Lessons My Pup Taught Me About Parenthood

Ashley Strahm
8 min readSep 20, 2021

Animals have a way of exposing our inadequacy.

Before all of you parents begin ranting about how keeping an animal alive isn’t even remotely as hard as raising a child —


That’s the reason why I’m writing this piece, just like why I wrote this one.

It’s because of my reverence and appreciation for the miracles that are dedicated, committed parents that I remain childfree. Rudy (our little, neurotic Schnoodle above) is as close to motherhood as I’ll get. I know that taking care of a pet doesn’t even scratch the surface of how challenging I imagine it must be to parent a child… and yet this experience has been the perfect degree of difficult. It is the very experience of living with this animal that assures me I’d never survive being a mother.

Thank God for dogs.

My sweet husband is a cat person. He loves seeing food magically disappear from a little kitty bowl, with the only evidence of feline friendship being the short hairs that clung to his t-shirts in childhood. He loved the occasional pet and purr interaction. Drool, barking, and potty training felt all too intense. Fair, I guess.

I grew up with incredibly unique dogs. A whip-smart Akita-lab mix, a wolflike Siberian husky who served as a plush, warm, companion in cold New Jersey months, a Yorkshire Terrier, or diva, depending on the day. A couple of years into marriage, I’d convince Cody to rescue a schnauzer mix named Dempsey who was more cat than dog. He refused to play fetch, laid on the couch for hours on end, and rarely made a sound. “He’s four,” a woman at the shelter announced. A vet visit after bringing him home revealed he was closer to ten. Multiple visits, tests, and lots of tears later, we finally found out the cause of his apathy: he was in the midst of aggressive kidney failure. We lost him eight months later.

Our first dog together, Dempsey.

That explained the deep intuition I’d felt from the first few hours I’d held him. He was a different dog than the ones I’d grown up with, but I knew something else was wrong. I was stressed every moment of those eight months. It…

Ashley Strahm

Jersey roots, Durham fruit. Committed to justice, enthralled by stories, and inspired by an equitable future for us all.