My dog is my starter baby. By Jessica Valenti for


Monty cried the first few nights he was home. It was annoying, and I didn’t get much sleep. I am also not a fan of the peeing. I mean, it gets everywhere. The morning feeding and walking also took place about two hours earlier than I would have liked. I work from home, so I’m accustomed to waking up whenever I want, not being forced awake by crying. Between you and me, sometimes I just let him whine and sleep the extra hour.

Luckily, Monty is a miniature Australian Shepherd, so he doesn’t take much offense.

I never thought of myself as the kind of gal who would baby her dog. I bristle when I see women with their little yappy dogs in designer gear that I couldn’t afford for myself, cooing at them to “give Mommy kisses.” I’m not a vegetarian, I don’t think animals are like people, and I don’t think you should tote dogs around in weird pet strollers or papooses. And I’m feminist, goddamn it – we only like cats! Right?

But like it or not, Monty is my baby. My starter baby.

I never really believed in the whole “biological clock” thing. It was a patriarchal construction devised to control women, a bullshit standard made to shame those of us who had the audacity not to want to breed as soon as humanly possible. Then I turned twenty-seven – and all of a sudden, frigging babies were everywhere. I could have sworn that women were reproducing at twice the normal rate. I never remembered seeing so many babies on the street and in coffee shops; strollers and Baby Bjorns always seemed to be in my eye line. And, much to my horror, I wanted one.

I started to think about the relationship I was in and how it wasn’t necessarily conducive to child-rearing. After all, Brooklyn hipsters with coke problems don’t exactly scream “daddy material.” It wasn’t long before I ditched the boy and left my Williamsburg loft, which was locally famous for impromptu, late-night parties. But looking back, I know I didn’t want a baby in any real sort of way – I wasn’t about to go get knocked up or start hopefully asking guys on our first date what they thought about children. I realized that I didn’t want a baby, I wanted to baby.

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