My kids were recently fighting over who is the favorite child. The fight escalated to a point where I could no longer hide in the kitchen pretending that the boiling noodles needed my undivided attention. I figured I could give the kids a funny answer and completely derail their argument. I went ahead and told them that the dog is by far my favorite child. Much to my amusement, my kids took this information in stride. They all had a look of total understanding and the argument was over.
I stood by the stove and reveled in my total parenting win. My dog was splayed out on the floor, intently watching me and hoping a stray noodle would find its way to the floor. The more I stood there, the more I realized that my answer had not been all that far-fetched (get what I did there?).
I started to realize that my funny answer might have been more of a Freudian slip. There are plenty of reasons that a four-legged fur baby could infiltrate a person’s subconscious and facilitate a move up the child-ranking ladder. Stay with me here, I think I make a pretty convincing argument.
There are actual classes to take your dog to that train them to behave how you want them to behave. Sit, lay, stay, fetch me my slippers, etc. The dog can start classes as early as 8 weeks old. Dogs aim to please and can actually gain satisfaction from pleasing their people.
In my experience at 8 weeks old, my human children were completely running the show. Everything was on their schedule and people are stuck catering to their every need. My eldest is 7 years old now and God knows his version of following directions is open to interpretation.
Dogs are all for attention but when needed, a dog is fully capable of spending time alone. In general, a dog is 100% capable of spending extended periods of time independently facilitating their own life choices. Eating, drinking, napping, general entertainment is all manageable on the doggy level. A simple bone can provide all of the entertainment needed for a day in the life of a dog. Heck, if you have a dog door, the existence of humans really becomes optional.
My children still talk to me through the bathroom door while I’m trying to poop. They even have the audacity to ask me to get up and get them snacks while I’m trying to steal 5 minutes of privacy to attend to some pretty basic needs. I am unable to take out the garbage without constant questioning of “How many minutes will you take?” or “What are we supposed to do while you’re gone!?” My kids will be doing nothing and scream at me to watch.
Dog communication is basic but effective. Sit by the food bowl = hungry. Sit by the door = restroom request. Roll onto their back = desperate need for a tummy rub. Growl out the window = that pesky mailman is threatening the wellbeing of our home, again. Communication in simplistic, clear, and efficient.
It takes my 5-year-old up to 10 minutes to get to the point of a conversation. Sometimes there is no point and she just trails while keeping intense eye contact. My toddler sobs and throws herself on the ground, leaving me to play 20 questions while trying to unravel her internal chaos. (This morning, screams were related to a toy car being just out of finger’s reach under the sofa, tragic really.) I ask my oldest a question and 99.9% of the time he responds that he “can’t remember.” Communication is a vital life skill but not one that necessarily comes naturally.
Conversations with a dog are pretty one-sided. They are great listeners and rarely interrupt with random facts or opinions. You can vent about all of life’s frustrations and the only rebuttal is a tail wag or an ironically placed head tilt.
The listening capabilities of the average kid are minimal at best. It is a painfully rare occurrence for a kid to take a seat and simply listen to reason. Typically, I can see that my kid’s mind is working to stay 15 steps ahead of me at every turn of a conversation. Arguments ensue about the actual importance of basic hygiene, dinner selections, and organizational skills. The number of times that I have had to defend myself against a toddler is astounding.
Dogs are low maintenance. The level of excitement displayed by a dog who has acquired a brand-new stick is unmeasurable. The last time I left the house with my dog I took a leash and an old garbage bag and we overpacked.
Leaving the house with my kids is far more complicated. Diapers, wipes, sippy cups, extra clothes, snacks, blankies and binkies, more snacks, and a stroller would all be packed up and I would more than likely find myself in need of something that I omitted.
I love all my children, regardless of the number of legs they have. But there is something about the undying love and loyalty of the four-legged one who is covered in fur that will always hold a special place in my heart… and my subconscious.