More than ever, people all over the world are choosing to live childfree, by choice. Though choosing not to have children can feel at times, “enough” to some, there is often a void that can only be filled by none other than... You guessed it, a dog. But while single people and couples alike feel confident in their decisions, how does this choice affect those around them? Today we will hear from 3 mothers who have accepted that the only grandchildren they will have, are dogs.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when things begin falling into place. Whether they have graduated from their post secondary education, have found a life partner, landed the career of their dreams or purchased their first home, this pivotal moment, the feeling of “I have it all” varies depending on their priorities. But regardless of when they feel like they have “made it,” their moment becomes acknowledged by others, at different stages in life. Sometimes, at this point in life, those closest to them may begin to think it is time for them to start making some concrete decisions, such as having children.
However, not everyone makes the conscious choice to have a child. When asked at what point they realized that they would only have dogs for grandchildren, the answers we received from the three mothers we spoke to varied. While Kelva Kitson, mother of two childfree daughters knew early on during her girls’ developments that they would not be having kids, stating “it was likely to take a long time if at all, that they would have children of their own” Trudie Reid, a mother of two childfree sons, explained, half-jokingly “It was when I realized that my own child was not going to grow up and that he needed to have children with four legs instead of human babies.”
Says Kitson, “the deeper [the girls] got into animal rescue and volunteer work with dogs, it became clear there would be no grandchildren,” but added that there would be “lots of lovely fur babies” in their future. While both mothers came to the realization on their own, Lyne Roy explains that she was told, very honestly what her future held in terms of grandchildren.
“My daughter started rescuing animals in her apartment. First she started with cats, and then she adopted a dog. When it came time for her to bring home a second dog, she told her father and I that she didn’t feel the need to have anyone in her life to make her feel whole - that she had a family. It was at that point, I kind of thought that children wouldn’t be in her forecast. When she started with rescue work, dogs became her life and I knew. She told us then, that our suspicions were true and we were not to expect grandchildren from her.”
Traditionally, a bombshell such as this would likely have devastated a mother, however over the past couple of decades, a vast shift in priority has occurred amongst the younger generations. Many people have made the choice to focus on careers, to travel, or simply do not feel they have the time to care for a child, but whatever the case may be - mothers (and of course, fathers, extended families, etc.) have begun to accept the life choices of those around them. Acceptance of course, is always wonderful, but how long does it really take to swallow information like this?
For Roy, “it took about a year to sink in” she explains. “She is my only biological daughter and I would have liked to have grandchildren from my daughter” adding without a moment’s hesitation, “thankfully we have a large family though, so I have many step-grandkids that I love, that helps a lot.” When analyzing the responses from our other interviewees, one can only deduce that perhaps it is due to the fact that Roy was simply told of her daughter’s decision, rather than having the time to warm up to the idea, that caused her delayed reaction.
Having come to her own conclusion, Kitson on the other hand explains, “It didn't take much getting used to. [My daughters] are both very busy people - not only at work, but also [in their spare time].” Adding, “children take up your life, and if they don't, it’s my opinion that you’re not doing your job.” While Reid explains that initially her son had discussed the possibility of adopting a human child if he didn’t choose to have children of his own genetics, he ultimately decided against it.
She continues “as long as the baby is loved, it could be a puppy, a kitty, a gecko, an adopted baby or a blood-born baby”. But to her, “success as a human being is showing compassion and love to anyone who needs it.” Ultimately, what both mothers agree on, according to Kitson is that “when the final decision came down, [I was] more or less relieved they understood the commitment and chose not to get caught up in the baby hype [just because.]
However, having accepted their fates as grandmothers to solely canines, each mother explains that having a grand-dog, as opposed to a full-fledged human grandchild simply is not viewed as equal amongst the general public. While Kitson states that the fact that her daughters “do not have children, it doesn't come up a lot with friends and family. It’s not a new thing,” she explains, “and I think everyone knows their decision didn't [happen] overnight, so [everyone] respects both of their decisions.”
Roy mentions that while she does bring her grand-dogs up in conversation with both coworkers and friends, that, “it’s weird. Generally, people are used to hearing baby stories, but not everyone is receptive to dogs.” Of course, she has decided to make the best of the situation, and like our other interviewees, gushes when the topic arises. “I talk about the funny things that [the dogs] do all the time. Just today, I was telling someone at work how my daughter’s dog went after some deer in the forest. They all had a laugh.”
