Actually, Lena Dunham has every right to feel like she was her dog’s mom
Another day, another slew of hot takes on whether Lena Dunham is a hero or a villain. But this time, the center of what Dunham herself refers to as a “micro-scandal” is her sweet dog, Lamby. On June 20th, Dunham shared an emotional post on Instagram, telling fans that she could no longer keep Lamby due to “years of challenging behavior and aggression that could not be treated with training or medication or consistent loving dog ownership.”
She stated that Lamby went on to live at a professional facility in Los Angeles, The Zen Dog, for treatment by dog trainer Matt Beisner (@matt_thezendog). Dunham recounted that Lamby “suffered terrible abuse as a pup that made having him in a typical home environment dangerous to him and others.”
The BARC Shelter in Brooklyn, from which she adopted Lamby in January 2013, disputed her claim that Lamby had been the victim of abuse before she adopted him, telling Yahoo News, “Do you think BARC would have adopted him to Lena knowing she’s a new star and put her — or the dog — in that situation? We would have told her if the dog had issues.”
Dunham responded to BARC’s statement with another Instagram post, saying, “Lamby was and is one of the great loves of my life. When I met him I knew we’d have an amazing journey. But his aggression – which was unpredictable – and his particular issues, which remain myriad, weren’t manageable, at least not by me. I did what I thought the best mother would do, which was to give him a life that provided for his specific needs.”
Up to this point, I considered all of this to be non-news, none of my business, and not something I felt compelled to discuss. I mean, have you looked around at what the country, and really the world, is facing? I’m more concerned about losing my health insurance, having my gender as a woman considered a pre-existing condition, and my friends and neighbors either be harassed, deported, or killed because of the color of their skin or their chosen faith. Those are legitimate problems that should hold all of our focus.
But then I read a hot take on this whole situation that I could no longer ignore. The Huffington Post published a story, “The real problem with Lena Dunham and her dog” discussing the validity of Dunham’s “motherhood” to Lamby.
The writer went on to say, "This isn’t just a Dunham quirk either. She’s just another annoying dog-person who’s confused having a pet with raising a human child."
Listen. I’m not here to defend Lena Dunham’s honor. She has said and done several problematic things throughout her career that cannot just be swept under the carpet, no matter how many times she defends women’s rights or composes a beautiful essay. But while I won’t defend Dunham herself, I will defend her right to declare herself Lamby’s mom, because she was.
Motherhood does not have one narrow definition. There is no one way to be a mom, there are several. If you consider the title of “Mom” to be held only for those who give birth to their children, you’re alienating every adoptive mother who has raised someone else’s birth child as their own. Hence the distinction with the term “birth mom.”
Sure, you could say that you can only be a mom to living things within your own species, including all forms of motherhood (surrogate, adoptive, birth) as long as you’re not trying to squeeze pets into that narrow familial dynamic. But what want to know is: Why would you do that?
Why would anyone feel compelled to spend time and energy declaring that someone else’s relationship with their pet to be invalid as they define it? What makes you think you have that invasive authority? If someone wants to say that their dog, cat, horse, fish, bird, or whatever is their child…. who cares? How does it affect you directly? How does it impact your life?
You might say that it’s an insult to real mothers because the work they do raising human children – changing diapers, teaching them to speak and read, helping them through school, and supporting them as they become responsible adults – is a million times harder than caring for a dog. And guess what? You’re right. Most reasonable pet parents would not hesitate to agree with you. Your job is harder. Way harder.
But just because it’s harder to raise children than animals doesn’t mean that the title is reserved for just mothers of human babies. This is not an exclusive club. Motherhood is about putting the needs of another living creature above your own, meeting their every need, and providing them with unconditional love, no matter what species they are. Motherhood is a selfless duty, so it shouldn’t be weaponized to make others feel like they’re unworthy of the role.
My dog depends on me for all of his meals, I will never hesitate to financially and emotionally care for him when he’s sick or injured, I love him to bits every second he’s by my side, and when he poops all over the floor, guess who cleans the mess and wipes his butt? Me. I do it because I’m his mom.
Lamby was adopted by Lena Dunham, loved and cared for while he was in her care, and when Dunham realized that he would be happier and healthier in a more supportive environment, she made the decision (which was clearly a difficult one) to give him the chance at a better life. That sure sounds like motherhood to me.