I don’t have children. My Mom has Alzheimer’s, and even before that, she had a lot of mental health issues so we weren’t close. Loving her and being loved by her didn’t feel safe. So Mother’s Day has been a strange day for me my whole life. There’s no card that says “Happy Mother’s Day! I wish you were different, Mom.” For much of my life, I felt like Mother’s Day didn’t belong to me because there was no motherhood to celebrate.
I met Gunny, my soul mate chocolate Lab, when I was 33 years old. Gunny wasn’t an easy puppy. I certainly didn’t feel like I was being a good “mom” to him – if his behavior was any reflection of my mothering skills! But over time, I got better and he got better. We got better as we opened each other up to trust and love. By the time Gunny was seven years old, he had broken open my heart in a way that I didn’t know was possible. He taught me to love with my whole heart and eventually, as importantly, how to accept love. Our hearts were safe with each other.
I added other dogs to my life over the next 25 years. I loved them all, and I love my current dog Beau so much. I know that I loved them unconditionally and more fully because of what I learned from Gunny. I learned that I can love anyone, regardless of species; and I can receive full-hearted love from anyone, as well. To me, Mother’s Day should honor someone who has loved you with their whole heart, whether it be an aunt, friend, mother, dog, cat, or horse.
So far as Beau is concerned, I’m his Mom. He knows that I love him with all my heart and that I’d do anything for him. I’m not pretending that he’s a human child when I say I’m his Mom. I’m saying to the world that I love him and accept the responsibility of caring for him and helping him throughout his life. That is as much or more than many people who are genetically related can say.
I’ve come to believe that “motherhood” or “fatherhood” have more to do with one’s ability to open themselves up to unimaginable love than genetics. I have no time for someone who thinks that I “miss out” on knowing what love is because I don’t have children. It’s as out of line as me telling someone with three kids that they don’t know what love is until they have a dog! Love is love. Period.
If you’re a Mom, to anyone of any species, celebrate giving love and being loved on Mother’s Day. Heck, celebrate it every day. As Gunny would tell you, there’s nothing more important than love. It deserves to be celebrated. Always.