These are confusing times. Fact is intertwined with fiction, bound together like a friendship bracelet or a haul of shrimp caught in a net. But there is one thing I would like to clear up: My dog is my biological child.
The naysayers seemed benign at first, suggesting that getting knocked up is some sort of celestial accomplishment deserving of outsized praise. The truth is that while some of us give birth to slimy, pink people larvae, others give birth to small, furry Labradoodles. To suggest that one is better than the other has all the hallmarks of a bigoted thought process. But education is the natural enemy of hatred, which is why I’m here now, writing this very long, very essential take.
Was I surprised when my OB/GYN first shared the news—that the heart beating within my womb belonged not to that of a person, but a small, fetal Pekingese? Of course! Neither my husband nor I have any canine in our ancestry—how could such a thing be possible? And yet, there it was on the sonogram, clear as day: Four paws. One tail. And two parents who loved it, no matter what.
My husband and I prepared for months readying the puppy nursery, and I’ll admit the baby shower was a perplexing affair for everyone. (Shouts to Brenda for the lovely bone cake!) And sure, there were subtle differences during my pregnancy from what many other moms probably experience—the kicking wasn’t so much a kick, but a hearty slap of the tail. Sometimes, if I laid very still, I could feel a light tingle, like when someone lightly touches the inside of your elbow. Our doctor said that was the sensation of my uterus being licked. Throughout all this, though, I never felt like less of a mom, even when Sheila at Lamaze side-eyed me during our visualization exercises. Sheila’s a bitch, though. I hope her baby comes out lumpy.
Still, seeing something on a screen is very different than seeing it in real life. The day my daughter was born was the happiest, most emotional day of my life. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her little pink tongue fall from her black dog lips, or when she peed all over the nurse’s foot. She had such spark, right from the moment she slid from my birth canal, eyes bright and curious, fur matted to her smushed little face. We decided to name her Vivian, after my grandmother.
You can see, then, why it grates on me so when people insist that Vivian is not really my child, or that they have the patent on parental love just because they gave birth to humans. What business is it of someone else how I live my life, as long as the creatures entrusted to me are well cared for? So you had a baby human—whoopty-fuckin’-do. Does your baby bark at passing cars and chew holes in the yoga mat? Does your baby sleep curled up in your armpit at night, making soft little “woof” sounds when she’s dreaming about those cars?
I didn’t think so. And while I think this topic deserves many, many more words—hundreds, even—I have to go. Vivian just pooped in my loafer, and it’s my job to clean it up.