Pet owners are like first-time mothers, and then some.
Mother’s Day gets me thinking about parent-child relationships, but as a vet tech, it also makes me reflect on client-patient relationships in the animal care world. The owner-pet bond is one every child would covet.
Kids don’t get a day at the spa every time they play in the mud. But dogs get a trip to the groomers and are forgiven in five seconds for trailing dirt through the house. Kids are gross if they drop dead rats on our doorsteps. But cats? Well, they’re just showing us some love.
When owners bring their pets to a vet appointment, their demands can be endless. A mother’s reaction when her child gets a booster shot is like your dog’s non-committal attitude when you tell him to get off the couch. But an owner’s reaction when his or her dog gets its temperature taken is like your cat on catnip. It’s a shoulder shrug compared to raging hormones.
I’ve worked with wild animals and domestic pets, and, assuredly, the biggest difference is the client interaction. There are wants and needs that must be met for domestic companions that aren’t included in the work-up for a sea turtle.
Tiger patients don’t visit the vet with their fur dyed in mourning of Prince. We’d probably be questioning the parenting of a four-year-old with purple hair. But we laugh and cuddle Shih Tzus when their tufts of fur reflect the late musician’s artistic hairstyles.
We praise equestrians for meticulously braiding their horse’s mane for the show, but “Dance Moms” adolescent beautification gets two thumbs way, way down. Even turtles, birds, and snakes get an excessive amount of TLC. Every pet is equal in a pet mother’s eyes.
We can’t help anthropomorphizing our pets. We want them to be a member of our family, so much so that, collectively, we are willing to spend billions on pampering them. The middle child gets hand-me-downs. The second of three guinea pigs gets her very own rodent-sized princess costume. It’s just the way life is.
There’s something about the vulnerability and innocence of pets that tugs at our heart strings and makes every owner turn into an overbearing, obsessive mother. (Men, don’t think you’re excluded from this. We know how much you love your girlfriend’s Chihuahua.)
But, I don’t mind the ping of my inbox when the attachment (and 40 thereafter) is your pet in a costume for no apparent reason. So, please, keep being that pet mom that spoils her pets and has a thousand anecdotes to share. Pets let us go to town with our maternal (and paternal) instincts, and, really, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
All images via Stacey Venzel.