My husband and I are childless 28-year-olds.
We don’t get to claim any dependents on our tax returns. The only pitter-patter of feet echoing in our hallways comes from four-legged creatures. We don’t have car seats in our vehicles, and we’ve never heard someone call us “mom” or “dad.”
Perhaps it is because we don’t have any human children that we are overly obsessed with our 3-year-old mastiff Henry. The older he gets and the stronger our bond grows, the more and more he seems to seamlessly fill the void of our childlessness.
It may sound crazy, especially to those who (*gasp*) don’t like dogs, but in many ways, Henry is basically our child.
1. He has a social schedule complete with playdates.
We joke that Henry has a better social life than some children, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. There are weeks he has activities almost every night. From the dog park to pet friendly stores, he’s always out and about. He also has a playdate with his favorite Bull Terrier Holly every Friday. We worry about his socialization more than some parents worry about their children.
2. We brag about him like he’s a kid.
Moms and dads of human children are often zealous to talk about their children, pulling out stacks of photos and sharing accomplishments. Our phones are brimming with photos of Henry, and we’re quick to talk about his achievements. This week, our big news was that he was working closer to mastering his glove carrying at obedience school.
3. Our house is overrun by his toys.
Don’t worry... this picture was taken during our bi-monthly purge of his toys. But yes, our house is littered with Henry’s beloved toys, including his favorite comfort toy―a stuffed zebra he got his first Christmas.
4. We get his Christmas gifts before we buy for each other.
Henry is usually the first on our list for Christmas gifts, and we make sure he has plenty of gifts to open―wrapped, of course.
5. We specifically pick activities he can do.
We search far and wide for activities that are dog-friendly, even moving our schedules around so we can attend events where Henry is welcome. From outdoor festivals to the Dip n’ Dive at our local pool this weekend, we are always up for a Henry-friendly venue.
6. Henry goes with us on date night.
Saturday is our date night. In the fall especially, we’ve been known to take Henry on date night so he didn’t have to be home alone, choosing to walk to our local Subway and eating outside on the patio with Henry.
7. He gets mail so he doesn’t feel left out.
He is a member of Bark Box, even though he already gets way too many toys. Anything to make him feel special...
8. We’ve turned down plans to spend time with him.
We hate leaving him in the evenings, often turning down plans so we can spend more time with Henry.
9. We dress him up for Halloween.
It’s not easy finding mastiff-size costumes... but we still make sure he’s got the perfect outfit for Trick-or-Treat.
10. He gets a good-bye kiss.
I’m more worried about saying good-bye to Henry when I leave than my husband.
11. We get insulted if someone makes fun of him.
A few years ago, a lady asked me: “You actually let that thing in your house?”
I still fume about that woman and her rude comments. When people shun Henry on our walks, turning their nose up at him because he’s “too big,” they get a death glare. No one talks about our Henry like that.
12. We have more photographs on the wall of him than most people with kids.
The amount of photos I had to pick from for this article is somewhat ridiculous. We could practically make a flipbook of his life at this point.
13. He goes to see Santa Claus...and the Easter bunny.
And yes, we pay for the expensive photo packages so our parents can have pictures of their “granddog.”
14. He goes to the park.
Henry is a member at our local dog park, so he gets to go play. During the fall, we try to take him at least one night a week.
15. We enroll him in school.
He’s been through several rounds of dog school, and we always make sure he does his homework.
So yes, we are completely obsessed with our mastiff Henry, and we basically treat him like our child. Henry is living the life with his hectic social schedule, plenty of toys, and activities galore.
Some people think we’re crazy, and some scoff at us for calling him family.
But we don’t care.
The love we have for Henry, the unconditional bond we have with him, is irreplaceable. We do everything in our power to give him the best life we can, but it’s nothing compared to what he gives us―loyalty, companionship, and memories we’ll cling to for a lifetime.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a published contemporary romance author. To learn more about her five novels, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.