Have you noticed that a common suggestion for newlywed couples is “Get a dog, it’s great practice for when you have a baby”? Since I have two dogs and a baby I can say that this advice is only partially helpful. Having a dog helps prepare you for welcoming your first child because it teaches you to think of another living being other than yourself. Other than that, I don’t think anything can really prepare you for those first few months of parenthood. Perhaps meditation, and Xanax, but those don’t mix well with baby-raising.
So you’re basically in survival mode from the moment you leave the hospital with your baby. There are dozens of new worries and responsibilities, even as a dog lover it is easy to see how having a pet can add to those worries.
When I was pregnant with our first child I was too busy working and being super pregnant to “worry” about bringing a newborn home to my dogs. Lucky me, everyone else worried for me. My husband and I were bombarded with the typical questions from panic-stricken family members and friends. “WHAT are you going to do with your dogs?” That was the most common question/concern I heard for 9 months. I don’t judge or blame anyone who asked me this question. Not everyone is a dog lover. And even so, some dog owners asked that same question. And when asked what we are going to “DO with them”, the short-tempered bitch in me always replied with “Umm nothing”.
To be honest I was scared. I obsess over my dogs. I love them. Sometimes I hold them and cry true story. The horror stories I had heard of genuine animal loving, dog owners who had to put their dog down, or give their dog away after terrifying incidents with their newborns played in my mind during the last trimester of my pregnancy. I did some good old internet reading and came across plenty of positive stories as well. I convinced myself not to spend the end of my pregnancy worrying and instead continued to just hug my dogs.
When our daughter was born my husband made a point of taking a trip home to spend the night with our dogs, exercise them, feed them and bring them home her first blanket, you know, the one the hospital gives you that’s covered in blood and other questionable fluids. He let them sniff it, and sleep with it that first night while Elyse and I were still in the hospital. I would be lying if I said my heart wasn’t pounding when we pulled up in our driveway with our baby the next morning; I knew it was go-time. The two crazies had to meet their baby sister. A friend of mine who also has a large dog and several children gave me some solid advice that I decided to follow. Just put down her car seat and let them lick the crap out of her. Ohh, ok.
Obviously, we know our dogs, they had never eaten a baby before, not that we know of at least. They licked the CRAP out of our daughter for a minute before I decided that’s enough! Since that first day, I would say there has been mutual love between the three of them. The biggest rifts in the harmony of their relationship are caused by none other than our innocent little girl. Nevermind the dogs, they wouldn’t hurt a fly, but our daughter had a lot of learning to do over these past three years.
Don’t sit on the dogs face, don’t bite the dogs tail, don’t eat the dog food, don’t put your finger up the dogs bum, YES that’s where he does pee-pee from, don’t pull it!!! (ughhh).
But her biggest lessons were of tolerance, love, adoration for animals, patience, and selflessness. To love and care for someone or something other than yourself. To wake up early and feed the dogs before you feed yourself, and to be home early so they are not alone for too long. Walk the dogs every afternoon, that has become part of her routine. She now knows how to put their leashes on, she picks which dog goes first, she cleans their teeth with her finger and a cleaning gel (yep she puts her whole hand in their mouth) and even makes them homemade Birthday cards.
A while ago I noticed the first thing she does when she wakes up in the morning is search for both of HER dogs so she can give them each a giant hug. She loves them. It didn’t take very long. I’m glad we didnt change anything back when I was pregnant and asked what we would “Do” with them.
This post is dedicated to Mila Barberi the biggest, best dog lover I have ever known. And our dogs #1 supporter when I was pregnant with Elyse…