They#8217;re just hairy children with bad breath

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2006

I don’t have children, I have eight pets n four dogs and four cats. And I am really going out on a limb here to say I don’t really see a whole lot of difference in raising the two-legged versus the four.

Now, before everybody who has children wants to take me to task for that statement, let me pontificate a bit.

If you think about it, there are some similarities in raising children and pets.

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They both have to be fed. The advantage you have with children is hopefully they will one day learn to feed themselves.

You have to provide medical care, and again, the idea is that someday the human will graduate from school, secure a good job with benefits, and begin paying their own health-insurance bills.

They all need love. But unlike the human, the dog or cat (maybe I should not include the independent feline here) will love you without strings attached. They care not of your social class, education, how much money you have, whether or not you will ever embarrass them in front of their friends, or whether you will ever allow them to borrow the car. They simply love you.

Of course there are some differences as well, including never having to educate your pet, unless you just want your dog to be able to entertain guests with his or her tricks. And you don’t have to clothe your pet, although there are many out there who do. May be that’s why we now find a need to have doggie psychologists.

But I didn’t sit down to write about the obvious parallels and differences between your children and mine. I did this to prove that my little ones are simply children with lots of hair, and in most cases, really bad breath.

Take for instance Monday night, the night the powerful thunderstorms rolled across the Tidewater Region.

One of our dogs, a 12-or-so-year-old yellow Lab mix was going nuts.

I have known since this dog was just a puppy that he was afraid of loud noises n fireworks, air horns on TV, and especially thunder.

My wife and I had gone to bed before the storm came and I was fast asleep when Martha woke me.

“Go get him,” she said, referring to Spooge (don’t ask where the name came from). “He’s trying to get up the stairs.”

Since he had surgery on both rear legs in recent years he has been unable to negotiate a stair case. I really think he could do it, it’s just that he doesn’t trust his own abilities.

Because he can’t climb the stairs he has spent his nights in the living room of our two-story home since we moved in late November.

Knowing from experience he would not calm down as long as the thunder was booming around us I went downstairs and curled up on the couch. That way he could plop down on the floor beside me and I would be able to touch him. For some reason that human touch calms him like nothing else.

Sounds to me like a small child seeking comfort in the touch of their parent when Mother Nature unleashes her “boom” box.

About two hours after descending to the lower level of the house I awoke to discover Spooge fast asleep and the storms were gone. I returned to the comfort of my bed n which I was sharing not only with my wife, but with Smokey, Sierra and Sophie, all dogs, and Frankie the cat.

But Spooge, or “Big Dumb Yellow” as we affectionately refer to him, isn’t the only “child” we have.

There’s also Smokey. This dog, a poodle and Lhasa Apso mix, is somewhere around 16. We aren’t sure of the actual age.

He has an enlarged heart that causes him to cough a lot. To reduce the coughing, he takes a medication that makes him urinate more often than normal. And that excessive urinating always seems to come between the time we go to bed and the time we wake up each day. And it isn’t just every few hours; sometimes it is every 10 minutes.

Since we don’t want to have to clean up a mess the next morning, just as a parent wouldn’t want to have to change their child’s soiled bed, one of us (usually my lovely wife) will get up every time he wakes up and starts prowling around on the bed.

Once he goes, he receives a treat for his effort. And after all of these years of putting the two together, he has decided that he can get a treat by simply walking outside and then right back in the house, and doing nothing in between.

And if you don’t give him the treat that he desires, he stands at your feet and stares at you. Or he may paw at your leg or even begin barking. Sound like a child throwing a bit of a tantrum when they don’t get their way?

Sometimes it isn’t a treat he wants; it’s to tell you the water bowl is empty and he’s thirsty.

So, just like a child who cannot speak, you have to be able to figure out what it is he really wants and then give it to him lest he drive you insane.

The other six aren’t as bad, but they all have their own personalities and quirks. But then, children do too, don’t they?

Another difference between children and pets – at least you can teach a child how to brush their teeth.

Douglas Grant is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. Contact him at