Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have Pets Replaced Children?

This isn’t a random thought that just popped into my head. This is a question that has been with me for months after hours of observation and running hundreds of trail miles in state parks throughout Massachusetts. In my travels I have crossed paths with runners, walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. Occasionally I see families enjoying the great outdoors together, but what I see most often is couples and their dog(s). I have to say that couples with a dog outnumber couples with a child by at least four to one.

I have no explanation for this. I’m merely sharing my observation. Has anyone else noticed or am I just imagining it? I love dogs but I am not a dog owner. I don’t pretend to know much about them. I probably couldn't tell the difference between a bloodhound and a basset hound and I certainly can’t identify most of the exotic dog breeds I see on the trails. Should dogs be added to the list of status symbols for the upwardly mobile along with Beemers and 6000 square foot homes? Can you really one up the Jones’ by acquiring a Komodor when they “just” have a Chinese Shar-Pei?

I haven’t a clue.....ruff, ruff


  1. I assume, that you have seen a wide range of age groups in these couples you've seen with their pets. But I would also assume the couples you are seeing are older, and you are making the assumption that "here is an older couple with a dog and no kids, must not have any kids..." Perhaps I am way off base, but I imagine this is what you've thought.
    I know from recently going through my teen years (okay its been 7 years since I was a teenager) that kids that are old enough for sports and recreation rarely do any type of physical activity when they don't have to; ie outside of school sports. Therefore, perhaps the couples you are seeing with pets in tow are simply enjoying the morning or afternoon outdoors while their "im too cool for trail running" teenage sons or daughters are sitting at home doing whatever. I understand the observation you are making, and perhaps you are right. Seems lots more couples out there are either waiting til much later in life to raise a family, or scrubbing the idea all together. Don't knwo why anyone would not want to plant the generational seed for the future, but to each his/her own i guess.

  2. Dan, I was out paddling in Harold Parker on Field Pond today and while we say many DAWGs in the Fells I spotted a guy fishing with his dog! of course I had to paddle over and meet them. So the little furry attentive guys (the dog) was in his owner's kayak! When I asked the fisher"men" if they'd caught anything... the smaller one, barked a little and then the larger one said, "oh this dog's my best fishing buddy. He spots 'em and never exaggerates."

  3. I have both (kids and dogs). Kids just don't like to walk the dog. Problem solved :-)

  4. I say pets are grandparents' new children. They probably make a good kid replacement - I fantasize myself sometime during one of my son's public temper tantrums...

  5. Charlie, I was referring to couples at an age where you expect them to have children, toddlers to pre-teenaged. I do believe, as you say, people are waiting longer to have children. As a parent, I can tell them it doesn’t get any easier the older they get!

  6. Where we live, dogs ARE people...the dog owners at the "dog parks" feed them cookies, treats and loads of veggies. They buy them "toys" and have them groomed weekly. Dogs are children, mates, and sometimes much more than companions to some people around here. It is very, very strange! People even fight over their dogs playing too aggresively...

  7. My dog is definitely my "son". I acquired him after my daughter graduated high school? Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not. ;)

  8. I guess I am of the ones who have decided to not have kids for various reasons.
    I have two Dogs, and be honest, wouldn't trade it for kids any day.
    Some cannot fathom this idea. I cannot fully understand it myself either.
    It simply doesn't bother me to think that I will most likely not have kids.
    A lot of times, I hear the same thing about people giving their parents grandchildren. To me this is one of the many wrong reasons to have kids. Some people have decided to wait till they are 35-40 years old to have kids. People can rightly do what they want, but this is not for me. I certainly don't judge people either.
    I could go on and on and will probably get myself in trouble here.
    My wife wanted to wait to have kids at an older age....well, you are right. It doesn't get easier the older you get. I've seen it destroy marriages.
    Call me selfish I guess, but I'd rather have my dogs. They cost less, they don't talk back, they don't stress you out, they will actually increase your lifespan.
    My life seems more at peace with my Black Lab right by my side. Maybe these people feel the same way?

  9. Jo Lynn, my daugher was away on vacation for a week and I told my wife it was too quiet around the house. I can see why empty-nesters would want a pet.

    Nick, you are 100% correct. The only good reason to have children is because YOU want them.

  10. I'm on the same page as Nick. Children are not for me and my husband. I think it's ok that not everybody wants children. Actually a really good thing.

  11. I have kids AND a dog. And cats. And rabbits. And aquati life. And as of this morning, a chicken... ;)

  12. Pets are easier! Seriously I do think less and less families are taking their children out exploring in the woods - nowadays everyone’s worried about mosquitoes that carry that West Nile Virus or ticks that carry lime disease there’s always some excuse but go the to mall and it’s crawling with families : ) I try to take my kids out exploring as often as I can but sports takes up a big part of our time on the weekends and not only that but it takes me hours to get the little kids ready for a walk in the woods. I’d like to take them on a fall canoe paddle this weekend but I’m not sure when we’ll have the time.


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