|See the family resemblance? Yeah, me neither. Photo: Tim Knowlton.|
When my sister and I were in high school, we once horse-sat for an elderly American Quarter Horse named Chubby who lived in the boarding stable up the road from our house. Chubby’s human called the house one day and identified herself as “Chubby’s mom.” My sister had answered the phone, and was briefly confused. Our little brother had a friend over that day, and her first thought was that it was the friend’s mother referring to her son by a very unfortunate nickname.
I have lots of friends and co-boarders who refer to themselves as their horse’s mom, most frequently when dictating their horse’s thoughts out loud. You know, “Aw, look at him, he’s saying, ‘Mooooom, I don’t want to go in the arena today.'” This extends to dogs, of course, who are then characterized as brothers or sisters to their equine siblings.
I can’t get on this bandwagon, though. Snoopy has a mom already—or at least had one—and I’m sure she was a lovely mare who took excellent care of him for the first four to six months of his life. After that, he was an independent horse who didn’t need a maternal figure in his life, so I really don’t see the need to characterize myself as his adoptive mom. Same deal for my dog, Brit. She’s a shelter dog, so the identity of her mother is a mystery lost to the ages, but the laws of biology dictate that she did have one, and it was not and is not me.
I know you’re rolling your eyes at me right now for being so literal, but I think it also reflects the way I view my relationship to my animals. It’s not really a parental relationship. I also don’t like to say I’m their “owner,” because that implies that they’re possessions. In the eyes of the law, I suppose they are, but it seems like the wrong word. I tend to just say that I am their human. Snoopy is my horse and Brit is my dog, therefore I must be their human.
Accuracy goes out the window when I refer to their relationship to each other, though. When I’m getting ready to visit the barn, I ask Brit, “Do you want to go see your friend Snoopy?” She doesn’t know what this means, but she does recognize sentences beginning with “do you want to go to” as being a positive thing in her life. Once we get to the barn, she and “her friend Snoopy” completely ignore each other, but I like to think that eventually they’ll come around.
How do you refer to your relationship with your horse or pets? Are you mom or dad? Owner? Animal guardian? And if you’re not the type who refers to yourself as an animal’s mom or dad, are you sort of weirded out by people who do, or is that just me?
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By the way, I do want to give a shout out to Chubby’s mom, wherever she may be, for being awesome enough to let a couple of horse-crazy teenage girls hang around the barn and dote on that wonderful old horse all the time. That was very cool of her.
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