What Is My Dog’s Purpose If She’s Not a Member of My Family?

People of a certain age are harshly judged for treating their dogs like children. It’s madness, I tell you.

Meg Dowell
6 min readOct 14, 2022

The internet is a great place to judge strangers you will never meet in real life for behaviors that neither harm nor concern you.

The most recent example of this that has drawn me in enough to write about it on my day off is — deep breath — people who say treating your dog like your child is weird.

Is it actually? Because if it is, I’d love to know what else I’m doing wrong in the great year of 2022.

At present, I am by definition considered a “childless adult.” I am approaching a decade since graduating college. I have a stable income (why all the side hustles, though?). I have a house. A partner. A very American, by some standards “on track” life.

I also have a dog, whom I sometimes refer to as “ma’am” but more often call “my daughter.” Usually when I’m doing that thing where she sighs in that very particular way purebred Siberian huskies do and I say in the voice I’ve made up for her, “Mom, you’re ruining my life!”

To be clear, this exchange usually occurs when my very strangely (but I swear I’m not making this up) bread-obsessed dog huffs in frustration when I’m making a sandwich for myself and do not offer her a slice of whole wheat.

I really need a dog expert to explain the bread thing to me someday, but not now. Now is where I do the thing in essaying called “getting to the point.”

My dog is currently my only child. When I say this to someone, I am not joking. At nearly five years old, the husky who occupies my home alongside the humans who tend to her every fuzzy need is the equivalent of a toddler in almost every way, and will remain this way until the end of her time.

Getting her to eat a meal is a chore. She will only eat the small Iams chunks, not the big ones. If I promise her a treat when we are outside and it is not presented to her immediately when we are inside, she may sigh, stomp her feet, or nudge me forcefully with her nose until this critical error is corrected.

She hates going to sleep, and sometimes only does so after we lay in bed and pretend to be asleep first. She throws tantrums, especially when she is tired. If her routine is disrupted in even the slightest manner, nothing will satisfy her for the rest of the day.

Large portions of my day consist of, in addition to the above: playing with her, removing things from her environment which she has decided are too upsetting to tolerate (she was once deeply unsettled by an empty milk jug placed on the kitchen floor next to the recycling can, and would not accept things as normal until said jug was taken outside), consoling her when she gets too overwhelmed by her own existence, letting her “help” me with tasks I could accomplish much faster if she would just please dear god take a nap —

I fail to see how this dog is not the equivalent of a human child. Pick any element. Poop in sometimes alarming quantities? Check. Leaving behind something I have to clean up everywhere she goes? Fur, it’s always fur. Making noise exactly when I need her to not be doing that? Every! Day!

And I love her just as much as any mother should love her kid.

There are plenty of reasons someone might purchase or adopt a dog, though this list likely narrows significantly when you consider only the husky breed. Huskies are beautiful, derpy, weird tiny wolves who have to be taught manners and yard etiquette and How To Dog(TM). They are fun and, I’m not ashamed to admit from experience, very Instagrammable.

But I didn’t bring my husky home because she was pretty or because she would be fun to have around. I added her to my family because I wanted something to love, something I could care for and, okay fine, maybe I needed a built-in excuse to leave the house less. I do have to do that still, because she sometimes needs three walks a day, because husky!

I didn’t bring her home because I wanted to be a “dog mom.” I had a lot of reasons. Too many huskies end up in shelters before they’re a year old because people underestimate what it takes to welcome one into your life. I chose her because I wanted her to live a happy, fulfilled life with people who understood what would be required in order to make that happen.

What is the point of having a dog if you do not include them in your Christmas cards, take them on your vacations (when possible), and give them the same unconditional love and attention you would give to any other family member who depends on you for survival?

Maybe I’ll buy pet insurance. If my dog needed minor surgery and wasn’t going to suffer immensely afterward, I would find a way to make it happen. I will never take a job that requires me to work away from home — she cannot and should not be alone for that many hours every day. I just committed to paying thousands of dollars for a fence I never would have needed if she didn’t need a yard to play and run around (and sometimes, cringe, dig) in.

Many of my life decisions revolve around her, because I made that choice when I held her in my arms for the first time (she was only 19 pounds but very wiggly). That is the defining metric of parenthood. It does not matter that she is a dog. She is mine. She needs me to put her first, always.

The idea that treating my dog as an equal part of my family is somehow irresponsible or unstable seems backward to me. I don’t know why you have a dog, and I don’t have the desire to judge you for your reasons. But they’re worthy of the same love you’d give to anyone you chose to carry home with you. And so much of the time, they’ll return that love right back to you. In the form of face licks, maybe, but they’re doing the best they know how with the resources they have.

My dog is unapologetically my fur baby, my furson, my fur child, my fuzzy toddler. She restores a sense of purpose in me when I’m feeling lost. She, maybe intentionally, makes me smile when few other things can.

But most importantly, she lets me love her with all the love I have to give. Even when I’m standing at the kitchen counter denying her bread for the second time in one day and she stomps away like I’m the absolute worst human who has ever human-ed.

Call your dog whatever you will, consider them your pet or your daughter or (lovingly) your floofy demon wolf. But if you did not acquire them with the intention of welcoming them into your family for as long as the universe blesses you with their presence — what WAS the point at all?



Meg Dowell

Meg Dowell (she/her) has edited hundreds of articles and written thousands more. She offers free resources to writers to help launch and elevate their careers.