Barking Blondes: Furkids

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

MM skateboard1 300x212 Barking Blondes: FurkidsWe both met whilst filming a BBC documentary about Furkids. This is a noun in the New Oxford Dictionary describing a child substitute that is an animal.

In our case our Furkids are our bull breeds Molly and Matilda. That’s not to say that we dress them in bonnets, push them in prams or have them christened. We do however, nurture, fret, worry and mother them. Like many doting parents, we have made allowances for them in our wills.

Most of this is done with a certain amount of self consciousness. In our book, Barking Blondes, we explain that we are free from child bearing stretch marks, having never felt the desire to give birth. The majority of women feel a strong need to procreate. We don’t.

Do we prefer dogs to children? This is the most asked question on the book tour.

Our response is always the same.

It’s not a competition. It was never “let’s forego kids and raise dogs”.

It was more a complete absence of maternal instinct.

We were very interested then to read this week of the latest bit of research that shows the bond between canines and their owners is more like that of an infant to its mother or father. Scientists in Austria have proved that dogs behave like children when left alone in an environment with a stranger. This mirrored a similar study conducted on children. Dogs, like children, were less likely to play, interact or relax without their ‘parent’ in the room. Yet both dogs and children were confident when their parent was present, proving the psychological “secure base effect”.

Other studies have shown that the happy hormone called Oxytocin is released in our brains when we’re stroking our own dog. Breast feeding mothers also experience a happy hormone boost. This is more proof to back up the Furkid theory. Thankfully Molly & Matilda were both weaned at eight weeks when they left their breeder.

Dogs and their humans have been forming strong bonds for over 30,000 years and during this evolution dogs have become extraordinarily intuitive. They’re born bilingual able to interpret our expressions and read our moods. Some say the bond between dogs and their owners is like an elastic band – a ‘telepathic connection’ that’s as strong as the umbilical cord.

One person who emailed our radio show confessed, having read the research, that after two failed IVF attempts she and her partner had adopted a whippet and now “our family is complete”. Well, we wish them luck because, unlike children, dogs don’t flee the nest to start out on their own or crash the car.

However, they will drain your bank account and cause deep worry as well as huge delight. Our two dogs bring decisions and life choices just like any child: healthcare, diet? What about extra-curricular hobbies? Days out? Dog-sitters? What friends should they meet and so on… the only difference is dogs are eternally grateful for whatever you provide. They’re as happy with a cardboard box for a bed if that’s their lot, they don’t demand expensive luxuries or the latest smart phone.

When your dog does well at training class or wins a rosette, there’s that pride swelling up like a parent’s on sports day! We trust our dogs with our deepest secrets and mourn for them often more than a distant great Aunt. We would choose scooping up poop over changing a nappy any day! Through our ‘girls’ we’ve displayed some nurturing and maternal instincts that continue to surprise us.

‘Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb & Jo Good, published by Hamlyn, £12.99

The Barking Hour, every Thursday, BBC London 94.9FM

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  • Gizwiz

    I too was never broody for children. I think, like most women, we just grow up and assume that one day we’ll get married and have children but for increasing numbers of women this doesn’t happen…..for many different reasons. Like Molly and Matilda my little cat is my furkid. She bought out my motherly, nurturing instincts and is spoilt rotten – even has a birthday party each year for all her aunts and uncles to attend! Of course some people really don’t understand and can even be downright sanctimonious and holier than though because they HAVE used their own wombs and believe that those of us who ‘only’ have furkids are to be pitied for never having REAL children of our own. I for one pity people who will never know that love for a pet.

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