An interesting thing happened when I got pregnant.
It wasn’t an avalanche of pregnancy stories from women who had “been there”. It wasn’t the start of the unsolicited advice. Or the judging stares when I wasn’t ballooning up in my weight as people expected.
I was being told to be prepared to give away my dog, Dunkin.
That’s right. Suddenly, I had people all around me telling me that I was going to HAVE to give up my dog the second my child came into the world.
“Even though he’s your baby now,” they would say, referring to my dog, “you’ll have to find him a new home or take him back to the animal shelter.”
Why? Why can’t I have both my dog and my baby? Why did it have to be one or the other? My older sister successfully had both. Two of my closest friends have successfully had a baby and a dog in the house – at the same time. Why couldn’t I do it?
My dog came to me with a sad, and a disappointingly typical story. After he was no longer a puppy, he was tied out with no food or water. Neglected. Forgotten. He chewed through his lead and ran away. Because he was chipped, the shelter was able to locate and contact the owners. Their response “Keep him. We don’t want him.”
My scared but mischievous pup came to me a little over a year old. He was skinny and afraid to trust humans. With a lot of love and work, we have gotten through many, many hurdles and eight years later, I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
So why couldn’t I have him and baby?
The only responses I was getting from these people were… “Because you will.” Or simply, “Because”. It wasn’t enough for me.
I have seen many, many times in my adult years, people give away their dogs on yardsale pages, swap groups (swap a dog for a ATV? Sure! Why not?), or bringing them to animal shelters. And I know personally several who have given the dogs to family members or brought their dog to the local animal shelter.
Dogs are family. When you take in a dog, whether you have adopted it or bought it from a breeder, you make the commitment to them to take care of them and love them – forever (their forever). What is it about bringing home a baby that causes the shift?
It’s something we as a human race no longer have. I see it in my husband. I see it in my coworkers. I see it in the stores. In check out lines. On the road.
Everyone is in a hurry.
They run through life, letting all of the important things pass them by.
They give up on love quickly and easily, because it has fallen on a brief moment of hardship.
I get it. Sometimes I want what I want, and I want it now. Grow muscles! Dammit, grow!
But, as I have gotten older, my patience has expanded. And guess what? It’s because of my dog.
We had a rough first year. Peeing on all the things. Eating all the things. Give him a half-of-a-half-of-half an inch? He’s gonna make a run for it. The licking the pillows. The walls. The walk-in shower. The chasing the vacuum cleaner like a vicious attack dog. The need to practically lay on my head at night when we slept. He jumped off a deck that was 12-feet off of the ground to chase turkeys one afternoon.
It was trying. Sometimes I felt the thin spots coming in my patience. But we did it. We persevered. Overcame. Even the vet at our check-ups was noticing the shift.
“You’ve done amazing work with him,” the male vet would say.
“What an improvement from those first visits,” the female one said.
When I found out we were going to have a baby, despite everything people said. I made the promise to my dog that we would make it work.
Jealousy issues? We’d figure it out.
If he peed on the baby as he did when new things came into the house (yes, even at almost 9-years he occasionally does this and it’s been the ONE thing I’ve had trouble breaking the habit on)? Then we’d deal with it.
Time was going to be trickier. He wouldn’t have my complete attention anymore, and that was something we were going to have to figure out too.
I was prepared for it all.
We had my older sister, who was caring for him while I was in the hospital, bring one of the baby’s blankets to him to sniff. He snuggled with it all night.
My husband brought the baby’s hat in before I walked in with the baby on the day we came home.
Dunkin sniffed and rubbed up against it.
I sat on the floor of our living room and let Dunkin smell us over and greet his new bald puppy. With a happily wagging tail, his floppy ears bounced as he licked and said hi to the both of us.
When the baby cried, Dunkin would peek in on him. If I wasn’t near the rocker, he would come to me, looking back towards the baby, concerned.
When I would lay the baby on the floor, Dunkin never strayed far. Keeping a watchful eye on him.
Now that the baby is moving around, Dunkin follows him around. Even if it’s rolling from one side of the living room to the other. Dunkin will follow. In the walker, Dunkin walks alongside it. Laying on the floor watching Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave, Dunkin is there, curled up next to him.
Those yoga challenge photos that you see my Instagram account peppered with? Dunkin is just out of the shot, right there. Never far from me or the baby.
When we go on walks, Dunkin checks the stroller every now and again. Keeping an eye on him. Almost like he’s making sure that he’s still there.
They talk to one another. Dunkin in his dog chatter that everyone knows him for, and the baby on level 10-screech of excitedness.
They’re best friends.
And my heart is full.
We’ll have moments here and there that we’ll have to work on. Dunkin has developed selective hearing, and we have to be a little more adamant with the word “No” with him. And I expect that.
There may be a day where he does decide that the baby’s toys are not off-limits and take one. We’ll handle that when the time comes.
Because that’s what it takes.
Because it’s my duty, as a compassionate human being, to give it to my dog. Just as I will my child as he grows.
I will have to teach my child right from wrong, and my dog is not any different.
With love, time and patience, we will do this.