These guys might gaze at you adoringly, but they’re not quite the same as human children. (Pic: Josie Hayden)
These guys might gaze at you adoringly, but they’re not quite the same as human children. (Pic: Josie Hayden)

Having a “fur-baby” doesn’t make you a parent

AT what point does baby brain end?

The other day I packed a full tub of butter in my daughter's school lunch, put a packet of dried pasta in the fridge, and started unloading the shopping into the wrong SUV like the protagonist in a Talking Heads song ("Wait a sec, this is not my large automobile".)

But I never thought I'd forget I owned a dog.

His name is Sooty, as my wife reminded me the other day, and we bought him on a whim from what I hope was not a puppy farm four years before our eldest daughter was born.

I remember the first night we had, er, Fido we went out for dinner and decided to head back home before entrees. The guilt of leaving that quivering little pup home alone was simply too much for people who had only ever house-sat - and killed - a pot plant before.

When we opened the door Whatshisname had ripped up all the newspapers (from a rival publisher), soaked our floorboards in urine, and ate our gym socks. I really wish we had stuck around for those spring rolls.

Darren Levin’s daughter Sascha, 4, with Sooty/Fido/Whatshisname. (Pic: Supplied)
Darren Levin’s daughter Sascha, 4, with Sooty/Fido/Whatshisname. (Pic: Supplied)

That guilt was quickly replaced by anger, which was eventually replaced by panic (what if the gym socks were clogging his intestines? Can you wear business socks to the gym?). The panic soon morphed into dread. Because if this is what a dog does when he's bored at home, what will happen when we have kids? A decade on and I can answer that question quite confidently: they destroy the house in a manner in which Snotty can only dream about. (When he isn't dreaming about regular walks or food that isn't kibble, of course.)

Dogs-to-kids seems like a pretty logical progression for people silly enough to procreate. But one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make as the owner of a "fur baby" is thinking that looking after a "real baby" is a comparable experience.

You can't tie your children up outside a cafe, for example. I know it's tempting, but don't. No one is going to walk past and take a selfie with them and hashtag it #CuteHumansOfInstagram. They'll probably get their phones out for different reasons and the next time you duck out to get a coffee you'll be doing it without kids. Forever.

Sooty taking time out from eating socks to enjoy quality pats from Sascha. (Pic: Supplied)
Sooty taking time out from eating socks to enjoy quality pats from Sascha. (Pic: Supplied)

You can't just leave a bowl of water and hide a few pig's ears behind the couch for your kids when you go to work. Childcare is at least double the price of doggie daycare, which - let's face it - is a non-essential service created for weirdos with too much money.

Dogs are better for your mental health - and there's heaps of scientific research that backs it up. Kids slowly chip away at your mental health. One day everything is cool, the next you're sobbing uncontrollably while listening to a podcast on how pinball machines are made. The absence of a "Bring your kids to work" policy is pretty telling in this respect.

The only things pets and kids have in common is they're both A-grade sex blockers - although it's a lot easier to explain to a dog why mummy and daddy were "playing with fluffy handcuffs" than it is a four-year-old who'll be dealing with intimacy issues in 20 years.

Before our eldest was born, we swore Sooty would still be an equal and important member of the family. Cleaning a regurgitated gym sock off the floor after a 3am bottle feed put an end to that.

Kids don't make you neglectful pet owners - they make you normal pet owners. You won't have time anymore to monitor the analytics on @BusterTheBostonTerrier's Instagram page, or develop an influencer strategy for your Turkish Angora.

But don't feel bad about Sooty. He has three new best mates who leave a trail of scraps wherever they go and love him like the brother they never had.

Darren Levin is a writer, editor and wannabe dad-fluencer based in Melbourne. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.



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