On Facebook, a friend of mine recently referred to himself as a doggie daddy -- that is, as "dad" to his dog.
Sure, I laughed at him (with him, really), but I've had dogs all my life -- I get it. They're kind of your children, particularly if you don't have actual children.
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In fact, I've often thought that having a dog is good practice for having kids. (And maybe having a cat fits in this analogy too -- I don't have any personal experience with that, so you're on your own, cat people.) You develop a tolerance for close-range interaction with poop and vomit. You get used to being woken up early on a Saturday morning because someone else in your house has needs (gotta go outside, gotta get fed, really need an ear-scritch). You stay up all night if your fur-baby is sick and you call the vet first thing in the morning to report exactly what color and consistency the puke is. You trip over a toy on the steps. Daily.
We had our dog, Murray, for two years before our daughter was born, and we definitely learned a lot. When Nora came along and a diaper leak would result in some poop meeting the carpet, we already knew just which carpet cleaner worked best. And we were already experts at stepping around toys in our living room.
So as much as Murray can be a pain in the butt sometimes, especially now that we have to juggle his needs (Really? You want to play fetch in the living room right now? While we're eating dinner?) with the needs of a toddler, we appreciate the life experience he gave us. And the love he gives us still.
Because that's what makes our pets like our children -- they look to us to meet their needs, and they love us fully and unconditionally (unless they're cats, of course). Is the bond between a man and his dog the same as between a father and his child? No, not exactly. But love is love, no matter what name you put to it, or whose heart it beams from. If your pet is one of your "kids" -- whether or not you have actual kids -- I feel like you're doing it right.