A friend of mine and her partner recently embarked on a very special part of their life. After being together for many years and building a strong foundation of love it was only fitting that they finally welcomed into the world a beautiful, tiny, bundle of joy. They got a puppy!
These days young couples (and singles) are turning to the lovable furry friends as new members of the family rather than embarking on motherhood or fatherhood. In my parent’s era, it was quite likely by your mid-twenties that you’d be married and probably have popped out your first child. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2015 report showed that the average age of first time mums has grown to 30.1 years. This is a big rise from our parents’ generation, and fascinatingly enough the 2016 Animal Medicine Australia (AMA) report stated that the pet owners are more likely to be Generation Y (18-29 years). So, is it just a coincidence?
In 2015 the Oxford dictionary officially added the word ‘fur-baby’ to their dictionary, acknowledging this trend. The report I mentioned above by AMA also noted that 65% of dog-owners, consider their pet to be a member of the family – not just a furry companion. Many academics don’t have an answer to why young people are increasingly choosing pets over parenthood but some have suggested in their busy lives they may use their fur-babies as a ‘practice run’.
David Klow, a marriage and family therapist, says that it’s pretty common for couples to adpot a dog or cat before they have children to see how well they’ll co-parent. Whilst there are obvious differences between raising a pet and a child (one will love you unconditionally, even through their teenage years), relationship expert and founder of CupidsPulse.com says that having a pet first does allow couples to learn more about each other and to grow more flexible as indiviudals.
If you have Instagram then there’s no doubt you’ve come across various pet profiles before and seen the way people are beginning to treat their pets as their children. I was recently out to lunch with a close friend of mine, Lucy, when she received a text message and immediately lit up and said “awwww”. She turned her phone screen to me where I saw various pictures of her dogs at the beach, ON A HOLIDAY. She had sent them away on a holiday with the company Hound Dog Day Care. These dogs were having a better holiday than I’ve had in years…(see pictures below, trust me you want to!!) This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed people treating their dogs as legitimate members of the family and to be honest if my dog was still around I’d surely be guilty of this too.
Another explanation that acadamics have tried to give to explain this increase in fur-babies is the freedom. It’s no secret that millenials are often considered either ‘busier’ or ‘lazier’ than any generation before them. Pet’s of course need love, care and attention but they can also be left alone while you go to work without it being considered abuse or neglect. Could it be that fur-babies just fit better into our busy lives?
An Italian women recently made the news when she was granted sick pay for time off to look after her sick dog. She was granted the allowance for absence related to “serious or family personal reasons”. If you have a beloved pet of your own you probably think this is perfectly reasonable. Pychologists have even indicated that the grief from losing a pet can often be just as intense as that from losing a human companion and an area of serious clinical concern. It was a significant step forward in recognising that animals are not no longer kept for their working ability but because they’re members of the family.
Another, kinda bizarre, trend that’s proving dogs really are more than our furry friends is the introduction of pet furniture and clothing. The Lord of furniture, IKEA, recently launched its very first pet furniture range. It includes everything from dog beds, couch covers, cat tunnels and scratching posts. Because obviously letting your dog sleep outside on the grass just isn’t acceptable anymore. The furniture is absolutely adorable and everything that we need in this world right now. I was recently shopping in Kmart when I stumbled upon the dog halloween costumes. Everything from a taco to a pirate. If parents can dress their children up in adorable costumes, than dog parents deserve that same right!
My view? I truly think its because of the pure joy that our beloved furry friends bring to us. It’s been scientifically proven that every time you lock eyes with your dog, you activate the same hormonal response that bonds us to human infants. Oxytonin, this bonding hormone, also lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity and prevents anxiety (dog’s are good for our health!!) When you love something that much, of course you’re going to treat it like your own family member.
Whatever the reason, I say bring on the Instagrams, the clothing and the doggy holidays. Because who doesn’t wanna see a dog in a taco costume or having a ball at the beach?