And when the dogs, who were described to us numerous times over the course of the interview as cute, cuddly, and lovable are also described as confident, curious and just plain perfect, the only reaction is “Why not?” says Reid, who has proudly taken on the title of grandma to her son’s canines. While she has not been questioned about her lack of human grandchildren as intensely as the other mothers, one could reason that it is because her child is male, and simply unable to bare children of his own. Having not experienced such a rash display of criticism, Reid’s concern is purely hypothetical at this point.
When asked how having grand-dogs compares to having grand-children when talking to her friends, Reid guesses, “I don’t know yet, but I think it’s going to be fine.” Following a pause, she tells us in detail, “my manager sits across from me, and every time I see his screen saver - it’s his granddaughter. Whenever he starts talking to me about her, I always end up telling him about my grand-dogs and you know what? They love it. They’re used to me being weird.”
Eccentricity may lend a hand to the whole grand-dog phenomena of course, describes Kitson, who says she too, talks about her grand-dogs on a frequent basis and while she has had no issues with anyone so far, adds “goodness knows what they say when I leave!” After all, it takes a woman of creativity and zest for life to own the title of grandma to a pup. While the language is fairly new, terms like grand-dog are catching on and can be seen on bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and T-shirts.
“At first it was... strange” Roy begins about the term, “but now I’m fine with it because I’ve been hearing it for about five years.” Not only fine with the term, Reid boasts “I love the term grand-dog, I think it’s adorable. A pet is part of the family either way - if you're going to leave them out in the yard then there is no point in having one.” She continues, “I even have my own third son, Roscoe. They are all part of the family, so I’m cool with it.” Kitson, who even refers to herself as “Gammy” to her grand-dogs, adds “I talk to them in my Gammy voice. I’ve been caught lots but it doesn’t embarrass me much. They know the name.”
And at the end of the day, what more could you ask for from a dear mother’s heart? Each retelling their journey as mothers’ of adult children, our interviewees began more or less expecting grandkids from their family, a concept thrust upon them by society as a whole. From there, our mothers heard the news of their children's’ decisions - each in their own way, and not only chose to accept their choices but learned to embrace the outcomes.
What this experience goes to show is that while none of us are born experts on the situations that arise in life, and certainly not the idea of grand-canines, all people can learn to accept the things they cannot change. Dogs, as usual, make potentially difficult scenarios much easier to go through, and that nothing in life compares to a mother’s love for her children. Except maybe the love of a pup, or two.
“I have grand-dogs.” Boasts Kitson. “Not just one, but many. I even have a step-grand-dog, and I try to treat each one of them as an individual. [These dogs] are a big part of my daughters’ lives, so of course, mine as well. I love each of them for who they are. They are a joy to me, and I could not be happier.”
Says Roy, in reaction to someone who would imply that her grand-dogs are not real grandchildren, “I would tell them that life is different for everyone, but that this is my reality; these dogs are now my grandkids.” “I would laugh at them.” Reid adds, in agreeance. “Clearly they don’t feel the same way about animals as I do. My favorite thing about [these dogs] is how much my son loves and cares for them. If they’re the type of person who doesn’t understand pets to that degree, then they’re not the kind of person whose opinion means anything to me.”
And like any doting grandmother, the love doesn’t end there. “Grand-dogs are like grandchildren” begins Reid, “they’re going to get different treatment and rules at grandma’s. And they’re going to get away with it too!” Things like sleeping in the human bed, flopping on the top of the couch cushion and eating lots of snacks are definitely on the agenda, says Reid adding “My favorite things to do with my grand-dogs are the things they’re not usually allowed to do at home. I know it’s bad, but I think they deserve a spoon of ice-cream or a little bite of bacon. You know, the things that will get your fur-grand-babies to love you.”
Kitson, on the other hand has learned to steer clear of faux-pas, she says, just like grandkids, “I love to get them special treats but can't step on too many toes as they are on organic, healthy stuff all the time. So I always try to get treats approved before giving them out.”
Roy too, comments that buying her grand-canines both new treats and toys, is “so much fun!” but that in Buddy’s case, the best time spent is just “sitting on the couch with him and giving him belly rubs. He loves that.”
And spending quality time with their grand-canines is something these mothers do not take for granted. “Oh! I love to babysit the grand-dogs!” blurts Reid, “I love slipping them little treats and curling up on the couch with them.” Just as a grandmother misses the pitter patter of little feet in her home, the sound of neatly trimmed puppy-nails and tail wags can too be longed for, when few and far in between. “I wish I could spend more time with them as a group and individually” begins Kitson, “but we all work and hike together when we can as a family.” Roy made sure to pipe up, “I love [my daughters'] dogs very much, and I miss them. And I’m very happy to have them in my life.” Now if that isn’t a grandmother’s love, we don’t know what is!