How My Dogs Prepared Me For Motherhood

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These are my Velociraptors, as my mother so thoughtfully nicknamed them.

 My husband and I hadn’t been married a year when we adopted Casey,  my now 4 year old Blue Heeler. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her at the animal hospital where I worked. She had been bought for an older lady by her daughters who thought their mother needed a companion. If you know anything about Blue Heelers, this is not the dog for just anyone! (This speaks a lot to breed research before you adopt, but that’s an entirely different subject.) A few weeks after her first appointment, she was brought in to be surrendered by this dear lady. As luck would have it, I was the one who helped her that day. The rest is history.

As for Shelby, well…she was a necessary addition to our family. As I said, Blue Heelers are a special breed and poor Casey was driving us nuts being an only child. So, we went on a hunt and found a little black and tan shepherd mix on PetFinder.com at a local animal shelter. Funny thing was, when we made the 1 1/2 hour trip, we were actually planning on adopting Shelby’s sister. We brought Casey along to make sure they got along. Unfortunately, Casey and Shelby’s evil twin did not get along. Shelby, however, sat quietly on my lap and watched her sister run laps around the front desk of the shelter. It was meant to be.

Anyone who has met my dogs knows how nuts they are. They’re misbehaved, too hyper and when talked to in a high enough pitch, will pee all over your shoes. They escape from the yard, they chase the mailman and eat the strangest things. But they are like my children and I love them. I’ve always told my mom that my dogs were preparing me for having children. However, until I had a child, I didn’t realize how right I was.

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For the last several months, I had become acclimated to rocking my little baby to sleep, ensuring plenty of tummy-time to strengthen his muscles and rejoicing when he discovered he could roll over. We had waiting for a long time to see him crawl for the first time and tried to help as much as we could. Unfortunately, I was unaware of what these milestones were leading us to. My epiphany came as I walked into the bathroom this afternoon, following the trail of Puffs and spilled sippy cup, and discovered my son standing up at the toilet…PLAYING IN THE WATER! I immediately thought of my  dogs. I had scolded them numerous times about drinking from the toilet. “Get your head out of the toilet!” had now turned into “Get your hand out of the toilet!” Same problem, different species. I then began thinking of all the ways my dogs had been conditioning me for motherhood.

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1) Sleep Deprivation. I was a first time doggy mom and had never raised a puppy on my own. (I didn’t quite realize how much my parents had been helping me.) Casey was less than 3 months old when I brought her home. The first few weeks were filled with sleepless nights and midnight walks that eventually led to her sleeping in our bed. Sounds familiar, huh? Yep. Honestly, I think I had better sleep with my newborn than a new puppy. And no matter how bad it got, my son has never slept in the bed with us.

2) Cleaning up. Dogs are naturally messy. I’ve cleaned up more dog pee, poop and vomit than I care to admit. I’ve disposed of dead squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits after they met their unfortunate end in my back yard. I’ve scrubbed butts, brushed squirrel-breath teeth and spent hours picking burrs out of the fur of a dog who insists on exploring. NONE of that, however, could have prepared me for baby messes. Humans are supposed to be cleaner than dogs, right? Well…apparently, not in the beginning. Our first week home with little man, he peed on my Grandmother, my bed, the dog and his own head. Not to mention the spit up (thanks to our few weeks of supplementing formula). And there have  been a few times (explosion, rather) that required an immediate bath (clothes and all) and then a GOOD bleach-scrubbing to the bathtub.

3) Discipline. Two things that apparently fascinate both boy and dog are dishwashers and toilets. The first spanking my son got was because he continued crawling onto the dishwasher and pulling things from the utensil holder. My dogs also are constantly in trouble for trying to clean my dishes as I put them in the dishwasher. Same thing for the toilet. I guess to both hem, water is water. You would think I’d have learned how to prevent this behaving by now…

4) Food. Sadly, my dogs have failed me in this department. From squirrels to insulation, my dogs never meet an object they don’t at least consider trying. Whereas my son is a challenging eater. I’ve already blogged about our disastrous nursing experience but his food aversions don’t stop there. He refuses to drink formula unless it’s warm (almost hot). If it gets the least bit cool, he won’t touch it. He does not like slimy things (i.e. sliced apples in juice, packaged deli meat) or oddly enough, potatoes (mashed or baked). He has discovered how to make his food disappear when he doesn’t want it. And I wondered why the dogs were getting fat!

5) Picking Up After Myself. I have had dogs all my life and one thing you learn quickly is to never leave something valuable in a dog’s reach. One of my dogs loves to eat socks, another underwear. Trash is always up for grabs if available and unless there is a force field around me, there is no personal space when I’m eating. As my son has now become mobile, I find myself finding more things everyday that need to be moved out of his reach. Remotes and phones are his favorite but if there is a cord in sight, he is all over it. Another difficulty is his fascination with the dog bowls. Now, my dogs are pretty good about their food. Shelby has actually let him get food out of her bowl while she is eating without complaint. This leads to chewing on the dog bowls (gross, I know!) and what had become an almost weekly occurrence…dumping the water bowl. Still learning here!

6) Mommy guilt. That’s right. I feel so horrible when my dogs get in trouble, which is probably part of the reason they are such a mess. This has, however, taught me to be consistent with punishment. But there is no greater guilt than punishing your child for doing something dangerous and making him cry. I now understand the phrase “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.”

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As my son grows and I continue to learn how this mommy thing works, I’m sure I will find more lessons I’ve been taught by my dogs to handle my son. And when I have another, I will know how to handle sibling quarreling. You can break up a fight with the broom, right? Unfortunately, I do realize I will not be able to make them sleep outside!

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