Dogs bring a totally different dimension to our lives

Old dog on kitchen floor

Bella first presented with very vague symptoms, including a poor appetite and occasional vomiting - Credit: Shutterstock

Anyone who suggests that a dog or cat can take the place of a child has clearly had neither.

Whether the Pope has a Tiddles or Fido for company has never been revealed but accusing our world of topsy turvy priorities where people substituted children for pets strongly indicates his white cassock remains immaculately pawprint free and the Vatican is a pet-free zone.

If he is petless, as well as childless, he’s missing out on another of life’s great joys and his (childless) life could be greatly enriched by the companionship and unconditional love of a dog.

Choosing to own dogs and cats rather than become parents “takes away our humanity,” he said, suggesting anyone who chose pet ownership over parenthood was selfish.

Setting aside the Pope, and every Catholic priest’s, vow of celibacy and inability to speak from the standpoint of parenthood, I’ve yet to meet anyone anywhere who has actively decided: “I’m not going to have children, I will buy a dog (or cat, rabbit or ferret) instead.”

Making it either/or/swapping like for like indicates a Pontiff wildly out of touch, and insensitive.

Money, circumstances, health, environmental drivers, inability, lifestyle, timing, career-choices, housing, genetic conditions…the list goes on are all reasons why people choose not to become parents, as well as no desire to have children in their lives.

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Dissing animal ownership, at a time when dog ownership is soaring and it’s become a dog’s world is misjudged and ill-informed, and clearly from someone who has never owned one.

Suggesting selfishness sails close to sexism too as it’s the women who have, and bear most responsibility and sacrifice for, the children.

Fifteen years ago, I was a dog doubter, pushing away friends’ slobbering hounds, wincing at poo picking and rolling my eyes when anyone had to cut short a long lunch to “get back for the dog.”

Then, after a fervently executed campaign by a seven-year-old, Leo bounced and yapped into our lives, an eight-week-old Golden Retriever who, in his 14 and a half years, has brought so much to all our lives, I now sympathise with people who have not experienced that joy.

Pets were always a no-no when I was growing up. No dog was permitted leave hairs and bring grubbiness in my father’s home.

My experience of dogs was purely in passing when my younger son claimed to be desperate for a dog when he was five. After two years’ pestering, studying dog breed books, detailed short-lists, and extensive research, I caved in.

Now, with Leo well into his twilight years, choosing that noisiest naughtiest brother of the litter of six in 2007 was one of the best decisions ever, and one I will always thank Number Two son for shaping. It’s been a shared family experience like no other, while deeply personal for each of us at the same time.

Dogs – and cats, if you’re that way inclined - bring a totally different dimension to life, the caring experiences, teaching children real responsibility for another being, bonding siblings and endless laughs and memories.

The huge physical and psychological benefits of a dog stretch so much further, helping depression, loneliness, and isolation.

Stroking dogs evoke calmness and perspective. They offer solace and safety to children at difficult times. Dogs have the power to unlock the world for some autistic children.

Intuitive, intelligent, funny, and communicative, a dog becomes an integral family member, with superpowers to get children out into the fresh air to get exercise easier than any nagging parent can.

Dogs help their owners become more rounded people by offering a new perspective. We need to learn to understand how dogs feel, what they need, when they hurt by learning their language. They make us smile, and the feeling of arriving home to an empty house at the end of the day to a wagging tail welcome of unconditional love and pure joy is unequalled.

You’re never alone with a pet.

Children learn to understand death and loss through losing pets and the circle of life.

Animals - dogs, cats, horses, alpacas - will be the best family investment that, approached responsibly, will be repaid in spades. The Vatican urgently needs a Labrador.

Preferring dogs to people is understandable

It’s been a week of people of influence, wealth and position behaving like the rules, sensitivities, and boundaries the rest of us live within simply don’t apply to them.

Entitlement, arrogance, divorced from reality and contempt has been demonstrated by the government, one of the world’s leading sportsmen and a prince.

It’s depressing, especially when flouting the rules involves bare-faced dishonesty

Boris Johnson admitted he was at a bring your own booze party (Westminster Tesco Express, it’s reported) for 100-odd during lockdown.

How could he face people like Louise Bennett who was allowed just 10 people at her 14-year-old son Fred’s funeral and whose brother could only see his brother dying from cancer through a window?

Then there’s and Novak Djokovic, who admitted he knew he was Covid positive at a photoshoot and removed his mask claiming, “an error of judgment”. He denied he lied that he had not travelled outside Serbia in the fortnight before he arrived in Australia saying his “support team” said no when they should have said yes after was photographed in Spain.

Now a judge has rejected Prince Andrew’s attempt to have a sexual assault lawsuit against him thrown out.

Preferring dogs to people is completely understandable.