What’s in a Name?

A friend from, Fit’N’Furry, another lodging facility, recently forwarded me a blog post (Disowning the Term “Pet Owner”) in which a veterinarian frets about what to call herself vis-a-vis her relationship with her pet. She explains why she has rejected owner, guardian, and mother and settled on “care giver.”

At Pet Camp we too moved away from “owner” when referring to people who are lucky enough to have pets in their lives a long time ago. And while many in the animal care world have long feared that using the term “guardian” would open us up to increased legal responsibilities, we didn’t like guardian because it was too cold.  It made us sound like someone the court appointed to feed and love our pets. I suspect that we understand why she selected “care giver” to explain her relationship with her pet but we reject this solution too as it makes it sound like the relationship between a person and a pet is one-direction: the person provides care for the pet.

Personally while I know that I do provide care for my dog (and of course all the campers at Pet Camp) I also know that they provide care for me, maybe not in the same concrete manner but certainly in an emotional way.  At work we use the term “pet parent” when referring to the human client (the pet client is, of course, a “camper”) and that generally goes over ok with folks. But the more I think about it the more I think it might not matter what we call ourselves.

Kids call their parents by all sorts of names: mom, dad, pop, mommy (and lots of others Splash in Pet Camp's1979 VW Super Beatleonce they become teenagers). The word they use is less important than the sentiment and I think the same is true with what we call ourselves in our relationship with our pets. I for one know that Splash is my dog and I am her human. It is very much a co-dependent relationship and I am very proud that as much as I know I love and care for her, she does the same for me.

That said, what do you think? Does it matter how you refer to yourself and if you had the choice what term would you want used?

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. From somebody who works in the same business, as long as the terminology is thoughtful, (its not just ‘dog owner’), and consistent among the entire staff, its all cool!

  2. Since pets are family members and sometimes considered our best friends, perhaps we can use the term “best friend”? Then the term works both ways … this article gives you something to think about.

  3. I’ve been my dog’s “human” ever since I got her more than a decade ago. I applaud your choice, Mark — glad to hear there are others who think mommy/daddy/parent, owner, care giver just don’t capture that special relationship between dogs and their humans.

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