As we’re working through the adoption process, there are a lot of things we’ve been doing to prepare (as much as anyone ever can) for parenthood. We’ve had to fill out lots of paperwork, take some adoption training courses, and we’ve even started getting the nursery ready! While those preparations have only been going on for a few months, I think our years experience in another area will come in handy once we bring our baby home: life with our dogs.
Now, I’m certainly not going to open myself up to the ire of the entire internet by claiming that having a pet of any kind is the same as having a child, but I’m fairly confident that life with our dogs has given me a little glimpse of my future as a mom. A lot of the challenges (and a few of the rewards) of raising a dog are like the training wheels version of becoming a parent. Here are just a few of the ways our pups are getting us ready to tackle parenthood:
1. Sleep Deprivation in the Early Days
This phase will definitely last a lot longer with babies than with puppies, but our dog Hudson woke us up a lot when he first came home. The first night he was with us, he literally woke up screeching about every 45 minutes or so. Puppies have teeny tiny bladders, so every time he did one of us was carrying him outside to see if he needed to relieve himself. We were living in a 2nd floor apartment at the time, so that meant schlepping him down a flight of stairs and across the parking lot to the dog area, pretty much every hour for at least 3 weeks. Anyway, if he didn’t need to go, that meant he was just lonely or bored, so we actually took turns sleeping on the floor next to his crate until he started sleeping through the night. So yeah, we were insanely tired for the first month with Hudson.
2. Dealing with Someone Else’s Bodily Fluids
This is one area where I think (responsible) pet owners have a little longer commitment than parents. Most kids stay in diapers for a few years. It probably will take a couple more years after that for them to be fully independent in the bathroom, but then you’re free! You might have to clean up vomit now and again when they’re sick, but otherwise they’re pretty self-sufficient.
Not so much with dogs. even with fully housebroken dogs, we have to pick up their waste from the yard to avoid stepping in it. Any time we aren’t on our own property, we get the pleasure of using little plastic bags to pick up the poop with our hands. This will continue for the rest of their lives. I have cleaned up dog poo from some very *special* places, including the top of my shoe, inside the bathtub, and all over the bottom and sides of the dog crate. In addition to cleaning up their waste, I’ve also had the pleasure of being vomited on. Bring on the spit up and blow-out diapers!
3. The Need to Constantly Supervise the Little Ones
Puppies (just like babies) need to be constantly supervised when they’re little. I have lost countless shoes and several rugs to puppy teething, and many of the chairs from our old dining set had chew marks on them from Penny and Hudson. Puppies also like to get stuck in weird places (like under the television stand, or behind furniture), and will try to jump off things that are too high, or eat “yummy” things like ant poison. Constant vigilance!
4. Fighting Over Toys (& Attention)
Even if we give our dogs two identical toys to play with, they will immediately decide that one is better and fight over it. If not, one of them will try to horde both of the toys, just for fun. I have totally seen this happen with our friends’ kids, and I absolutely expect it to happen when we have our own. The dogs also growl at and push each other when one of them appears to be getting more attention than the other. It’s like, “Mom, look at me!” “Nooo! Look at me!”
5. Unwelcome Additions to Your Outfits
With kids, this would be stains from spit up or food from the last meal you served them. With dogs, it’s hair and/or slobber from the last time you gave them any attention whatsoever. Thanks a lot, little one!
6. Being Embarrassed by Their Behavior in Public
We’ve all seen it: that look of mortifications when a kid does or says something completely embarrassing out in public, like asking a larger lady if she “has a baby in her tummy”, or stealing a toy from another kid at the playground. I have a similar look of horror when our dogs get up to shenanigans out in public. When we take Hudson and Penny to the dog park, our little girl loves to yelp like she is being murdered anytime another dog invades her comfort zone. It’s great. They also like to ignore us when we tell them to come, or do anything other play and run around like lunatics. On walks, they occasionally like to poop in the middle of the sidewalk, just for a little variety.
7. Food Mooching
With kids, anything their parents are eating automatically looks better than whatever they have on their plate, no matter what. Whether they beg you to share or unabashedly steal from your plate, your food is no longer your own. With our dogs, any time I have food, I also have two furry little shadows following me until I’m done. Anything I drop is fair game, and they will make ridiculously sad faces (Penny will even gently paw at me a little) to guilt me into giving them my food. Pathetic.
8. Uninvited Visitors in the Bathroom
Whether you have a kid or a dog, you can kiss your days of bathroom privacy goodbye. Our dogs always follow me to the bathroom and will come in if I let them. If I don’t, they will wait at the door sighing or whining until I come out.
9. Feeling Helpless When They’re Hurt or Sick
There’s nothing worse than know something’s wrong, and not knowing what to do to fix it. One day, when Hudson was about 10 weeks old he started vomiting a lot and wouldn’t eat or drink. Puppies can get dehydrated really fast, so I was really worried about him. I stayed up late taking care of him, waiting for him to drink some water and actually keep it down. He eventually took a little and we went to bed. By morning, he was a lot better and we never figured out what was wrong. I’m sure that when something like this happens with our baby I will feel a million times worse about it, but whether it’s our pet or our child, it will always break my heart to know that something’s wrong and they can’t tell me where it hurts!
10. That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling When They Fall Asleep on You
I think this is one of the most heartwarming parts of those first weeks with a new baby or puppy. There’s nothing better than snuggling up and watching their eyes get all heavy before they finally drop off. (Bonus points if they have a cute little snore!) And then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll accept snuggles even once they get a little too big for your lap!
One HUGE Difference: Leaving Them in the Crate While You’re at Work
For some reason, this is frowned upon with kids.
Anything I missed? What are some other pre-kids experiences that made you a better-prepared parent?
Photo Credit: All photos courtesy of the amazing, fabulous, crazy-talented Leah Flores. Buy her art! Book a photography session!