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| By Wellvyl Media Editorial

“I swear, my baby Charmaine is why I am late to everything!”, my teacher Stacey Brass Russell affectionately explained at the beginning of class after rushing her way into the practice room at YogaMaya in Chelsea. “Anytime I try to leave the house, she gives me this look that says, ‘Mommy, don’t go!’, and it breaks my heart! Ahh!”.

Charmaine, the perpetual cause of Stacey’s tardiness, is not a human child but an adorable one-eyed grey Tabby cat.

In recent years, pet owners are now referring to their cats and dogs as “fur babies” and proudly considering themselves “pet parents”. From carting fur babies around in specially designed “pet strollers”, to exorbitant vet bills, pet owners exhibit the affectionate attachment to their pets as parents have for their children. It is common for pet parents to refer to their furry friend as their “son” or “daughter”.

Susan Maushart, a mother of three and a pet owner, furiously expressed in the Huffington Post that people who call themselves “pet parents” are completely delusional, having a pet and rearing a child have as much in common as a goldfish has to Godzilla. Child rearing is worlds different because a parent has to teach their child life lessons like,“Say no to drugs” as well as enforce discipline. Maushart also blatantly states that dogs are not intelligent just because we can expect them to “heal” or enjoy table scraps.   

However, Maushart does not see the value of being a pet parent gives us as individuals and to our impersonal and love-deficient modern society. According to the Bhakti Yoga tradition, it is our soul’s natural disposition to love and love is necessary in order to have good physical health. What helps us to grow in our capacity for unconditional love is when we are in care another. Regardless if we are caring for a  human child or a pet, we are undeniably responsible for the well-being and thriving of another living soul. Thus, the term “parenting” is not just exclusive to those who raise human offspring.

Perhaps deepening the care we give to our dog or cat will help us to become more humane ourselves. In referring to ourselves as “pet parents” as opposed to “pet owners”, we will understand that animals deserve to not be treated as mere property and subjected to the whims of circumstance or convenience. It is my hope that seeing our domesticated furries as more than just pets will be the much-needed antidote that softens the heart of a cynical world. Even if our Charmaine makes us late for everything, she helps grow our natural capacity to love by a million.