My wife and I are the parents of three adult children who, to date, have not done the one thing we ask of them. Despite all the stars — in terms of life-partners — being aligned, none of our kids has yet managed to produce even a single grandchild.
Meanwhile, we’re surrounded by a peer group (friends, family) whose sole preoccupation and, indeed, reason for being is the many adorable small people that their own, obviously superior, children have produced. Of course, I can’t wait to hear about your special grandpa/grandson Sunday at the zoo. Please tell me in endless and excruciating detail.
Not to be competitive about something as sweet and life-changing as grandchildren, but really? You may have a 2-year-old grandchild whose smile can light up the cosmos, but have you met my dogs, who, unlike mere human toddlers, are content to sit with me all day while I obsess over my own work, asking only for the occasional tummy-rub or ear-scratch?
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Let’s not beat around the bush. Grandkids may be wonderful, but are they really better than pups? I put the question to a panel of experts that included most of the people who live in my house, and we came up with a scientific study, designed around four key factors, as follows:
No problem with picky eaters
Culinary: My dogs are happy — more than happy — to eat the same boring out-of-a-bag kibble every day, twice a day. They hardly care if their dog bowls are not cleaned regularly. And nothing gives them more pleasure than jumping up and catching slices of apple I throw at them while I’m making breakfast for myself.
By contrast, grandchildren of any age tend to be considerably more difficult, annoying, and flat-out ungrateful when it comes to dining. Their food has to be oh-so nutritious, sanitary and safe, according to their overcautious little mommies and daddies. Peas have to be mushed. Pears must be run through the Cuisinart. Chances are the wee ones will have nut allergies, requiring you to fumigate your pantry every few months. And even if the meal you’ve prepared would get four stars from Michelin, the little monster is likely to prefer pulverized hot dogs.
Verdict: Advantage, dogs.
Make your pet Insta-famous
Social media: Dogs were made for social media. They don’t care if you take their picture wearing a silly hat at Easter, eating matzah at Passover, or rolling around in the mud. They’re never camera shy. Even better, once your fur-baby passes through the incredibly cute puppy stage, it will continue to look basically exactly the same until it dies in your basement.
Grandchildren, by contrast, change constantly, beginning with the unbelievably sweet, almost-small-enough-to-fit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand newborn phase; to the roly-poly, angelic, babbling toddler stage; to the gapped-tooth, floppy-haired, wise-guy, did-he-really-say-that? 8-year-old phase; and on through the extremely awful pre-teen and slightly better full-teen stage; and then, holy moly, the kid is simultaneously growing a beard, sprouting zits, and going bald.
Verdict: Close but advantage, dogs.
Walking: Good for you, good for them
Exercise: Dogs love to go out for their daily constitutional. It’s good exercise for you, good exercise for them. They get to do their business, sniff around fire hydrants, pick up trash. Dogs attract pretty young women who would never pay any attention to you otherwise. The problem occurs when your dog runs into another dog and starts barking like crazy or chases after bicycles and your neighbor in an electric wheelchair.
Grandchildren can give you plenty of exercise as well: You can roll around with them on the floor, at least until your back goes into spasm or you break your hip. You can also take the little pasha out for a spin in his stroller, which certainly allows you to stretch your legs, but could someone please remind me exactly what good sitting there is supposed to do the kid?
Verdict: Dogs win again.
A lifetime of love, on the cheap
Finances: Unless you have one of those Westminster-best-in-show purebred Salukis, dogs are pretty cheap to maintain. Twice a year, you take them to vet, and if they’re healthy (and I hope yours are), it doesn’t cost that much.
Even if they need to attend dog obedience school, it’s not like you’re shelling out for private school tuition, orchestra seats at “The Lion King,” a baseball signed by the 2016 Chicago Cubs, or any of the other little “extras” that parents sometimes ask Grandma and Grandpa to “help out” with.
And even if, on occasion, you spring for a marrow bone from the Shoprite, so what? Your dog will love you even more than he already does, if that’s even possible.
Verdict: Dogs, paws down.
So, there you have it. According to my double-blind, peer-reviewed, National Science Foundation-funded study, dogs are better than grandkids, but only by a fairly large margin.
I wish my friends and relatives well, and hope they enjoy spending time with their delightful little descendants. For the time being, I am more than happy to hang out with my mutts.
Nevertheless, I invite my grown children, if and when they feel the urge, to consider the possibility of proving me wrong.
Stuart P. Green is a distinguished professor of law at Rutgers School of Law.