My husband and I got married at the beginning of June. Within six weeks, we had been on our month-long honeymoon, rented a sweet house with a yard, and gotten a dog. Both of us had had golden retrievers growing up, and both of us had hated being without a dog during our college/apartment living early twenties.
Our dog was our baby. We took her to restaurants (San Antonio has plenty of dog-friendly patios,) went camping and hiking with her, bought her cute, seasonal bandanas, called her our baby, and referred to her as our parent’s granddog. We were, in short, “those people.”
And then we had a baby. And we realized that, as much as we loved our dog, she was not our baby. Was she a valued member of our family? Yes. Did we love her unconditionally? Yes. Was she our baby? No. And let me tell you, the first time your dog walks over your very new, very small, very fragile baby while he’s doing tummy time, you too will realize that your dog is not your baby.
So here are some ways having a dog is different than having a baby:
- If you want a dog today, you can probably get one today. Your local shelter would love for you to come adopt! If you want a baby, you have to wait at least ten months. And that is if you are very, very lucky.
- A few weeks of obedience school, a month or so of sleepless nights and house training, and your dog is set for life. With a baby, you worry about milestones from the beginning. And then you have to decide if and when to put him in preschool. Or daycare. Or whether to wait for kindergarten or to delay kindergarten for an extra year. And you have so many school options: Neighborhood school? Private? Parochial? Homeschool? And school lasts so many years!
- Your dog goes to the vet about once a year, gets her shots and annual exam, and is hopefully good. I mean, this wasn’t my dog (ear issues, skin issues,etc.,) but it could’ve been. I wait until my dog really has to go in to take her (sorry, pup,) but taking your dog to the vet with three kids in tow is no easy task! For your child, he goes to the pediatrician at least seven times in the first year alone. If he isn’t sick. Which never happens, ever. Kids get sick. And as a parent, you worry about them probably too much and go to the pediatrician for everything. My husband is a pediatrician, and I still take my kids to the doctor when they have fevers.
- Your dog eats huge bags of dog food that can be picked up at any grocery store. Your baby breastfeeds every hour for what feels like eternity and then spends months learning how to eat solid food before deciding that she only wants to eat fried chicken and macaroni and cheese.
We’ve had our dog for almost ten years now. Her life has been full of love, walks, belly rubs, and long naps in the sunshine. But my once spry and bouncy puppy has become a slow, sometimes grouchy, old lady. My parenting journey, however, is just beginning. My oldest is 6, and I have years of molding, disciplining, encouraging, and loving left before my kids become functional members of society. A dog’s life with you is brief in the long run; your babies are always your babies.