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I Loved My Dog So Much, I Named My Son After Him

Photograph by Getty Images

There was an essay circulating recently by a woman who was bothered by people who referred to their dogs as their babies. She insisted there is no comparison, that a dog is never going to be like a real baby and we should all stop calling our dogs our "kids." I sort of get where she's coming from, having had a menagerie of pets, including a dog, before I had two kids. And yet, I think she's wrong. I think you can love a dog as much as a person, can find as much joy in caring for them (and being loved by them) and can mourn them with your whole heart when they are gone. I know I have.

RELATED: Is Owning a Dog Just Like Having a Kid?

My beloved dog Henry was a 15-year companion who meant as much to me as any human person in my life. He was some sort of Labrador and terrier mix, a blond dog with a fluffy tail who only came to about knee height, but would take on a dog twice his size.

We went through a lot, Henry and me. He was there for me during my husband's long navy deployments, through a miscarriage, a hurricane and two long-distance moves. He kept me company, he made me feel safe when I was alone (his fierce bark scared more than one UPS delivery person off my porch). And I was there for him when he got cancer; I took care of him post-surgery, took him on walks and to vet appointments, comforted him when he was afraid of the vacuum cleaner and thunderstorms and let him sleep in my bed (or anywhere else he wanted).

That's the great thing about love. There's enough to go around, whether it's for a baby or a puppy.

He was an awesome dog and we adored him. So when our first son was born when Henry was 13 and had already been through one bout of cancer and was starting to show signs of both recurring cancer and senility, my husband and I joked we should name the baby after the dog. You know, like Indiana Jones taking his dog's name as his nickname.

In the end, we settled on giving my oldest son two middle names, with his second middle name being Henry. Henry loved his baby brother—and that's what we called my oldest human son, Henry's baby brother—and would sit near the baby anytime we put him on the floor. When the baby began to crawl, Henry would follow him around like a proud papa. He was sweet and gentle with the baby, though he'd had no experience with kids or babies in his life (much like me). If we'd had kids earlier in Henry's life, there is no doubt in my mind he would have been as good and loyal a friend to my kids as he was to my husband and me.

Henry was put to sleep shortly after his 15th birthday, when he'd deteriorated to the point that he would walk into a corner of a room and wasn't able to find his way out. I was seven months pregnant with my second son at the time, and my oldest son was just 19 months old. But though my youngest never met Henry and my oldest probably can't remember him, they both talk about how much they miss Henry. I'm sure that's a combination of the pictures we have and the stories we tell, but it makes me both sad and happy that Henry is still with us, in spirit.

RELATED: When Your Dog Is No Longer Your Baby

We got another dog when my youngest was a year old, a beagle/boxer who was dumped at the animal shelter when she was 2 years old. We named her Clementine, and though she is the dog who came after we had kids, she is no less our child than Henry was. We call her the boys' sister and she follows them around, plays chase with them, and sleeps under the beds and in their closets. If the boys are outside, she has to be outside. If they are curled up on the couch watching cartoons, she is lying nearby. She is as much a part of our family as Henry was, and I'm so glad she's a part of our life.

No, she's not a human child, but I don't know that she's aware of that, especially since we can—and do—love her like one. And I think that's OK. That's the great thing about love. There's enough to go around, whether it's for a baby or a puppy.

Image via Kristina Wright

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