You know who you are. You not only talk to your pet, but talk to yourself in your pet's voice. There is also the telltale thin film of gritty dirt and hair on your bed sheet. It doesn't gross you out when dog spit shines your plate after dinner. Your car stinks. You are not just a dog owner - you are a full-fledged pet parent.
Car dealers can spot pet parents a mile away by the tape measure brought to ensure crates will fit in the new vehicle. Potential significant others, however, are not nearly as savvy at spotting pet parents before the courtship process begins.
Modern dating requires a profile. Whether it's the online scene or speed-dating, busy singles submit a profile that states lifestyle, likes and dislikes before proceeding to the introduction stage. The profile goes to great trouble to determine one's tolerance for cigarette smoke, curse words and human children. It seldom touches on tolerance for pets, let alone for pet parenting.
I have never seen a dating profile cover the issue of pet parenting, so I can all but assure you it doesn't exist. There is no hope of quickly and systematically flushing out this issue before considering a potential date. We pet parents and our matches are left to fend for ourselves and iron out differences the old fashioned way.
This is probably just as well. From an outsider's perspective, spending $5,000 on a dog's hip surgery or spending more on your dog's boarding kennel than your own hotel room might seem ludicrous. As a non-pet parent, you might have de-selected that match from the roster. But perhaps not. You may have laughed and assumed this was an exaggeration or such behavior would no longer happen once you were in the picture. How adorably naive.
True colors shining through
As a relationship unfolds, pet parents and non-pet parents alike reveal themselves. A claim of unconditional love is fast put to the test. Some "mixed relationships" result in shared appreciation, broader viewpoints and greater balance for all involved. For others, it is a venture quickly and humanely ended.
If ever the phrase "there's two sides to every story" applied, it is to the pet parent/non-pet parent relationship. This doesn't mean that all is lost in navigating through this culture clash. Accepting a few fundamental truths can make all the difference. For you non-pet parents, your "other" is never going to see the dog in bed as gross. For you pet parents, your "other" is never going to see the poolside suite at the kennel as well worth the extra expense.
Any therapist worth the money you are paying will tell you that you can't change people. Truer words were never spoken about pet parents. There is going to have to be a certain amount of live and let live, but for good measure, never merge your finances.
Anne Hendrickson is the owner of Downtown Dogs Daycare and Boarding, www.downtowndogsminneapolis.com.