Pets or Grandkids: Who Do You Love More?

After a recent family get-together, a friend posted a message on Facebook to guests who had been visitors to her home. Her comment read: “ If you’re a guest in my home, remember you’re the guest. My pets live here; you don’t. If you don’t want animal fur on your clothes, don’t come. Remember, it’s called ‘fur-niture.’”

Pet lovers reading her blurb rejoiced silently at her straightforward comments.

There are differing opinions, of course, depending on whether or not you are a pet lover/owner. And, when pets and grandchildren are combined, opinions can become heated arguments between you and the grandchildren’s parents.

Lydia and Tim of Wingham, Ontario are pet lovers with a small dog of their own. Their daughter and her husband have two large dogs as well as a toddler and a newborn. “We have a very small house and when they come for Sunday dinner with the children and both dogs, it’s chaos,” says Tim. “Our living room becomes a zoo with the toddler playing with toys, the infant gurgling in his seat and the three dogs chasing one another through the room, stopping occasionally to lick the baby’s face. We finally asked them to please leave the dogs at home.”

It’s a source of even more confrontation for grandparents who are allergic or simply not pet lovers. Fran of Fredericton, who also has an allergy to pets, says “When my kids and grandkids come with their dog, I spend the next day scrubbing chair legs where the dog has marked his territory. I thought I raised my son to have more consideration.”

People like Fran with allergies can take medication and be prepared in their own homes. And certainly Fran can arm herself with medication before visiting her son’s home. “But it would be much nicer if they kept the dog in another room when I visit or bath the dog or at least clean the house,” she says. For Fran, the potential for developing asthma is a serious concern and while she wants to spend time with her grandchildren, she wants to suggest they leave the dog at home when they visit her or board their pet when they come for an overnight stay.

There is also the potential for conflict when your pet is not accustomed to children. Older pets often don’t adjust well to children, especially young children who want to poke them, squeeze them or pull their tails. George of Kirkland Lake says “my cat retreats into the back of my closet and stays there until my grandkids are gone.” His children don’t have pets and don’t understand George’s love for his cat. “Since my wife died, I have lived alone and my cat is a vital part of my life,” he says.

There is also the potential that an animal can bite or scratch a child. Keeping your pet out of sight, as George does, is a solution that works for everyone.

I have several guests who come to my cottage in the summer and bring their pets. One couple brought their dog and allowed it to terrorize my cat, but then bellowed at my grandson when he wanted to pat their dog while he ate his food. They won’t be invited back, or I may summon the courage to ask them to leave their dog at a kennel next time. Another couple brings their dog and cat and expect their pets to have the same guestly manners as they do. They’re a pleasure to entertain.

Perhaps the solution is this: Pet owners should expect the same good behavior from their pets when they are invited as guests themselves, especially in the homes of non-pet owners. On the flip side, if you’re not a pet lover, don’t be a martyr and agree to let people bring their pets. If you do let them come, ‘suck it up’ as my teenaged grandson says.