As I write this, I’m wearing shorts and a tank top covered in dog hair with holes in it. My hair is a mess and I’m happily makeup-free. I am a dog mom. Like all moms, I clean up poop and vomit on a regular basis, endure terrible headaches and extreme irritation when my two fur kids won’t be quiet, say “get that out of your mouth” roughly 1,000 times per day, and constantly balance my feelings of love VS my feelings of impending insanity. Why then do moms of humans feel the need to degrade me with their nonsense about how I’m supposedly not a real mom and my experiences are fraud? Since when does giving birth make you better than someone else?
When I was younger, I always thought I wanted human kids. The clock was ticking loudly in my late 20’s but I was holding out hope of finding my perfect husband. By the time I was 31, after enduring some of the worst dating experiences ever, I had decided that he probably didn’t exist and I should just give up on ever finding him. Of course, as fate would have it, that was when he found me. We got married when I was 33 and adopted our two dogs, Miles and Crackers, from local rescues. It was the first time I had ever felt like I had a complete family, and that wild realization made the clock not only stop ticking but made it go away completely. I never thought I could have a complete family without little humans, but here I am.
In the 13 years from the time I moved out of my parents’ house to the time my husband moved into my apartment, I constantly considered adopting a dog but always decided against it because I worked long hours and didn’t have time to properly care for anything higher maintenance than a cactus. As soon as I had a partner to help with the responsibilities and expenses, I knew I was ready to take that leap. The day we drove out to Wilmington to adopt Miles was wonderfully exciting. He ran up to us excitedly, his little stub of a tail wagging and eager to give us kisses. We were so excited, and we had no idea what a crazy adventure we had just embarked upon.
Miles was only 10 months old when we adopted him, and he had been found wandering the streets with no food and no one to love him. He took to us right away, thankful to have a home. He was also, however, a mischievous puppy. The coming months consisted of cleaning up poop as we tried to house train him, learning the hard way what foods upset his stomach, and coming home to find that he had broken out of his crate and chewed up a lot of things that were valuable to me. I was furious, and it was hard to remind myself that he was like a small child in his mindset and that he hadn’t done it maliciously. He could sense my anger, and he learned quickly how to put on the sad puppy eyes so I couldn’t be mad at him anymore. I was so used to my home being just mine, and it was hard adjusting to sharing it, but it was worth it every time he jumped up on the couch next to me and laid his head in my lap as if to say “Thank you for keeping me safe, Mom.”
We decided a few months later that Miles needed a friend, so we started searching the rescue ads again for our second fur child. My husband Zach sent me a picture of the most adorable little white dog with brown patches around his eyes, and I just had to meet him. On a sunny day in October, I drove by myself down to Sanford and met Crackers, who promptly stole my heart and still hasn’t given it back. He ran up to me, tail wagging boldly, and jumped into my arms, licking my face wildly. I was absolutely smitten. My husband asked how it was going and I texted back two words: “He’s perfect.” I wanted to take him home that day, but we had to fill out the application and wait for approval. A few days later, I returned to adopt him officially into our newly created Yonk family.
Miles and Crackers liked each other right away. Like any siblings, they had some mild turf wars and needed some time to adjust to each other, but they became good friends quickly. Miles wasn’t nearly as destructive after he had another dog in the house to wrestle with, and watching the two of them play is the best entertainment sometimes.
Before adopting these two wonderful rescue pups, I was completely obsessive about my home being perfectly clean at all times, so it was a surprise to me (and Zach I’m sure) that I was able to adjust to a life where there isn’t a place for everything and almost nothing is in its place. Besides helping me tone down my obsession with cleanliness, being a dog mom has softened me up and helped me access my emotions in a healthy way instead of always playing the tough chick like I always did in my single life.
As you can tell, I went through a complete transition as a result of adopting our fur kids. Where I used to have some pretty rough edges, it made me more empathetic, more easygoing about the little things, and more emotionally available than I’ve ever been. I would do anything for my dogs. If anyone wants to argue that my experience doesn’t count because I’m cleaning up a different species’ poop and throw up and my kids speak a different language, they’re the ones who are full of shit. I didn’t need to give birth to experience this transformation, and you’re not better than me if you did, so just stop being a dick to those of us who chose different routes to motherhood.