Why I'll Never Stop Calling My Dog 'My Son'
As far as I’m concerned, I have two boys.
One is (now) a three-foot-tall firecracker of a toddler with a mass of blonde curls, a penchant for eating vegemite straight out of the jar and a deep, personal attachment to a ratty stuffed elephant named Meryl.
The other is my five-year-old Border Collie, Jed.
Named after Jed Bartlet, the President in The West Wing, Jed was the self-appointed leader of his own free world until about June 2017 when his kid brother entered the scene. I call them brothers. I always have. I get weird looks from non-dog folk, but the truth is, for me, Jed has never been “just a dog”.
I’d never really had a pet, bar a dozen stupidly named fish and Bluey, my childhood budgerigar who spent 19 years trying to escape the living room for the big wide world before he developed gout and carked it on Melbourne Cup day.
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I was a few months shy of 30 when I brought Jed home, a tiny, tri-coloured fluffball, terrified and squirming with fleas. I was a bit directionless, a bit of a mess. He calmed me down and gave me something to take care of, besides myself.
Admittedly, people probably thought I was a bit obsessed. I took him everywhere: to pubs, parties, dinners out. I made new friends with other canine crazies at dog parks, we spent weekend walks exploring parts of Sydney I never knew existed. I lost weight, I got fit, I was more relaxed and happier than ever. Because I was working from home, he was there, 24/7.
Jed became my constant. He changed my life.
And then I went and had a baby and changed his. Truth is, Jed had given me a taste of motherhood and I wanted more.
I’d always wanted kids. I was determined that it wouldn’t disrupt things, but just like any new big brother, he was jealous. It took six months for him to warm up to the baby. Six months of coaxing him to share his mum -- and his home -- with a small, noisy, sleepless gremlin.
Finally, he just couldn’t ignore how much my son adored him. Before long, the kid was throwing him tennis balls and sneaking him sausages and then “Jed” became his first word. It was love, the relationship cemented by a mutual appreciation for rolling around in sand, squeaky bath toys and half-digested vegemite toast.
I know dogs don’t live forever, but while he’s here, Jed is part of the package.
He’s family, and I go out of my way to make sure he knows it. I only eat at cafés that tolerate the ratbag throwing spaghetti and the mongrel waiting for scraps at his feet.
I choose holidays based on the dog beach nearby. If my son gets an ice cream, Jeddo does too. If one is in a good mood that day, so is the other. If the kid is being a brat, chances are, the dog is too.
They both put up with my whims… I force them each into a Santa photo at Christmas and neither gets out of participating in ridiculous fancy dress, though stoic Jed cops a silly hat better than his little bro. (FWIW, he makes a killer Brian May.)
My kid is my life, but my beloved dog will always be my “furry” first-born. Who knows if a human sibling is on the horizon, but regardless, my son knows that animals are family.
And Jed is teaching him just as much as a “real” brother. He’s teaching him kindness and friendship and to respect boundaries. And my son, in return, is teaching Jeddo patience.
They’re both learning to share. And to play.
And they’re teaching me how to be a better mum and reminding me that family is, basically, whatever you decide it to be.