Are Harry and Meghan prac­tis­ing for par­ent­hood with their new pooch?

Watch­ing how your other half cares for a new pet can be an in­sight into how they would cope with a baby, says Katie Byrne

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - LIFESTYLE -

Two dis­tinct groups of royal watcher have emerged in the last month. The first group are ex­am­in­ing even the faintest sug­ges­tion of swelling around the Duchess of Sus­sex’s waist­line while spec­u­lat­ing about the fu­ture royal baby’s name. The sec­ond group are quite sat­is­fied with the size of Meghan and Harry’s grow­ing brood. They spend an in­or­di­nate amount of time look­ing at pic­tures of Meghan’s res­cue dog, Guy the Bea­gle, and they were dis­pro­por­tion­ally ex­cited when the cou­ple adopted a black Labrador last month.

The name and gen­der of the dog has been the sub­ject of in­tense spec­u­la­tion. For now we know that it’s a girl whose name may or may not be ‘Oz’.

It’s hardly a stand­ing on the steps of St Mary’s Hospi­tal mo­ment but, for dog lovers, it’s more than enough.

We shouldn’t be sur­prised to hear that Meghan and Harry have wel­comed a new pet into their home dur­ing the hon­ey­moon pe­riod. Kate and William did the very same thing when they brought home an English cocker spaniel just a few months af­ter their wed­ding.

Be­sides, this is what mil­len­ni­als do now — well, at least ac­cord­ing to a study which found that 44% of this gen­er­a­tional de­mo­graphic con­sider their pets to be prac­tise for par­ent­hood.

This co­hort aren’t choos­ing pets over par­ent­hood. No, they’re in­ten­tion­ally po­si­tion­ing pet own­er­ship be­fore par­ent­hood — and they might even be on to some­thing.

Be­tween doggy day­care and puppy obe­di­ence classes, this gen­er­a­tion are spend­ing more than ever on their pets.

Older gen­er­a­tions may baulk at this seem­ingly indulgent out­lay, but they ought to re­mem­ber that these ex­penses are teach­ing mil­len­ni­als lessons about mod­ern par­ent­ing — and re­duc­ing the risk of hy­per­ven­ti­la­tion when re­ceiv­ing their first crèche bill.

The ben­e­fits don’t stop there. In many ways, pet own­er­ship re­veals a per­son’s fu­ture par­ent­ing style, which isn’t al­ways in har­mony with their part­ner’s.

It’s a red flag when a per­mis­sive pet owner lets a dog sleep at the end of the bed while his dis­ci­plinar­ian bed­fel­low won­ders why Buster can’t sleep in the ken­nel at the end of the gar­den.

It’s an­other red flag when one per­son gets left with all the work. The di­vi­sion of labour is a flash­point is­sue in re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially among new par­ents. Cou­ples who own pets be­fore they start fam­i­lies can count them­selves lucky that they get some early in­sight on this mat­ter.

They make a men­tal note when their beloved walks past a dirty lit­ter tray. They tally up the num­ber of times they get left with the dog walk­ing or groom­ing. And whether they care to ad­mit it or not, they won­der — if only for a few mo­ments — if this be­hav­iour is in­dica­tive of their part­ner’s ap­proach to child-rear­ing.

The way cou­ples ne­go­ti­ate the choices around pet own­er­ship can also be quite telling. The cat-ver­sus-dog de­bate is one thing; the res­cue dog-ver­sus-pedi­gree dog de­bate is quite an­other. Pet own­er­ship can ini­ti­ate un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions and shine a spot­light on the ar­eas where a cou­ple’s val­ues dif­fer.

It could be a cap­i­tal­ism ver­sus so­cial­ism stand-off: “It’s far from de­signer dog col­lars I was raised!” Or it could be an eth­i­cal dilemma when the har­row­ing sub­ject of eu­thana­sia is first broached.

Ei­ther way, pet own­ers are judged for their choice, just as par­ents are. Peo­ple will de­cide that you’re too strict or too le­nient, that your cat is too thin or your dog is too fat.

This will frus­trate first-time pet own­ers in the be­gin­ning, but they’ll be glad to hear that pets help cul­ti­vate al­most be­atific pa­tience.

Af­ter all, the mo­ment your new puppy de­cides that your stiletto is a fan­tas­tic chew toy isn’t all that dif­fer­ent from the mo­ment your tod­dler dis­cov­ers the DIY decor joys of Su­docrem.

Like­wise, the day your dog de­cides to go on strike and stop walk­ing mid­way through your Sun­day stroll isn’t a mil­lion miles away from a tod­dler’s tantrum in a bank queue.

In ei­ther case, we don’t stay an­gry for very long be­cause the so-called ‘baby schema’ of large eyes, chubby cheeks and soft tex­ture mo­ti­vates us to care for young mam­mals, whether it’s a purring kit­ten or a cry­ing tod­dler.

It might seem like a crude par­al­lel, but there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween pet own­er­ship and par­ent­hood — and this gen­er­a­tion is learn­ing from them.

NEW AD­DI­TION: the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex have a new dog as well as Meghan’s res­cue dog Guy (in­set)

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