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Changing Priorities…or Not.

This dog.

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Does having a baby somehow negate my responsibility to this dog? Does it lessen it? Am I no longer required to feed him the best diet I can afford? To provide him veterinary care when he needs it?

I understand in the battle of kids vs. dogs, human vs. canine bipeds always win. This, I am not questioning. In terms of life and death, of course. But, how often is it actually in those terms? Isn’t it often a question of sacrifice? Of priorities? Of living up to the responsibilities you signed up for? Even when it sucks.

My kid is not here yet. I haven’t had to live that life, to make those choices. The position of armchair quarterback is nice and comfy. Part of my pre-baby plan is amassing a substantial Vet Savings account to save me from having to make unfortunate decisions when the chips are down, emergency vets are in use, and decade long relationships are on the line. Still shit happens, accounts empty, when it rains in pours. With this many dogs, the odds are against me regardless of how much I save.

There is also a general questioning of diets, budgets, and dog expenses in these Before Baby times. We live pretty high on the hog now. We’ll all take that down a notch when our newest pack member arrives. We’ll sacrifice. Some of us may have to eat kibble. Premium, high end kibble, still obviously inferior to our current raw food selection. I’ll have to give up the Farmer’s Market. Somehow, we will muddle through. I’m not even feeling too guilty about it.

So many threats and promises of how a life changes with the arrival of a baby. Understandably. But does it render my current responsibilities null and void? Is it a carte blanche excuse for being a shitty human being to these creatures I’ve shared my life with? That’s how I see it used. Suddenly inconvenient and expensive dogs and cats can be dropped off at shelters, sent to perhaps inappropriate new homes, offered up on Craigslist because of ‘new baby’. Or because the kids ‘need Christmas’ and we ‘need vacation’. Yet, vet care just costs too much.

I acknowledge that having actual offspring might put my dog love into perspective. Maybe make it seem small and less so in comparison with the life long, fruit of my loins journey we are embarking upon. However, I refuse to believe I will magically, suddenly, inexplicably become capable of abandoning my dogs. Of threatening their place in this family because of decisions I made. Of compromising the comfort of their old age because its inconvenient. Shitty people make shitty decisions. They just blame it on their kids.

Speaking of those kids, what does that teach them? Value of the human-animal bond aside, what does it teach them about living up to their commitments? About banding together when times are tough? About what is really important? If I don’t value my dogs as part of the family, how can I expect my peoples to? Bonus points for lessons in hard work, companionship, and thrift.

There are circumstances I’m not taking into account here. Probably. Allergies, come to mind. Even if it is oft over-used. Perhaps, other medical conditions. Safety. Out and out loss of a home. Although, I’m not convinced my dogs wouldn’t be happier living in a car with me than sent packing. Such an arrangement could prove problematic. But, I think of moving heaven and earth. Of what possible circumstance could make me choose between kid and dog to such a degree that dog loses in a very big way. In my mind, those are the circumstances you go into debt for. Not flat screen TVs, extravagant Holidays or even terribly fuel efficient cars (ahem). No. Keeping bellies full, heads under roofs, and providing necessary medical to all. When those things truly come into question, under hopefully rare and unfortunate circumstances, then we do what we have to do. And we skimp absolutely everywhere else.

Clearly, this is on my mind. Due to my own knocked up circumstances, soon to be diminished means, and events unfolding around me. It’s a hot button-y topic. Full of judgement and guilt. My intention is only to question my own circumstances, as I’m currently faced with fat vet bills. Vet bills I can handle right now. Vet bills that promise to be more painful without Corporate Sponsorship. Painful, but not going anywhere. Vet trips that will be harder to make with infant either in tow or waiting at home. All this would be a lot easier without the literal pack of responsibilities that come standard with our life. I can anticipate all these conflicts and complications. There’s a whole slew I can’t. What I can do is anticipate handling those with my dogs.

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Comments

Erica / Northwest Edible Life
Reply

“Shitty people make shitty decisions.” Maybe, but that’s not the issue here because you are not now and will not become a shitty person or a shitty parent or a shitty dog owner. Everything will probably be totally fine, and you will find a new equilibrium. Quite possibly your experience wrangling as many dogs as you have will make having a baby way easier and simpler. You have a relationship with them, and that won’t change, just like your relationship with friends doesn’t go away when they have babies (ok, usually) and a relationship with an older child doesn’t go away if you have another. But things may take a little bit to settle out, and *the best you can do* will change, and what was your best before may seem both impossible and inconsequential…possibly at the same time. Just don’t set yourself up to feel like a shitty person if that adjustment period takes awhile or everyone is asked to share in the compromise or sacrifice a little bit. That’s just part of being a family, and your pack will get that.

dogsordollars
Reply

Not setting myself up to feel like a shitty person. That’s very sound advice. Thank you. It’s that initial finding of equilibrium chaos that I fear. I’m hoping it will be balanced out with being a little moony over my baby and my snuggly new family. Maybe.

