Trend alert! Instead of having children, young women are filling the holes in their hearts with the unconditional love that a dog can provide so well. If true, this is horrible.
Quartz has compared the birth rate of children had by young women to the growing rate of Americans buying small dogs as pets and has concluded that it's these young ladies who are buying these small dogs. This claim is backed by analyst Damian Shore, who says "There's definitely some replacement happening there":
One telling sign that the two are not entirely unrelated is that the same age groups that are forgoing motherhood are leading the small dog charge. "Women are not only having fewer children, but are also getting married later. There are more single and unmarried women in their late 20s and early 30s, which also happens to be the demographic that buys the most small dogs," Shore said.
Okay. So this is less research and more a hypothesis that has yet to be proven. But the New York Post, never one to not seize the day, ran with the idea, heading out onto the streets of New York City to interview young women about whether they were trying to fill their barren uteruses with the joy that comes from having something to cuddle with. At least one woman told the Post, "I'd rather have a dog over a kid," describing her dog as a creature that "brings her more joy than a child."
Some might see this possible thing that might be happening as a sign of female empowerment. Ignore that biological clock and stave off the seriousness of parenting until the time is right! But what about the dogs? The utter lack of seriousness with which many people – whether they're young and female or not young and female – treat bringing a pet into their lives is astounding. This is a living thing. You will have to care for it until it dies. It is not something to play around with because you're lonely or want to "try out" what it's like to worry about something other than yourself.
I get a lot of flack from my "friends" for not liking animals. This is not true: I like animals to eat and I like animals in the wild and I like dogs, cats, fish etc. when they are at a safe distance from my person. I do not particularly enjoy domesticated animals partially because I can't get their impending mortality out of my mind, but also because of my constant awareness of how much care they require. Again, they are not something to fuck around with. We have bred domesticated animals to require our help and yet many people do not treat that responsibility seriously enough. In some ways, buying a dog is more serious than having a baby. At some point, the baby will grow up to be a human and be able to feed itself. Your dog will never be able to feed itself according to the parameters of the life your ancestors decided it should have.
At least there exists some semblance of a societal understanding that babies are a lot of work. But dogs and cats are still treated as though they're a great, low-key, low-cost replacement for a child which, if I was a dog or a cat, I would find deeply offensive. "I am a dog," I would think to myself (or bark, in my dog-language that my human owner/equal would not understand). "Love me for me. I am not for practice."
Some might argue that there are many dogs and cats that need homes out there and who am I to discourage people from adopting them? No one. I am no one to do this. If you really want a dog, get a dog. I hear there are a lot of organizations that can help you with that. But if you're a young liberated woman (or just any kind of person at all) who wants a baby and you think, "Hey, I've been thinking about kids a lot, maybe I'll get a furry thing that, unlike the stuffed animals on my bed, moves around and is warm" – don't. It is not your replacement child. One day you might convince yourself you're ready to have a kid, you'll have a kid and you'll realize this.
Image via Hulton Archive/Getty