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Always Remember the Shoelace

Over the weekend, we celebrated our 9th anniversary. That's right, nine years ago I brought Champ home and promised him he would never ever live in a shelter again. Since then, he's been my sidekick, my favorite big spoon, and sometimes the thorn in my side. But above all, for nine years he's been my baby.

Did you just cringe when I called him my baby? Probably not, but apparently there is a segment of the population that has a big problem with it. I didn't know this was a controversial issue until I ran across an article that informed me that referring to my dog as my child is an insult to moms. I didn't save the article then, but when I took to Google to find it again, I found out that a number of people have written about the same thing.

First of all, why are so many people angry about this? In what way does saying that my dog is my baby impact anyone else's life whatsoever? The short answer? It doesn't. Secondly, phone calls from my vet's office often start with, "Hi, is this Champ's mom?" So there. They're the professionals. They KNOW. And if I'm his mom, he's my baby. Case closed.

Now, I fully understand that taking care of my dog is not the same thing as raising a child. Not even close. For the record, I think parents are rockstars. I don't know how you do it. Even the concept of carrying a child for nine months blows my mind, much less all of the responsibility that comes after that. I honestly can't wrap my head around it, so trust me when I say I understand that it's very different.

Still, I think that being Champ's mom is pretty important too. I didn't carry him in my womb, but I saved him from a shelter after two of his previous owners dumped him there. I've done my best to show him what it's like to be loved. I've bought him too many toys that he doesn't play with, bribed him with food he probably shouldn't have, and made sure his favorite blankie was washed and warm from the dryer just in time for bed. And let's not forget one of the most motherly experiences of the last nine years--The Great Shoelace Incident of 2009.

Do you know what happens when your dog eats a shoelace? Well, if you're lucky, that shoelace resurfaces in a matter of hours. Easy enough, right? WRONG. Think about it. A shoelace is several feet long and isn't likely to come out in one, um, potty break. So maybe you'll have to wrap your hands in 5-10 layers of plastic bags and chase down a 75-lb dog who is terribly confused and is therefore running in circles with the end of a poop-covered shoelace trailing behind him. And when you catch him, you pull that sucker out. So yeah, I've had some "only a mom would do that" moments, and that HAS to count for something.

I've also had moments that make me feel really lucky to have him and times when I don't know what I'd do without him. In my loneliest times, I've been comforted knowing that my boy was at home waiting on me and, no matter what, would be happy to see me. He has licked my tears when I've cried and has always known when I need a good cuddle. And if you think your kid is cute while sleeping, you should see this boy having a dream. Sometimes I just watch him snore and thank God that I have him. That's pretty parental, right?

If you're someone who rolls your eyes when a friend refers to their dog as their baby, please hear me on this. We know our pet is not our child, and we don't think we know what it's like to be a parent. When you tell a story about your child's latest antics, and your childless friend counters with something hilarious their dog did yesterday, understand that they aren't comparing your children to animals. Your friend is trying to relate to you, to connect in some way, when it might not feel like there is much common ground. It's not a perfect comparison, but maybe it's the best we've got.

It can be tough being the childless one in a group of people who share the bond of parenthood. When your friends relate to each other over something that you don't--and might not ever--share with them, it is easy to feel left behind. Sometimes, bringing in our own experience, whether it is truly comparable or not, is just a grasp for belonging. At the end of the day, love is love, and what better bond to share than the love we have for our babies.

Whether your baby wears diapers or a leash (or both--no judgment), take some time to love on them a little extra today and to love on the people around you. Let people relate to you the best way they know how, and make an effort to find understanding for everyone. We all deserve it, and let's face it--you never know who had to pull a shoelace out of their baby's butt today.