As Mother’s Day approaches, we reflect on the meaning of motherhood. Since a mother is, by definition, a woman, she is also a daughter and granddaughter. She may also be a spouse, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece and cousin. She may also be a CEO, governor, astronaut, chauffeur, coach, healer and, in some households, the disciplinarian. 

Often overlooked is a mother’s relationship with the one family member we’re certain was adopted, the family dog. Many people treat their dogs somewhat like children, referring to themselves as “mommy” or “daddy,” and giving the dog long, carefully reasoned explanations as to why digging up the flower bed is socially unacceptable. 

Long after the actual children have outgrown the need for “baby talk,” the dogmother will still be saying nonsense to the pooch. For example: “Oooo da wittle snookums is mommy’s sweet baboo!”

The gradual breakdown of human dominance over canines can be seen on a placard for sale at Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel, titled “Dog Rules” by its anonymous author. I quote: 

1. The dog is not allowed in the house

2. OK, the dog is allowed in the house, but only in certain rooms.

3. The dog is allowed in certain rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.

4. The dog can only get on the old furniture.

5. Fine, the dog is allowed on all of the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep on the bed.

6. OK, the dog is allowed on the bed, but only by invitation.

7. The dog can sleep on the bed whenever she wants, but not under the covers.

8. The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only.

9. The dog can sleep under the covers every night.

10. Humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the dog.

In our household we have never descended below Level 6 on the scale, and with some dogs only to Level 4. This isn’t because we don’t want to cuddle with our dogs, but because we need actual sleep to function the next day. 

Dogs make great companions, but lousy bedmates because: A) their personal hygiene habits are somewhat lacking; B) they have sharp elbows, claws and teeth; C) they have frequent dreams in which they are chasing small critters, making their legs twitch; D) although they are protected from fleas and ticks, they bring their pests indoors, where they lie in wait for unprotected bipeds; and E) they’re dogs. 

Dogs celebrate Mother’s Day the same way they celebrate the other 364 days, by checking countertops for food, eating grass to calm their bellies after eating the food and throwing it up on the Persian rug, then loudly licking their undercarriages for 45 minutes under the dinner table while the humans try to eat what little was left on the counter. 

Still, it’s clear that dogs love their adoptive moms, and that the feeling is oddly reciprocal.  wishes all moms a happy holiday.

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