Before I had children, my dog was my baby. I missed her when I was out. We had a “cuddle on the couch” ritual the minute I walked in the door from work. I took her to visit her human grandparents. When my friends would talk about cute things their kids did, I would compare them to my dog (I’m surprised they continued to be friends with me). My dog was my top priority.
When our pup was almost 7 years old, I gave birth to our daughter. After that everything changed. Completely overwhelmed as first-time parents of a baby with a serious medical issue, my husband and I asked my in-laws to let our dog stay with them for a little while. A few weeks after our baby girl came home from the hospital and we had gotten somewhat settled, it was time for our furry friend to return to our house.
Oh, the horror. What had previously been a pleasure had overnight become a complete burden. My good dog now seemed needy and annoying. “You have to go out again?! How dare you!” “You’re hungry? Didn’t I just feed you?!” Ugh. I now had a tiny human who needed to have her bathroom and feeding needs tended to and needed my undivided attention.
Suddenly being a dog owner was too much.
I began to resent our dog and feel angry towards her all the time. There were the minor issues – Waking up at the crack of dawn on the day the baby finally decides to sleep in? Really??? Banging your water bowl for a refill in the middle of a blowout diaper clean-up? Please stop. Barking at the mailman during naptime?! Come on, dog!
Then there were the huge deals – like the time I had just finished a large, first thing in the morning, pumping session. I set the bottles down on the table and left the room for a second. Seriously, seconds. When I returned to retrieve my liquid gold, there was my dog licking the bottles and enjoying the fruits of my labor. Nooooooooooo!!!!!! *drops to knees in despair*
For the longest time, I felt so guilty for the change of heart that I had towards my dog. I felt like a terrible person. How could I have turned on my once best friend? One day I sheepishly shared my frustrations with a dear friend and she told me how a whole meeting of her mom support group was spent talking about the same thing.
It was then that I realized it wasn’t just me.
I guess some of these feelings are a natural part of our maternal instinct to only have eyes for our babies. (The hormones, sleep deprivation and general feelings of being overwhelmed don’t help either.)
It has now been 6 years and during that time another tiny human has joined our pack. Through it all, my dog has been there. Over time, I learned how to better balance the responsibilities of being a mom to both my children and my canine dependent, and the weight of the perceived burden lessened. I have watched my children grow to love her as my husband and I do, and it’s a beautiful thing.
It’s true that dogs have unconditional love for their families.
She was loyal enough to have patience with me as I worked through the difficult time of new mommyhood. She gave up her title as “only child” and graciously accepted her new position in the family. She stepped out of the spotlight to let it shine on the new little humans in her life.
We have been very lucky to have our dog in our family for so many years and through so many life changes. Though I may have not always shown it, I am grateful for her continued companionship. She will always be the one who was there first. And, even though she still has her completely annoying moments (as every family member does), I love her very much.