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Who Am I To My Dogs?


Who am I to my dogs?  Am I a parent, a guardian, an owner, a friend? 


I struggle with this question because most of my clients refer to themselves as their dog’s “mother”.  (Most of my clients are women.)  In fact, most of my friends refer to themselves as their dog’s mother.  I am not comfortable with this description and never use it.  (In fact, many years ago, when I was interviewed for a local newspaper and the journalist attributed a made-up quote to me, everyone who knew me knew it was false because the quote included a reference to a student as the “dog’s mum”.)


As I’ve talked about in a previous blog, I am not my dogs’ mother, and they are not my furbabies.  (Ugh!)   I refuse to infantalize them in this way.  My dogs are fully realized, mature creatures capable of the full range of canine behaviours needed for survival.  Their mother is long gone from their lives; she gave birth, taught them the basics of what they needed to know, and then they moved on to a life with me.


So am I  their guardian?  I have difficulty with that term as well.  It doesn’t capture the depth of our relationship, but seems to suggest some kind of prison guard role in which I keep my dogs confined and restricted. It’s true, my dogs are not allowed to roam wherever they wish.   But they do have a lot of freedom.  Daily adventures in the fields and woods, off leash, running free, while I keep close watch to ensure their – and wildlife -- safety, calling them back to me, to “pack up”, whenever they venture too far afield.  So I suppose I am their guardian, but the joy in their bodies as they race back to me suggests I am more than that.  They are coming to me not out of obligation but out of choice.


But am I their owner?  That seems to reduce them to a piece of property, like my couch or car.  On the other hand, I did buy them.  I didn’t just find them on the street and invite them into my home.  I paid to “adopt” them.  Sure, I paid a rescue organization, so the fee was minimal compared to what a pedigree breeder would charge, but I still paid.  So I do own them.  At least their physical bodies.  But I don’t own their souls.


And that’s the bottom line, I think.  We are separate souls who have found each other, and who enjoy each other’s company.  We share responsibility for creating a good, fulfilling, harmonious life, and we take care of each other.  We are companions and friends.  And yes, there are times when I have to step up as their guardian, their owner, to ensure their health and safety, to make sure they fit into human world.   But we spend most of our time as mutually respectful friends.


So who am I to my dogs?  I’m the friend who shares their life, who provides for them, protects them, and loves them.  I’m their person.

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