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Small wonders: The greatness and smallness of life

February 10, 2012

I’ve had children now for about a decade. Those 10 years have passed as fleetingly as a Christmas morning, and they’ve been as painfully long as a Sarah Jessica Parker movie marathon.

Though certainly not as long as others, my 10-year sentence has provided me with a passing knowledge of the parental arts, like the D+ grades that symbolize my senior year of high school. Certainly not the marks I would get if I applied myself, but enough to graduate.

When one is blessed with the weird and wonderful results of reproduction, one’s offspring become the favored topic of conversation — not only within one’s marriage, but with friends, co-workers, grocery store clerks and Tony, the guy that’s always in the same seat at the end of the bar.

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And there is something that often comes up in these conversations which, to put frankly, has always bugged the hell out of me. At some point when one is lamenting or bragging about one’s children, the other person will say:

“Yeah, I know just how you feel. I mean, I don’t have kids myself, but I have a dog, and we went through the same kind of thing with her.”

Now, I am not trying to draw battle lines between breeders and non-breeders, between actual parents and, well, pet owners, but there is a difference. The last time I checked, you still couldn't euthanize a human when they become surly, slow-moving teenagers.

I’ve always bristled at the assertion that raising a child — a sentient human being bestowed with all the spiritual, emotional and top-of-the-food-chain attributes therein — is even remotely similar to raising a dog. I found it more than mildly insulting, if not ridiculous.

And then, last spring, we got two dogs to go with our two daughters.

I'm not about to agree with members of the more pet-obsessed contingent of our society that treat animals as if they were so morally and spiritually superior to humans, who care more for Boopie, the genetically-engineered lap dog, than they do the smelly homeless guy outside the supermarket.

But, humbly, I have come to learn that there are some interesting similarities between kids and pups. Such as:

When babes, you just can’t take your eyes off them; all you want to do is cuddle and kiss them. Especially their little noses and feet. However, the feet part fades over time as they learn to walk through fields of their own feces.

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