I buy my baby designer clothes, gourmet food and therapy sessions

WITH her pretty red jacket, her pearl necklace and her vast collection of stuffed animals, Harley has everything to please a spoiled child.

Except Harley is a dog.

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Cici Reagan, is one of a growing number of women who have chosen to devote their love and attention to a pet rather than children.Credit: Richard Walker
Last week, Pope Francis said: “Some people don't want children.  .  .  but they have dogs and cats instead of children.  It is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity'

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Last week, Pope Francis said: “Some people don’t want children. . . but they have dogs and cats instead of children. It is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity’Credit: EPA

Its owner, Cici Reagan, is one of a growing number of women who have chosen to devote their love and attention to a pet rather than children.

Last week, Pope Francis slammed the practice, saying it was “a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity.”

There are over 20 million cats and dogs in Britain, far more than the 12.7 million children under 16. And last year saw the lowest birth rate on record.

But here, three childless women who treat their animals like children defend their choice of life.

They insist that their love for their pets is as important as that of any other devoted parent.

“I even asked my puppy for a therapist when she was having problems”

Cici even found a therapist for Harley when she had trouble following commands and playing with other dogs.

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Cici even found a therapist for Harley when she had trouble following commands and playing with other dogs.Credit: Richard Walker

Author CICI REAGAN, 30, from Newcastle, describes herself as the mother of her mini English bulldog, Harley. She says:

“From the minute I saw Harley as a tiny puppy, my motherly instincts kicked in. I just wanted to cuddle and care for her, the same way I imagine a new mother would feel for her. his baby.

And in every way that matters, Harley is my baby. She eats special raw meals that I prepare for her.

She has her own little outfits, sweaters and jewelry that I love to dress her up in, and she sleeps in my bed every night.

It’s fair to say she’s the most important person in my life.

I never make plans without understanding how they will affect him.

Even when I have to go out for a short time, she has a regular babysitter who comes to look after her – and I make sure to check in that she’s okay and doesn’t miss me too much.

I even asked her for a therapist when she had trouble following commands and playing with other dogs.

People give me weird looks every time I call Harley my granddaughter or my daughter, and then they realize I’m talking about a dog.

But for me, she is my child in the same way as a baby to which I gave birth.

I’m single at the moment, but if I meet someone, they absolutely have to accept Harley and love her as much as I do.

Otherwise he would be out. I’ve known since I was 17 that I don’t want children of my own.

I ended up caring for my two sisters when I was just a teenager, due to the terminal illness of my mother and father who left our lives when I was 12.

People love babies because they look soft and cute, but I know it’s hard work.

There are more than enough people in the world as it is, and it’s disrupting the climate.

The pope should thank me for choosing to shower my love on a dog rather than making the problem worse.”

www.cicireagan.com

“We installed a cat camera so we could keep an eye on our babies”

ANNA PUMER, 37, is a wedding photographer from Brighton, East Sussex, and proud cat mum to Loki. She says:

Anna installed a 'cat camera' to keep an eye on her cat Loki while she was at work

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Anna installed a ‘cat camera’ to keep an eye on her cat Loki while she was at workCredit: Olivia West

“It’s not that I don’t like children. I just prefer other people’s children.

That way I can hold them and play with them, but I’m more than happy to return them when I’m done.

I never thought of myself as someone who would feel maternal about an animal, but that’s exactly what happened when my ex and I decided to have two dogs.

When we brought them home, I remember thinking that we were responsible for the safety of these two little creatures and that their happiness depended on us.

When the relationship finally ended, we had to figure out what to do with the dogs. We both wanted them, but we agreed the most sensible thing was to leave them with my ex as he was spending more time working from home.

I remember being in tears and feeling horribly guilty for giving up on my babies.

A few years later, I adopted two eight-week-old kittens called Loki and Kirby with my current partner and all those maternal feelings came back.

I was finally a mom again, with two new babies to take care of.

We installed a “cat cam” so we could keep an eye on our babies while we were at work, but we also used it to watch them at night, to make sure they were sleeping and not making foolery.

Sadly Kirby passed away last year but Loki is still my baby.

People have told me that animals can’t replace children, but I think in some ways they are better.

I never had to deal with teenage angst or worry about how they were going to make their way through the world.

And as long as you take care of them and show them love, they will always love you back.

I know there are people who think Pope Francis is right, but there are so many people like me who prefer their pets to children. We can’t all be crazy.”

www.annapumerphotography.com

“The only places respectful of man are our bedroom and the kitchen”

Zoe has nearly 50 cats, 17 pooches, various rabbits, guinea pigs and parrots

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Zoe has nearly 50 cats, 17 pooches, various rabbits, guinea pigs and parrotsCredit: Damien McFadden

Dog trainer ZOE WILLINGHAM, 43, from Suffolk, has almost 50 cats, 17 pooches, various rabbits, guinea pigs and parrots. She says:

“PUT a baby in my arms and I would have no idea what to do with it or how to take care of it. But I was still completely comfortable with a puppy or a kitten.

It’s been like that since I was 13. Friends joke that they wouldn’t hesitate to ask me to take care of animals, but they would never think of leaving me with their children.

When I met my husband Carl, 52, he was relieved to learn that I had no interest in babies because he felt exactly the same way.

We had only planned for six animals – two dogs, two cats and two birds – but found ourselves taking in animals that no one else wanted.

Before we knew it, we had 17 dogs and almost 50 cats, not to mention rabbits, guinea pigs and birds.

We had to move into a five-acre property to accommodate them all. Now the dogs have their own adventure playground while the cats have a whole patio – or as we call it, a catio – for them to play and relax.

There are scratching posts and pet beds in almost every room.

In fact, the only welcoming places for humans are our bedroom and the kitchen.

Our family is our life. We never even take vacations because we don’t want to be away for too long.

Our idea of ​​the ideal evening is to watch television surrounded by our family.

I’m amazed that the pope, someone who himself chose not to have children, feels he can tell women what they should do with their bodies and criticize us for choosing to love. and caring for animals rather than having children.”

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Elizabeth J. Harless