At a dog adoption event last weekend, the governor’s wife, Ann McCrory, explained her philosophy about training dogs. She said “consistency is key.”
“It’s no different from raising children,” she said, “making sure they eat properly and don’t go into the kitchen like my husband and take chocolate chip cookies by the handful.”
Now, I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs. McCrory; it can’t be easy being an introvert in such a high-profile position not of your choosing. I also know this might have made sense in its particular context. Yet with all due respect for Mrs. McCrory, she has no experience with raising children and has no real idea what she’s talking about.
Back during a May public hearing on Raleigh’s dogs-in-parks problem, one speaker ended her statement with this gem. Whatever points she had just made in her statement flew completely out of my mind:
“Remember, all dogs are people in innocent little fur coats.”
Um, no they’re not. They’re dogs. They’re not people. Dogs. They’re not the same. Trust me.
It always bothers me when I hear a dog owner compare training a dog to raising children. I get it that dog owners love their pets, and I understand that not everyone chooses to be (or can be) a parent. Hey, I love my dog, too. I just understand what role he plays in the family (and I make him aware of that, too).
As P.J. O’Rourke says, “Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.” Being a parent is the hardest thing anyone can do. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Kelly and I are very fortunate to have two wonderful, thriving kids, but even so it’s incredibly challenging knowing how to bring them up. There are a million guides out there about parenting and every one of them is worthless. In parenting, what worked yesterday doesn’t necessarily work today. Kids can cleverly reason themselves around any grand scheme and the goalposts move so often it makes you dizzy. Upon becoming a father, I soon realized that parenting would tax every one of my leadership skills to the maximum. How do you convince a child to make good choices, and do so willingly? How much guidance is too much, and how many knocks do you let them earn for themselves?
As a parent, every day is a new day. There isn’t a day that I don’t think on my feet, making it up as I go. It’s a huge responsibility to make decisions on behalf of others and it sobers you up fast.
I don’t fault folks for not having kids, and I don’t fault them for loving their pets. Live and let live, I say, but please don’t tell me that training your dog to behave is the same as getting kids to behave. It’s not even close.