Pet Peeves 101: A Mom’s Fur Baby Etiquette Guide

I know. I know. You may already be foaming at the mouth, just reading the title. Hear me out, before you get your feathers in a ruffle.

I love animals.

Did you hear that?? I’ll say it louder.

I said, I LOVE ANIMALS.

I have been around furry, fuzzy and feathered creatures my entire life. Ever since I can remember we had pets. You name it, we had it: dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, goats, rabbits, mice, gerbils, even a pony.

Growing up in Pennsylvania’s countryside, every other classmate of mine lived on a dairy farm. It was only when I moved away that I realized our little plot of three acres in the forest full of critters (both wild and house-trained) was actually considered a mini-farm, minus the cows.

I’ll say it again: I love animals. I’m all for having pets — especially when you have kids. Fellow CMB contributor Danielle’s recent post about pets was spot on. They are amazing companions. I learned more about life and death through our animals than anyone could have taught me later in life when people I loved actually started dying.

But when those same animals suddenly become more important than the welfare of any child (or human in general), this mama turns into a bear.

Our animals were never our equals. They were fun, friendly and sometimes ferocious, but we always had a healthy respect for the animal kingdom, and they were never more important than an actual person.

So I get a more than a little annoyed when someone feels that their animal is the exception to any rules.

For example, a while back, the Sailor and I were walking with our son to our car. We live in a dog-friendly community, but in the short commute to our car, the Peanut got knocked over by a mid-sized dog racing through the complex, off his leash. Our hands were full, and we didn’t drop everything in time to actually get to the Peanut before he landed hard on the concrete, pinned down by a dog.

After we grabbed the Peanut, I barked at the owner with a few choice words.

I can’t even tell you how many dogs have rushed up to my child off their leash, their owner lagging behind, usually scrolling through their phone and in no hurry. The Peanut is far from afraid of animals, but he is still climbing up my leg to get away from a furry beast racing right for him. The owner almost ALWAYS says, ‘Oh don’t worry he doesn’t bite.’

Really?

He hasn’t bitten anyone YET. And unless your dog doesn’t have teeth, there is always a chance that they will bite. I mean c’mon. Even my own kid has bitten me. Your dog is not the exception to the rule.

Having suffered through two dog bites myself (neither time was the dog ever provoked), I can assure you, I don’t want my child to endure that kind of pain or scar. Recently, this horrific story was on the news near my old hometown in PA. This is a very extreme example, and I’m not here to debate the merits of owning a pit bull. But I am still sick to my stomach over the thought of those kids who did absolutely nothing to provoke an attack like that.

I get that Fido and Spot and Harry are there to greet you when you walk in the door. Perhaps they are happier to see you than your spouse or your kids. They don’t ask for much other than a scratch behind the ears, some food and a game of catch.

I’m not asking for much either, but doggone it, follow a few polite rules if you want to have a pet:

Keep your pet on a leash, especially when it’s required!

There are places we don’t hike or walk anymore because despite either a ‘no dogs’ rule or even a simple leash policy, we consistently see animals roaming free. The Peanut is understandably skittish around big dogs right now and I shouldn’t have to scoop him up every time we see a giant dog heading our way, if that dog isn’t supposed to be there in the first place, or is supposed to be on a leash. Chattanooga is very dog-friendly. There are plenty of public places (and even restaurants!) to take your pet. If you can’t keep your pet on a leash, take him to the dog park. I don’t take the Peanut to the dog park to play, so it’s not too much to ask you to keep your dog on a leash at a playground crawling with kids (true story, folks). Show a little respect for the non-canine members of the city by following a few simple rules.

Pick up after your pet.

My child’s poop goes in the toilet. Your pet’s waste should at least go in the proper poop receptacle, especially if your animal defecates in a public place where people actually walk. Unless I’m shoveling manure out of a barn, cleaning a chicken coop, or raking a sheep field (all of which I have done), animal poop shouldn’t end up on the bottoms of my shoe.

Finally (and I will probably get flack for this) your animal’s well-being is not more important than any human’s. (Don’t even get me started on people defending dogs who have already bitten children.)

I have been to more homes than I can count where dogs are racing around the little people and the owners refuse to put them in a spare room or outside for an hour or two because they might upset their neighbors, or God forbid, the actual dog. We’ve been places where dogs have snatched food right out of the Peanut’s hand, licked his face, and nearly knocked him or other children over. I understand it’s your home, but consider giving your guests a little more comfort and peace of mind.

So get out there and enjoy the outdoors this summer. Just keep Fido on a leash, pick up after his poop and remember above all, that you’re dealing with an animal.

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