Recently, I read an article by Nancy Kay, DVM, DACVIM, entitled Why the Term “Pet Owner” Just Doesn’t Work for Me that spoke so clearly to how I feel. (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-the-term-pet-owner-just-doesnt-work-for-me – January 21, 2013)
In my humble opinion, to use the term “Ownership” when speaking of “a living, breathing creature with whom we share a rich and meaningful relationship,” is simply out of alignment.
Why Is There No Other Word?
Dr. Kay does offer other words to consider:
She mentions “Guardian,” saying it sounds stodgy. “Boring,” “dull” and “uninteresting” are synonyms for “stodgy.” Anyone who has ever had or lived with a puppy or a dog knows there is NO way on the planet that those words can be included in a statement about having a dog! So “Guardian” is OUT.
“Mom” and “Dad”
The words “Mom” and “Dad” come up in her article, too, and, while I’ve loved every dog I’ve ever lived with, I never really considered myself the dog’s “Mom” – mainly because he or she already had one. Bye-bye, Mom and Dad!
Another word that Dr. Kay referenced is “Caregiver.” That sounds like my new puppy is an old man or woman who needs to be taken care of. Now, certainly, I will be taking care of my new puppy, but not in the manner conjured by that term. See ya, Caregiver.
Fur Parent/Fur Baby
The final phrase Dr. Kay considered – which is currently very popular – is “Fur Parent.” Along the same line is “Pet Parent,” which is also popular.
These, of course, are similar to “Mom” or “Dad”; and I find I’m not as resistant to them as to “Mom” or “Dad.” It’s isn’t particularly a “stretch” for to think of my dog as my “fur baby” . . .
If I had children, perhaps those terms might be less acceptable.
The terms “Fur Parent” and “Fur Baby” are not totally rejected.
The fact that there seems to be no word in the English language to substitute for the onerous “Owner,” suggests that our communication tool is wanting. In what other relationships or experiences do we not have a word that is actually applicable? But I digress. (That is a whole other conversation, isn’t it?)
A Better Word
So far, the best word I know to describe the relationships I’ve had with dogs all my life is “Friend.”
A good friend is loyal and accepts you for who you are – during the good and bad times. A good friend is honest, present and trustworthy.
These are all ways I would describe my dog, and they are, basically, the description of “a good friend” given at https://wonderopolis.org/
Vocabulary.com defines “friend” this way:
“A person you know well and regard with affection and trust”
“A friend is your buddy, your pal, your amigo, your comrade. You know, someone you trust and like enough to hang out with on a regular basis.”
Doesn’t that say it all – clearly and simply?
That site goes on to say:
“Friends are the people you can count on, the ones that make you laugh and throw you birthday parties. Enemies are generally the mean ones.” (vocabulary.com)
Admittedly, I can’t think of the last time my dog threw a birthday party for me, but I CAN remember being very happy in her company on my birthday.
I don’t want to “own” a dog as much as I want to share the experiences of life with him or her that uplift both of us. I want to love that animal and allow him or her to love me. I want to allow that dog to teach me unconditional love, and make me a better person who is able to contribute to the betterment of the planet so we can all thrive.
Check my post: “The Owner Says I Can’t Have a Dog!” (https://wetnosecentral.com/the-owner-says-i-cant-have-a-dog/)