's Mom)


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