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Should I Have Had a Small Dog Instead of a Baby?

Are women buying small dogs instead of having children?For most of my 20s, I didn’t really think about having children or pets. I wasn’t even interested in caring for a plant. Then came my late 20s, when the ticking of my biological clock suddenly became about as subtle as a jackhammer on hot pavement. And so it was out with prophylactics, in with procreation!

Two adorable but exhausting babies later, I find myself wondering if a cute little pooch or two would have silenced the ticking for at least a little while and gifted me a few more years of calm evenings and a kitchen floor that doesn’t resemble an ever-changing Jackson Pollock painting. A provocative article on Quartz.com suggests this might be the case.

Quartz’s Roberto Ferdman reports that while birth rates for women 29 and under have declined in the U.S., purchases of small dogs have spiked dramatically — and the people buying them are primarily single women in their late 20s and early 30s.

“There’s definitely some replacement happening there,” Damian Shore, an analyst at market-research firm Euromonitor, told Ferdman.

I have one bone to pick — heh, heh — with the Quartz piece. It doesn’t actually quote any dog-owning women!

So I reached to a few moms who owned dogs before they had their kids and asked them to do a little retrospective self psychoanalysis. Did having dogs, I asked, satisfy their maternal urges to any degree? The answers, of course, were mixed.

One mom owned two small dogs for years before having a son. She said she had grown up with dogs and for her, getting her own pups right after graduating college was a no-brainer — it wasn’t about maternal instinct so much as a desire for canine companionship.

A dog was “someone that was happy to see me when I came home, a way to strike conversation up with people in the park,” she said. “It was definitely what worked for me at 22 when having a baby was not what worked for me at 22.”

Another mom said her dog was definitely a “pseudobaby” for a while, but her schnoodle didn’t satisfy her maternal urges enough to keep actual procreation at bay.

“I had kids as soon as I was able to convince my boyfriend to marry me. The dog was just a way for us to feel loved while working long hours,” she said.

And then there were the “furbabies” moms. One told me about throwing birthday parties and arranging playdates for her dogs. Another went even further.

“We married young, and weren’t ready for babies right away. Our pets were truly ‘fur babies’ during those childless years of marriage. I used to dress my pug up for Halloween and take her trick or treating to the neighbor’s house. I also used to bathe the pug, trim, file, and paint her toenails every two weeks,” she wrote to me.

Wow. She might take better care of her pug than I do my kids.

Both moms went on to say that the dogs don’t get nearly as much doting after children entered the picture.

“As soon as we had human babies, the dogs lost their ‘baby’ status,” the pug owner told me. “Their slobbery licks and hair became gross for the first time ever. Now, they only get a bath when they are dirty or smelly. And they have their own little ‘apartment’  in the finished basement, because there’s no way I can clean up after three boys AND two dogs on a daily basis.”

No one said anything about consciously delaying having children because they had dogs, but at least one mom mentioned friends who have pets instead of kids. And so I return to my original question — if I’d had a dog years ago, would that have been enough for a little while? Maybe for a long while? Maybe forever?

I guess I’ll never know … and I think I’m OK with that. The mom I am today thinks baby drool beats dog slobber paws down.

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More from Alice:

Will Your Daughter ‘Put It On’?

5 Crimes Possibly Being Committed by Babies Right Now

Dropping Out of the Baby Milestone Rat Race

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Photo via morgueFile.

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