Special to msnbc.com
updated 8/10/2007 4:43:24 PM ET 2007-08-10T20:43:24

More and more Americans are thinking of their pets as members of the family, as Lauren Slater’s story about her relationships with her dogs, husband and children illustrated. But some, including Slater’s husband (early in their marriage, at least) and several MSNBC.com readers, object to the idea of a four-legged child.

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“I just find it very sad that the world has gone nuts over dogs,” writes a grandmother from Plano, Texas. “When I think of all the humans who need love and care, and I think of the millions/billions of people going and acting crazy/nuts in love with dogs and cats, I just don't get it. Animals are OK, but that is all they are — animals.”

But many readers sided with Slater, explaining how love for pets has enriched their lives and relationships.

“Animals have always been a huge part of our lives,” writes Brad of Lynbrook, N.Y. “They have helped bring us closer together and have helped us through many troubled times. We have no children, and the animals we have had throughout our lives have served to fill a void. They bring us great personal joy and have helped us grow closer.”

Read on for more tales about how people feel pets can impact relationships.

Like the author of this story, I am an animal lover also — the more the merrier — dogs, cats, birds, everything! Believe it or not, mutual love for our "zoo” is the one thing that kept my husband and I together for almost 12 years. We divorced, but we never, ever had a disagreement about our pets — we probably loved our furry “kids” more than we loved each other! I got custody of the zoo after the divorce, and my ex-husband comes over now and then for his “custody" visits” — and to get his snuggle fix.
— Laura, Chicago

My love for dogs has always come before the two relationships in my life, and I don’t regret it one bit. No man will ever measure up to the deep love and respect I have for a dog.
— Anonymous

Lauren Slater is a psycho in serious need of a reality check. Anyone who would even think about whether or not to choose a child over a dog is inserious need of help. ... She has the nerve to refer to them as “members of the family.” No, lady, they are NOT. They cannot get your groceries for you on cold days when you are sick, go to the mailbox for you, cover for you with a friend, or give you a blood transfusion if you're in some car wreck. I write this because a dog owner has changed my viewpoint on pet ownership forever and all time. My next-door neighbor has threatened me with my life because I objected to his dogs making my lawn their own private Idaho. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous than someone threatening the life of a human being over a $20 animal? I don't hate dogs or pets. What I find ridiculous and disgusting in many cases is the pet owner.
— R.J. Head, Alabama

My husband grew up on a farm where animals were seen as ... well, animals. They belonged outside, including dogs. I had a dog growing up and was determined to have one once I got my own place. Shortly after we bought our first house, I brought a dog home from the local shelter, intending to foster her until a permanent home could be found. Fast forward five years. Our beloved “furry daughter” Lily now has “daddy time” at night, when she'll spend time sitting in his chair with him. She is absolutely a member of our family and we even refer to our son as her “brother.” Yes, some might think we're crazy, but the bottom line is that I don't feel our family would be complete without a pet.
— Jennifer Ollanketo, Oshkosh, Wis.

Sure, now I play with my dog more and nag my husband less. They're both happy with this.
— Rose, New York City

My husband and I are still sort of newlyweds, and we just recently got a puppy. … We don't currently have children, and plan to wait a few more years before we will have any, so Abby's the closest thing to a baby we have. And she is definitely like our child. Raising Abby has really brought out some of our parenting styles — like who plays the good cop and who plays the bad cop. ... The beauty of the change that Abby has brought into our lives is that she's helped us see that we really are on the same page about a lot of things. We both agree on how to take care of her, where she should sleep, what she gets to do and how we want to raise her. And we both love her very much. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I love my husband even more now that I've seen what a good puppy-dad he is. We both love our puppy very much and sharing that love for her has helped our love for each other grow. And when I see him playing with our puppy or cuddling with her or consoling her after she's been stung by a bee, I get to see a glimpse of the wonderful father he will be to our human kids in the future.
— Cortni Marrazzo, Spokane, Wash.

My husband had two dogs when we got married, and they no longer sleep in the bed, but they're all over the furniture, basically ruining my sofa. I would never ask him to get rid of the dogs, but I never want to have pets again. They're just so dirty! Our house is never clean. I couldn't imagine having a kid playing on the same floor that our dogs walk on.
— Elizabeth, St. Louis

Dog breedsMy fiance never even touched a horse until he met me. I was hesitant in inviting him into my peaceful sanctuary. When I did, he seemed overwhelmed by my three horses, three cats and four dogs. But he took it all in. He began riding lessons, equine massage therapy courses and was even certified as an electric-acupuncture therapist. Seeing his desire to learn and care for horses, I gave him my most treasured possession, my 25-year-old Paint [horse] named Mico. Mark and Mico love each other, and I love Mark for loving me and all my animals.
— Margarita Diaz, Lake View Terrace, Calif.

I always thought that I was not a animal lover. I just needed to meet my toy Fox Terrier “Sobe.” I met her in South Beach and knew she had to be mine. She is a part of my life. She makes us laugh everyday. She is taken care of by all by loved most by me.
— Ruby, Florida

Katy and Chase are part of our family, and are treated like our kids since ours are grown. They have taught us compassion and understanding. I wish we could adopt more. They really do provide unconditional love.
— Susan, Louisville, Ky.

What a crock. Dogs are not people! Sooo sick of hearing how folks spend more money taking care of them. More than a human being. We need to get our priorities straightened out. Dogs are animals.
— Anonymous

Yesterday, we lost our best fried. She was only 3 1/3 years old. She would look at you as if she were smiling. It is difficult for me to say in words how I feel. She is and always will be loved as a member of our family. What a great treasure we lost. Love overwhelmed us, and us for her. I have never felt a loss as much as I do for her. My wife and son feel the same. ... I have lost other friends, but the recent loss has been the greatest that I have known. Dogs, cats, whatever, can turn a person's life in the right direction. Love for animals is key.
— Robert Novak, King George, Va.

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