This my dog Clover.
We used to take pictures of her, videos even, and post them on YouTube. For her first year with us, my iPhoto library was littered with cute little adorable puppy shots of her. We bought her the super premium dog food called “Solid Gold,” which costs just slightly less than its namesake. I even made her peanut butter treats from scratch to reward her for peeing in the yard. When Clover started getting twitchy at night, running out in the yard when the fire started crackling in the winter, my wife and I would lie in bed at night psychoanalyzing her and theorizing what we could do.
Then we had a kid.
It was a bit of an adjustment for Clover. Like any first born, her demotion on the familial totem pole was a bit of a shock. For the first couple months, Clover was hedging her bets that this new little screaming addition to the family was anything more than a loud temporary visitor, who, if she could hold out, would eventually go back to the hospital. Her hopes gave out eventually, and she now maintains a tolerant wariness toward Josephine. However, this is changing lately toward general avoidance now that Josie is getting better at grabbing, throwing things and running.
Dogs can get a little lost in the shuffle when your family grows. Heck, this blog is called Babies and Dogs, and how often do I write about Clover? And how many times have I nearly forgotten Clover at friends’ houses after finishing the babyclothesdiaperssippycuptrainingpottysnacksmilkinthefridgeOmyGodhowcanone littlepersonhavesomuchcrap?scavenger hunt and getting Josie all buckled into her car seat?
Before having kids I remember my brother relating a story about his father-in-law accidentally leaving the family dog, Bishop, on Waldron Island (a remote island in the San Juans with no ferry service) for a few days before wondering where he was. When he rushed back in his boat, there Bishop was on the beach, waiting expectantly. And I remember being slightly horrified when I heard this story. Now, this scenario seems completely understandable.
And therein lies the difference between dogs and children. You can do that to a dog. It’s not nice, sure, but they’ll be fine, they’ll forgive you and probably be really happy when you come back. Dogs after all, are just training wheels for having children. You can make mistakes like that with a dog and no one gets arrested. So if you are childless and have a dog, and treat it like a child, and this makes you happy, more power to you. But if you find yourself at a party surrounded by parents, who are bemoaning this or that about their kids, try really hard to avoid relating a story about your dog. I know Fido is important to you, but he isn’t a child. Instead try to chime in with a cute story about your nephew.
You don’t realize it yet, but the difference in the amount of time, mental and physical energy and money required to raise a child versus to take care of a dog is orders of magnitude greater. I can best relate this with simple math. When you got the puppy it took you about 3 months to potty train it. Tough right? – a lot of little puddles. It take on average 36 months to potty train a human – twelve times as long! How about walking? Dogs – pretty much immediately, children – around a year. Obediently listening to you? Dogs – a couple months, children – never.
This is advice forged in experience, because I too once just had a dog, and thought that anything I watched on the Dog Whisperer was also perfectly acceptable to be included in any unsolicited parenting advice I felt would be helpful to my friends with kids. I cringe with horror as I remember questioning my friend Ali on why she was rewarding her toddler with hugs for negative behavior like crying after running into a coffee table. Later when she was in the throws of potty training, perhaps I should have told her that she should keep a few peanut butter treats at the ready in her pocket when he pee-peed in the lawn.