The doctor was filling in for our regular Veterinarian. Fate greeted her enthusiastically as she does most people.
“Fate must be missing her friends,” she said when I told her we had two other dogs. It took me a moment to understand that the doctor was talking about Bud and Zinnia. “No,” I said, “Fate doesn’t really like them so much. She prefers people to dogs.”
“Well then,” the Veterinarian replied, “now she has special alone time with Mommy.”
I cringed but didn’t say anything. She referred to me as Fate’s mommy a couple of more times.
I didn’t think quickly enough to let the new veterinarian know that I don’t think of myself as Fate’s mommy. But when I got home I found I was still thinking about it. It bothered me.
It still does.
I understand that many people think it perfectly normal to be called their pets Mommy. I have good friends who feel this way about their pets.
But it’s not how I think about my animals. I don’t want to be anybody’s Mommy.
Fate’s mother is a border collie.
I think part of what annoyed me was that the Veterinarian was making an assumption about me and my relationship with Fate. About how I view her and how she fits into my life.
I feel strongly about not seeing my animals as children. If I wanted to be a mommy, I would have had children. But I never wanted children and still don’t.
I like my animals because they are animals. For me, the idea of living harmoniously with animals is kind of amazing.
One of the reasons I like living with animals is that they aren’t children.
I can leave the dogs in the backyard when I go out. I put them in a crate at night and we all get a good night’s sleep. When Jon and I go away I don’t miss our animals. I’m very happy not to have to get up in the morning to take care of them. Happy to be free of them for a few days.
Years ago when I got my dog Frieda I was looking for protection. When she died and I was thinking about getting another dog I had different needs. I wanted a dog to come to work with me in my studio and to walk in the woods with.
I think of Fate lovingly as my dog. I don’t know how she feels about that, but it doesn’t really matter since she doesn’t understand such nuances in language.
What matters is that she seems to enjoy doing the things we do together like going to the sheep, walking in the woods, chasing a ball, and sleeping in my studio when I work.
At 3 pm she lets me know it’s time to feed the animals, otherwise, she doesn’t bother me when I’m working. She never steps on my art which is often on the floor of my studio. She never runs off when we walk in the woods and she waits for me I stop to take a picture or video or just want to sit quietly.
She will also find the way home if I get lost.
Fate is quirky, an odd Border Collie who loves sheep but doesn’t herd them. I relate to her being an outsider and I admire her independent streak even though at times it drives me crazy.
Fate fits into my life in just the way I wanted her to. And I’m proud that we have that together.
So the next time someone refers to me as Fate’s “mommy” I will ask them not to call me that. I will tell them that I love Fate and she’s a great companion for me. But I didn’t get her because I wanted a child, I got her because I wanted a dog.