Betsy Voss
Reply

Sarah, all will be well. Speaking of someone who has dwelled in the Land of Dumped Dogs for a very long time, for the most part the only ones who give up their dogs when it becomes inconvenient are those that were never fully vested in the first place–those that think dogs have no feelings and are disposable. Clearly that does not represent you. Your kindness and compassion will be a great example to your child. You might have to sacrifice a little. You have a great relationship with your vet and that’s not going to go away. He/she will work with you. The dogs will take a back seat sometimes – especially at first. Babies are hard. It will all get better. I promise.

dogsordollars
Reply

The Land of Dumped Dogs. So unfortunate that I know what you mean there. And you are right, they might blame the dumping on their kids, but there are people without kids who dump them anyway. They find another excuse. Its all about not being committed and how the value you give them. That’s not going to change (around here) with a baby…

Thank you Betsy. What a lovely comment.

Trish
Reply

My sister was one of those – the ones who dump their animals when they are about to give birth. In this case it was two big neutered cats. She said it was because her allergies were so bad. This was about 26 years ago, and she mentions it from time to time. I can’t really reconcile myself to her decision, but I don’t tell her that. I also don’t tell her that when I was contemplating kids, she made the comment that pushed me to the no kid path. I had a rather aggressive shit of a pomeranian at the time , and I did my best with it, but it probably wasn’t to be trusted with kids. She said that I would have to choose between the dog and a baby. That seemed so cold blooded so I went the no baby route. I have never regretted it, so ultimately it was the right decision for me. I just hate the idea that we are the most important creatures on the planet, to the detriment of all others. And my sister is about 8 yrs older than me, and tends to be bossy towards me. She looks upon it as offering advice.

Anyway, my situation is not like yours. You absolutely seem like you are up for the challenge. and I was just venting. I am looking forward to reading about your adventures in babyland.

dogsordollars
Reply

Oh Trish, I can so relate to staying childless for your dogs. Because of the worry about them taking a backseat. I’ve had those same thoughts many many times. As you can tell, it still concerns me. Now I have to trust myself that I can do things different. That I’m not ‘that person’. But, I completely understand your decision. And I’ve had those same examples in my family. Maddening.

Kayla
Reply

As a new mom (6 mo old daughter) and dog mom to 2 adorable n difficult JRTs, I think I can tell you: it will all work out. During my pregnancy, I worried endlessly about my dogs, the loves of my life. I would try to calm myself by repeating “There’s more than enough love!” I still worry about vet bills, but so far it has all worked out. (I made myself a deal that the dogs might not always be able to sit on my lap as they used too, but they could always sleep w me. Might sound silly to you, but it has worked for me.)

On a side note, it has been delightful to watch the dogs each develop a unique relationship w my daughter.

(Long time lurker…..)

dogsordollars
Reply

Thanks for leaving a comment! I’m really looking forward to seeing my dogs with my kid. I think its going to be kind of hilarious all the way around.

And, even if my dogs don’t sleep with me (how big would that bed have to be?) I like the idea of striking a compromise. Something that’s still theirs. I think us crazy dog people have a slightly tweaked set of concerns when it comes to new parenthood.

nicoleandmaggie
Reply

Our cats (one of whom has a heart condition) are a higher priority than our fancy cheese consumption. We have found a lot of places to cut that don’t involve living creatures. Hopefully it won’t come to that choice for you ever, and yes, having a healthy savings account helps a lot! You are doing the right thing by planning for these money issues in advance.

dogsordollars
Reply

Cheese vs. Cats, Cats win! :) This reminds me to go put another $10 in the vet savings account. Thanks!

Lesli
Reply

Simply beautiful.

Jenny
Reply

I seriously doubt, with your commitment to your furry loved-ones, that you’ll ever be brought to a choice between your dogs and your child, unless the ship is really sinking. The only way we would have parted with our Riley is if we felt he posed an actualy danger to the new baby. The people you see bringing dogs to the shelter because they have a new baby were never good pet owners to begin with. Even our friend whose son developed an allergy to their dog kept the dog until they found a new home for him, rather than drop him off with strangers. I actually have a friend who couldn’t believe we weren’t getting rid of our cats because they would suffocate the baby. Seriously. In this day and age. Our cats had absolutely no interest in a newborn, and to this day have no interest in a toddler. Don’t let this topic keep you up at night – I’ll say that while the dogs may no longer be able to live in the lap of luxury, they will still lead much happier doggy lives than the majority of their neighbors.

Nina Potts
Reply

This is my first time here, so I haven’t gotten to know you or anything yet. I have this to offer: I’ve volunteered in dog rescue for some time. I see many dogs go through shelters, rescues, and a few that I adopted, that came from people who gave them up after having kids. Sometimes it was within the first year of the baby, sometimes it was 7 years after. Inevitably it was always “oh, my dog doesn’t like my kids”. I have never once heard someone say “oh, my kids don’t like the dog”. Too many times I have seen animals abandoned because their humans did not introduce them to their offspring properly, and didn’t maintain how to treat animals properly. People want a dog that the baby can pull on, bite, tug on, that will just lay there. When the dog reacts, it gets booted out. Its never the parents fault, or the childrens fault, its the dogs fault.

I don’t think this will happen to you, or that it happens to everyone. I do know that it happens a lot, more than people realize, and more than they want to admit.

Good luck with everything. I’ll keep reading.

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