Rescue dog: Is a dog owner by any other name still a mom or dad?(Read article summary)
Albie the rescue dog knows exactly who his owners are ... by any name. Whether they're called "Mommy and Daddy" or "Judy and Peter," the kibble tastes as sweet.
Courtesy of the Zheutlin family
As a child in the late 1950s and 1960s, my brother and I always addressed our parentâ€™s friends as â€śMr.â€ť and â€śMrs.,â€ť and our friends always referred to my parents as â€śDr.â€ť and â€śMrs.,â€ť though it was generally abbreviated to â€śDr. Zâ€ť and â€śMrs. Z.â€ť A few especially close family friends we called â€śAuntâ€ť and â€śUncle,â€ť but first names alone were never used. And so it was with all the adults in our lives: teachers, doctors, and acquaintances. It was one way of showing respect for our elders.
SometimeÂ in social upheaval of the late '60s, a few adults, even some teachers (or college professors) â€“ the â€ścoolâ€ť ones â€“ said, â€ścall me John,â€ť or â€śMary.â€ť It was a bit unsettling and felt unnatural if youâ€™d grown up addressing people older than yourself with more formality. As I became an adult, and my parentâ€™s friends aged, it became easier and soon very natural to use first names. After all, we were all grown-ups now.
Almost all of our sonsâ€™ friends address us formally, though a handful use our first names, and oddly both seem natural for the individuals involved. Iâ€™m not sure how the different usages evolved and thereâ€™s no apparent pattern to it, but it would still sound odd to hear myself addressed by my first name by those who have been more formal, and vice versa. You just get used to the way things are.
When we brought Albie, our half golden retriever, half yellow Lab, into our home I didnâ€™t think this would be an issue because, after all, he canâ€™t talk. Heâ€™s smart, but heâ€™s not that smart. But the issue wasnâ€™t what he would call us, but how we would describe ourselves in reference to him. I always found it peculiar, even off-putting, to hear dog owners (if â€śownerâ€ť is really the right term) refer to themselves as â€śMommyâ€ť and â€śDaddyâ€ť or variations thereof when talking to their dogs, as in â€śDaddy is going to take you for a walk now,â€ť or â€śMommy loves you, yes she does!â€ť Good grief, people, these are dogs not children!
But I soon realized that I needed a comfortable way to refer to myself when talking to him and even more to the point, a natural way to refer to my wife Judy. I swore weâ€™d never be Mommy and Daddy to Albie, and so, when Albie first came home I was referring to Judy as, well, Judy because thatâ€™s her name.
â€śJudyâ€™s going to take you for a walk, Albie!â€ť Iâ€™d say. But it didnâ€™t sound quite right. Judy would be right if Albie were a friend, the kind you meet for lunch or a movie, but heâ€™s something else. Then our dog-owner friends would arrive and refer to us as â€śMommyâ€ť and â€śDaddyâ€ť when talking to Albie. It seemed inevitable.
The fact is, having a dog is, in certain respects, like being the mother or father to a young child: The creature is totally dependent on you for food, water, affection and a proper place to execute vital bodily functions, and leaving them home when you go out invites the same guilt pangs you got when the kids stared out the window, babysitter behind them, looking doleful as you got in the car and drove away. Thatâ€™s why â€śJudyâ€ť and â€śPeterâ€ť didnâ€™t sound right. It seemed too much like the groovy English professor from 1970 who insisted students call him by his first name, the one who might show up at your dorm party with a joint or a beerÂ which seemed kind of cool then but seems creepy in retrospect. Still, Iâ€™m not sold on â€śMommyâ€ť and â€śDaddy.â€ť
So, for now, the question remains unsettled as I continue to weigh the options. Maybe we should just go with Captain and Tennille.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs.