NeoNot all pet lovers are created equally. I didn't realize that until I got married. In my family, our dogs were like another kid. I mean that literally. At Christmas, they received a bunch of presents. Their birthdays were celebrated. They came along for family gatherings. So I was shocked the first time I visited my husband's family and saw that "family pet" took on a totally different definition.

When we pulled up to the house, his dog was kept in a pen along the garage. I thought it was a bit chilly out so I asked when the dog was coming in. That's when I was told dogs weren't allowed in the house. That completely stopped me in my tracks. It's not like they lived in sunny-year-round Malibu. This was New Jersey. But my then-boyfriend assured me that they had a nice, warm dog house in the garage for him and if that ever got too cold, they led him into the basement through a side entrance to the house.

While I was a bit surprised, the dog certainly seemed happy and content with this living arrangement. I didn't think much of his family's pet philosophy until years later when we were married and adopted an adorable Shih Tzu we named Neo. It was around the holidays so naturally I had picture Christmas cars made featuring Neo. It would be an understatement to say that didn't go over well. While my mother gushed about how cute her "grand-dog" was, my mother-in-law asked that in the future I not send their family "dog cards." I was a bit insulted. As far as I was concerned, Neo was like my kid.

neoShe was equally dismayed when I brought Neo along for a visit and wanted him to stay in the house with us. Remember, a dog had never been in her living room before. Since she could tell neither I or her son would be okay lodging our dog in the garage, she reluctantly relented and let him run into her house. It was very hard for them to accept that I thought of this animal as a child. But as strange as I thought their reaction was, there are plenty of people who would agree with them. Many people find it ridiculous to buy a dog clothes, pay to fly with them, or take him to doggie daycare (which Neo used to attend three days a weeks). My mother-in-law eventually came around after a couple of years. Now she loves Neo as much as I do -- well, almost.

Even though I have a son now, I still very much consider Neo my first child in a lot of ways. Not every new mom can still find time to pamper their pet and that's sad for them and the pet. It's tough to give Neo the TLC he's used to, but I certainly try. He was the first pet that I had that was really all my own. The first that I was really responsible for. I still baby him, taking him to play at local pet spas occasionally and visiting restaurants with outdoor seating so he can join us. He is a very important part of our lives. I know many people feel as I do too. A pet's love is a very special thing. How could you not baby them?

Do you treat your pet like a child?

 

Imaged via Ericka Souter