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The new dependents

Two years ago, a New York Post article called it “Generation Rex.”

The evolution of the American family has now come to this. Women want dogs more than children.In the past nine years, the birthrate has dropped nearly 10 percent while dog ownership, by just counting the popular small pooches, has increased by more than 6 million.“A dog is much less work, and I like to go out a lot,” said Sara Foster, 32, an equities trader on Wall Street. “And I don’t have to get a baby sitter.”So now dogs are becoming “a woman’s best friend.”Call it selfishness or just an inexplicable surge in canine captivity, but it appears that in many homes, when a new addition arrives, it has four legs and does its duty outside rather than in diapers.My wife and I own two dogs and we have two children. In our house, the dogs are pets, but I’ve seen many childless couples treat their dogs as if they were their children, and even take them on vacations.We all know that pets are needy, but they certainly don’t require the attention, responsibility and money required to raise kids.But what if our dogs become replacements for our children?Just for fun, allow me to jump into my weird world of imagination.John’s been out partying with his friends late — so late, he decides to sleep over his friend’s house. He returns home early the next morning. His dog, Tude (short for Attitude) waits at the door.“Where have you been all this time?” asks Tude with a snarl.“At my … wait a minute, I don’t have to answer to you,” John replies. “Do you need to go out?”“Too late for that,” says Tude, “I left you a present in the bedroom Oh, almost forgot. I ate that leftover pork you put in my bowl. Got me sick. That little pile is on the couch.”John is visibly upset. “Don’t you have to go … ?”“Not anymore, “ interrupts Tude. “Don’t slip on the puddle I made in the hall.”“What’s with you, Tude?” John asks angrily.“You can’t go away and leave me alone,” says the pooch. “You could be arrested.”“Arrested?”“Yep errr. And so it won’t happen again, I called the hotline for pet abuse. Mrs. Clark will be coming here tomorrow at 2 p.m. for an evaluation.”“Pet abuse? Are you kidding? You’re a full-grown dog and you’re not abused!”“John, I’m only 4 years old,” says Tude. “That’s negligence. You’d better get your act together or you’ll have to get the goldfish to jump out of his bowl to sit on your lap while you watch TV instead of me. I’m not kidding.”John begins to walk away.“There’s one other thing, John. You know that time I was in the yard and that cute stray miniature collie came along. Well, when you went into the garage for something, we started sniffing around and you know how it is, one thing leads to another.”John’s jaw drops.“She came to the back door last night. She’s pregnant, John. I told her she could live with us starting tonight and we can have the puppies right here in the kitchen.”“Well. I have news for you, my four-legged friend. I was with Julie last night. The girl I’ve been seeing. We’re getting married and we want to have children right away. And by the way, Julie’s allergic to dogs, so you, your collie friend and the puppies will have to live outside in the doghouse if you want to live here. And I’m not kidding!”With all seriousness now, the large increase in dog ownership and the decrease in the birthrate do make a statement.Someday, medical and veterinary insurance might be combined with an application that asks for dogs’ names where it says to list “other dependents.” After all, if the trend continues, veterinary schools will be busting at the seams with students while there will be less of a need for pediatricians.Author’s note: No dogs were harmed during the writing of this column. In fact, I patted my two Labs and gave them treats upon its completion.Rich Strack can be reached at