How to tell if you're a true 'pet parent'

Bottom line: when you are a pet parent, you've made a commitment for the life of that pet.

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  • | 11:38 a.m. April 23, 2014
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • Opinion
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Today, for many of us, our pets are our family – our furry children. Many more single men and women and childless couples make pets part of their families. In fact, more than 80 percent of people view their pets as family members. Pets are more dependent on us than their two-legged non-furry counterparts, and we want them to grow, flourish and live a wonderfully long and happy life. I’ve heard people use the words “pet parent” and “pet owner” interchangeably. While they may seem like the same thing, in our view, they’re not. So what is the difference between a pet parent and a pet owner? Here’s some examples, some silly and some serious!

True pet parents:

• Form true, deep, and lasting personal attachments with their pets.

• Talk to their dogs as if they were human family members! In a recent survey, 77 percent of people admit to talking to their dogs.

• Celebrate their dog’s birthdays, often complete with birthday parties and presents.

• May buy Christmas gifts and put up stockings for their pet.

• Spend time with their dog.

• Never, ever consider giving up an animal just because they become inconvenient, too much trouble, or older.

• Believe that compassionate and positive training will bring out the best in their dog. Dog parents know training is not just to prevent destructive behavior, but understand that it also provides intellectual stimulation.

• Are knowledgeable about their pet’s world – training, toys, food/nutrition, exercise, and health issues.

• Are proud of him/her and will do most anything to ensure their physical, mental and emotional health.

• Can read their dog’s feelings to know when something just isn’t right and take action to find out what may be wrong.

• Willingly stand up for the voiceless.

• Know when it’s time to say “goodbye,” and honor that.

The list is endless and everyone, I’m sure, can add another thought. Bottom line: when you are a pet parent, you’ve made a commitment for the life of that pet. And in return, you’ll never receive more love and devotion from any living being than you will from your pet.

Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and the co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat Canine Health & Fitness Center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit or