Women with pets are becoming more loud-and-proud about declaring themselves the "moms" of their dogs and cats. Whether or not they also have children of the human variety, pet owners refer to their beloved animals as their "fur babies," and they're just as devoted to their fuzzy offspring as a parent is to their fuzz-less child. To be a Dog Mom is to be a part of a growing and proud community.
Not everyone agrees with the comparison (because everything is a topic for disagreement and debate these days, naturally). For every dog owner who asserts that she's every bit as much a mother as one of the ultra-prolific Duggars, there's an online naysayer who takes issue with the term "dog mom."
One such article, on The Cut, argued that raising pets is different from raising children because pet owners aren't in it to help their offspring become independent and responsible members of society. A rebuttal, published on HelloGiggles, offered a thoughtful counterpoint. No, the writer acknowledged, caring for a pet isn't precisely the same as giving birth and bringing up a child to adulthood. Still, she argued,
But anyone who takes in a creature who then relies on them to keep them sheltered, fed, and loved is a parent. It doesn't matter if that creature is a child, a dog, a cat, or even a fish. It's an unpaid job that is based on loving selflessly and unconditionally, and anyone willing to do that job gets the title of "parent."
So how can you tell if you're a true dog mom? Here are some unmistakable signs.
1. You honestly consider yourself your dog's parent.
If anyone dares to suggest that you're not a "real" mom, you have some choice responses prepared, just as this PuckerMob writer and dog mom did. You love, care for, protect, socialize, and bond with your fur child just as devotedly as a mother of a human infant does. So what if your baby isn't going to grow up to get a driver's license or a master's degree? If anything, you've got the heavier responsibility of knowing your dog will be dependent on you for its entire life. No empty-nest syndrome for you!
2. You don't have a dog; you have a "fur baby."
The word "pet" implies a relationship that's not as intimate or loving as a parent-child bond. (And nobody calls themselves a dog's "master" anymore.) So when you refer to your animal companion, you say "fur baby" without a hint of irony.
3. Your selfies include your dog.
Just as a mother of small humans overloads the memory card of her handhelds with photos of her smiling, crying, and sleeping offspring, a dog mom never misses an opportunity to capture a moment in time with her furry baby.
4. You dress your dog almost as well as you dress yourself.
The wonderful thing about most dogs is that they patiently endure the silliness their human companions put them through, all in the name of love and devotion. Mom wants to put me in a hat and sunglasses? Sure, go ahead. Matching mom-pup outfits? Sure thing. Full-length ball gown? If you can manage it, why not?
5. Your dog eats better than you do.
Just like a mom of human kids, a dog mom frets over her offspring's eating habits almost daily. Is my baby eating too little? Too much? Is he getting enough quality nutrients? And when money is tight, a dog mom will gladly settle for eating ramen noodles and beans so that she can afford to buy her fur baby a bag of its favorite kibble. Don't be surprised if she even goes a step further and invests in raw chicken or steak; after all, dogs were born to eat fresh meat, right?
6. You own at least one piece of dog-related clothing.
7. You get cards on Mother's Day.
Since your closest family and friends know how you feel about your fur babies, they make sure to acknowledge your maternal devotion on the day that honors all mothers. Yes, there are Mother's Day cards for dog moms, and you've no doubt bought some yourself to send to your fellow pet parents.
8. You know all the dog-friendly hangouts.
There's the neighborhood Starbucks that allows you to bring your Yorkie in its tote, the park with the best dog run, the pet-supply store that welcomes well-behaved pups, the hotels that accommodate four-legged guests — you know them well, and visit them often. "Love me, love my dog" is your motto, after all.
9. Your dog gets more likes on social media than you do.
This will come as no surprise to you, but dog owners post pics of their pooches on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or other social media an average of six times a week, according to a recent BarkBox survey. If you're a typical dog parent, you're one of them. You might even be one of the 11 percent of those surveyed who has actually opened a social media account for your pup.
10. Your car tells the world who you are.
A typical dog mom has at least one paw-print magnet and a "My Labrador Retriever Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student" bumper sticker on the back of her SUV. If you have a stick-figure family sticker set, you can be sure there's a dog next to the soccer-playing kids.
11. You celebrate your fur baby's birthday.
When you write down important dates on your calendar, you include your pets' birthdays (or adoption dates, if you don't know their exact dates of birth) along with upcoming (human) weddings, anniversaries, and vacations.
12. You check up on your pup when you're not home.
You wouldn't leave your kids alone without a sitter, right? As a dog mom, you want to make sure that your fur baby is safe (and not chewing up your shoes or digging through the garbage) when you're at work or out for the night. BarkBox's survey found that a full 32 percent of dog moms and dads use their home security camera to check on their pets, and another 17 percent have used a webcam to keep track of Max or Coco.
If you're a dog mom, not everyone may understand your pride in and devotion to your fur babies, but so what? You have plenty of fellow pet-mom kindred spirits to support you, and your dogs know how much you love them — which is the most important thing of all.