Dog Made Three, Then Baby Made Four
This evening I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I took my dog for a walk. Since my son was born, this task has been delegated to my husband. Of course there are hundreds of reasons why it makes more sense for my husband to take on this role. But I know the real reason I don’t even bother trying: The arrival of baby has damaged my relationship with my dog.
We found Howie at a local shelter over three years ago. Our circumstances were the same that lead many people to find their first dog… We’d been married for a year and were living in the city in our first condo, so we started looking for the perfect rescue pooch. In our second trip to find our pup, I met him. He leaned against the cage so I could pet him as I was waiting for another dog to be removed from his cage and when I looked at him he gazed back. He was the first dog that would make eye contact with me. I noticed he had warnings taped to his name tag. They cautioned he wouldn’t be good with kids or other pets, barked a lot, jumped a lot, and needed the expertise of a previous dog owner. I tried to like other dogs, but none compared to the sweet dog I’d seen with all the warnings. We decided to take a chance and asked that he be taken out of his cage. Within five minutes we decided he was ours.
He proved to be worth the gamble. None of the warnings on his cage matched the dog we grew to know. After a week we stopped crating him and let him roam free in our condo while we were at work all day. He never chewed a shoe, had no accidents in the house, slept between us in bed, loved cuddling... So, we did what every young, childless couple does when they get a dog and proceeded to treat him like our baby. Saturdays revolved around taking him for long walks in parks he loved and visiting neighborhood doggie boutiques. We never missed a grooming appointment or training class. We fed him organic food and gave him weekly baths. Life was good for the three of us.
When we found out a real baby was on the way, I swore Howie would always be my first. I thought he would be my companion through maternity leave and my confidant during some rough “new baby” patches. We talked about what a wonderful older brother he’d make and couldn’t wait for his new best friend to meet him.
Our son was born sixteen months ago and quickly knocked my poor dog right down to the bottom of the priority list. I hardly notice him anymore. I feel terrible, I do. But, he always seems to bark when the baby is sleeping, he constantly tries to snag Cheerios from an easy target, he sneaks out the door as I’m carrying a toddler, diaper bag, purse, and stroller. He’s acting the way he always has, but I’m not. My patience with him has thinned and I’ve caught myself feeling like he’s an inconvenience. Typing these words hurts my heart, because I really, really love my dog. I’m just not making him a priority. Somehow between being a mom, wife, friend, employee, cook, and cleaner, I dropped loving dog owner from my titles.
This evening I took him for his late day walk, since my husband has been under the weather. I bundled up and regretfully headed out into the cold. That’s when it dawned on me: I’m the one who needs to change, not my dog. Within a block, I was chatting with him, encouraging him along. When we came to the end of his usual route, I took a detour to give us a couple of extra blocks, and we played in the snow when we got home. It’s the best walk I’ve taken in a long time and it’s the most one-on-one time I’ve spent with him in longer than I can remember. When I looked down to thank him for being such a sweet boy, he was smiling back at me.
This is an original post to Chicago Moms Blog. Lisa H. also writes at Hannemaniacs.