When the baby comes and your dog takes the backseat
Before I had a baby, my dog was literally my fur child. I treated her better than a human. She stayed indoors, was immaculately groomed (more than me!), I fed her gourmet meals consisting of wagyu beef, and would drive home during my work lunch breaks just to be with her. I'd throw her a ball outside, give her a few treats and cuddles, not even eat lunch, and then drive back to work within the hour.
Lots of people said to me it's not a good idea getting a dog before the baby... But I felt like marriage was so far away, so I shook it off. I made up my mind, and I wanted this sweet little creature. I was dating a lovely man at the time. It was serious but it wasn't like I was expecting kids anytime soon. Some people take years to even fall pregnant, so it seemed in the all too distant future.
Five years later I was married and had just given birth to my first child, a baby girl. Once you have a baby you get so protective over your child, and I was a tiger looking after my baby cub. All of a sudden, I no longer enjoyed the company of my dog, and it felt like a burden having her. I felt anxious having her around my baby because what if I turned my head for two seconds and something terrible happened? So she went from being an indoor dog to being left outside a lot on her own. She started eating dried dog food and I rarely remembered to worm her let alone give her a treat.
I was committed to breastfeeding and it just seemed every time I sat down to feed my baby, all I would hear was constant high-pitched barking and it was just so stressful when I needed to remain calm to let my milk flow. She hardly got any walks, because I had no energy, I was sleep deprived.... and tackling a walk with a baby AND a dog just seemed too much. The poor dog was neglected and I knew it.
I felt so guilty. How could I go from loving something so deeply to despising it? I didn't know myself. I told my husband on a few occasions that I could no longer handle the dog and was considering giving her away to a better home. He was flabbergasted, he didn't understand it. "But Pookie is part of the family!" he declared. "How can you treat your own family like that? Will you get sick of me one day and just want to get rid of me?", he would ask.
I knew he had a point. I felt cold and emotionless. I knew deep down I really didn't want to get rid of my dog, but my whole world was revolving around my baby that nothing else mattered. I didn't trust the dog around my baby, and I didn't trust myself around my dog. What if one day I, god forbid, lost my temper and snapped at the dog in front of my baby? That wouldn’t be a good environment for anyone to live in. My mental health seemed like the most important thing at the time, and I just didn't want to deal with the added responsibility of caring for a dog.
It was then I knew what everyone meant, about not getting a dog before the baby. I knew I had made a mistake. But my husband reassured me that giving up our dog would be a mistake too, and to stick it out. I didn't want to, but I knew my husband really didn't want to part with the dog so I agreed. My dog hadn't shown any signs of aggression towards my baby so I owed it to her to give her a chance.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Now my daughter is nearly two years old, and each morning she wakes up she can't wait to see Pookie. She runs to her bed to let her out and begs to give her treats throughout the day. They run around in the backyard together throwing balls and playing. The excitement in her face when she talks about Pookie, makes me think that maybe I did do the right thing keeping her.
If I did things over would I get the dog first? No, I probably wouldn't. But do I regret keeping her? Not at all. Being the only child, my daughter has someone else to play with, nurture and love. Would I call them best friends? Yeah, probably.
The most important thing is my child, and seeing how happy my child is, makes me happy. I hope that her growing up with an animal will teach her important skills, and help her become caring, responsible and nurturing. So, in hindsight maybe the benefits do outweigh the negatives, and sometimes it’s important to look at things from a different and more positive perspective.