FEATURE — Moms are the greatest! They have a special knack for nurturing and caring that extends beyond just children. A study by the American Pet Products Association reveals 67% of U.S. households include a fur baby. In some homes, pets are the only babies in attendance, especially when it comes to millennials.
Tracy Wardrop, a lifelong resident of St. George, doesn’t have children, but said caring for Sebastian, her rescue dog, has a lot of the same responsibilities.
“He needs to have food, shelter and love. He needs to feel safe,” Wardrop said. “I have to entertain him, snuggle him, give him somewhere warm to sleep.”
Pets, like kids, have their own unique needs. Wardrop said because Sebastian came from a shelter, he has boundaries that she needs to respect. With love and patience, Wardrop has mothered Sebastian into the happy, healthy dog he is today.
“Through consistency, love and patience, his demeanor is entirely different than it was when I adopted him three years ago,” Wardrop said.
Like being a mother to humans, Wardrop said pets are a lifelong commitment. The payoff? Unconditional love from a furry friend who is always glad to see you.
Mothers of all stripes
Fur moms have big hearts. Many of them care for both pets and children, oftentimes holding down jobs in addition to their other responsibilities.
McKenzie Black is a fur mom, stepmom, a teacher at Pine View High School and a dance coach.
Black said her stepkids have an “amazing mother” so figuring out her role in their lives required some creative thinking. Getting a dog, which she named Nixon, helped bridge that gap.
“When we first got Nixon, I felt closer to being a mom,” Black said. “It made the holidays we didn’t have my stepkids or kids of my own more special and not as difficult.”
The Black-Swaney family has since added two more dogs to their repertoire. Black said her pets are treated like full-fledged family members, enjoying camping, hiking, four-wheeling and traveling.
“Every now and then, they get to join date night and even get treated to a Puppuccino from Starbucks,” Black said.
Love from fur babies has brought a lot of comfort to Black as she undergoes fertility treatments in the hopes of having her own children. The treatments have been emotionally heart-wrenching, leading to two miscarriages and two unsuccessful in vitro fertilization procedures. Black said the combination of stepkids and pets has propped her up during this difficult process.
“I love my stepkids and cherish the connection we do have. I am grateful they accept me as a bonus mom in their lives,” Black said. “I am grateful to be a fur mom because my dogs are truly the best antidepressant, so full of love and hope.”
Mothering those in need
Women don’t stop mothering even when their children have grown up and moved away.
For women like Michelle Gregory, being a mother is a lifelong undertaking. Gregory has two daughters, a stepson and seven grandkids. She’s also a fur mom to two standard poodles: Logan and Christy Brinkley. With no children living at home, Gregory said her dogs really stepped in to help her cope with the death of her husband.
“I don’t know how I would deal with his loss if it weren’t for these two dogs that are always here, always with me,” Gregory said. “I mother them and they mother me.”
Gregory extends that mothering to strangers in need. Prior to the pandemic, Gregory brought Logan and Christy Brinkley to see patients at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins. Both dogs are certified therapy animals. Gregory said the nurses and doctors enjoyed seeing her dogs just as much as the patients.
“I’m doing it because the dogs love it and I love it and everybody benefits from it,” Gregory said. “I really miss it.”
Gregory said standard poodles have hair similar to humans, making them hypoallergenic and safe to bring around patients.
“I think it’s a beautiful breed and I like the size of the animals,” Gregory said. “They’re the second most intelligent dogs and they’re very easy to train.”
Gregory is anxious to reunite her dogs with patients as soon as the hospitals’ restrictions for doing so are lifted. In the meantime, Gregory is teaching her grandkids to be dog handlers, showing them how to reward the animals with treats when they successfully follow a command.
Pawsitively perfect love
Whether it’s people or pets, mothers offer the sweetest love and support. In a single day, they are able to perform a myriad of tasks designed to bring comfort and joy to the lives of those they care for. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
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