In search of ponies: Pets don’t leave nest

Sharna Johnson

Finally it’s here — Graduation!

For the last few months I’ve listened to the buzz from all the kids — as they try to figure out everything from picking a college to arranging the money, getting the prom dress and mailing those announcements — and now it’s here.

As happy as I am for them all, I have to admit, the whole dynamic has me looking at my furry friends with a little more tenderness these days.

And it got me thinking about the similarities, and differences, between kids and animals.

You spend the first few years waiting excitedly for the day you can put away the diaper bag and listen for the flush.

And the idea of mom getting to wear a white shirt or leaving the scissors on the coffee table without resulting blood shed or impromptu haircuts starts to rank pretty high on the list of dreams.

Even the thought of letting them play outside without having to eagle-eye them the whole time starts to look like a mini-vacation.

But while nothing says “push me out of the nest” quite like a teenager, at some point all those dreams do come true and all of a sudden you miss the little hand prints on your shirt and the Cheerios on the wall.

Enter Fido. (For the sake of simplicity in this comparative exploration, I think I’ll stick with the dog but feel free to insert the animal of your choice).

The great thing about dogs is they are like kids that never grow up.

They may have a rebellious moment here or there, but overall, if you’re good to them, and often even if you’re not, they don’t develop a separate agenda that steers them away from you.

In fact, their plans really don’t extend much further than “Hey, what’s that over there?”

They don’t go to college, they don’t want to have their own apartment or to live in the city because you forced them to live in the country.

All they want is you and they are there for the long haul, come what may.

The trade off?

Sometimes, even with the most beloved dog and no matter how old they get, you are looking at perpetual child-proofing, days where you wonder what went wrong with potty training and never putting down the apron string (I mean leash).

And depending on how many dogs you have in a lifetime, every 10 years or so you have to go through the painful experience of watching gray hairs appear and hearing and vision disappear until you’re eventually faced with a difficult decision between their suffering or your desire to have them by your side.

Ironically, some of the same things your kids will eventually have to experience assuming you treated them right and sometimes even if you didn’t.

I guess when it comes down to it, having human kids means learning to let go (and sometimes push) while having furry kids means you get to call the shots forever and keep a grip on that leash like an umbilical chord.

Of course that is with “forever” being about a decade and “control” being as subjective as any chewing habits that may surface.

I guess after this weekend is over, while the graduates are out selecting bedding sets for their dorm rooms and trying to earn a little extra cash before D-day, it’s as good a time as any to suggest that walk to Fido.

Or perhaps you already have their bags packed and waiting at the door, ready to push them over the edge of the nest.

Just remember one of the other minor distinctions between furry and human kids: If you push a human kid out of the nest they eventually learn to fly, even if there’s an awkward quasi-adult phase in there somewhere.

Push your furry kids out on the other hand, and animal control will probably bring them home — assuming they don’t find their way back on their own.

Oh well, that’s OK. What good is an empty nest anyway?