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Gratitude for a Canine Lifetime

We’ve embarked on a new dog chapter. With the addition of our progeny, my relationship with my dogs has changed. It has. I denied it would happen. I rally against it. But, its true. The addition of kids changes how you feel about dogs.

In our case, it doesn’t involve a trip to the shelter, emails to a rescue, or very sad craigslist ads. Fear not! My band of senior misfits are still and forever firmly ensconced into the landscape of my life. I’m distracted these days. By diapers and feeding and crying and snuggling. As much as I am still in awe of this new life in my lap (Who gave me a baby anyway!?), I am equally enthralled with my dogs. How far we’ve all come together. To get here.

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Far from my dogs feeling lesser now that we have a baby to care for, I am now overwhelmed with a sense of appreciation for these animals. The time we’ve spent together, how we interact, the behavior I can take for granted, the understanding we have of each other. Maybe our situation is unique. I’ve got this huge (by normal standards) pack of dogs, the youngest of which is 3, the oldest 13, who have been with me their entire lives. Rocco, being the misfit, showed up at 1 year of age. Everyone else… 4 months, 5 months, 3 months…less for the Springers. Their whole existence, one constant family. As sad as it is, the vast majority of dogs do not live that life. They are re-homed or shuffled, best case scenario. An alarming percentage are subject to a much more traumatic abandonment. I’ve had these dogs in my home. Lots of them. Coming to me later in life to stay for months or years. I can’t help but think my time with my core group is different.

They don’t know any other life. Their somewhat posh existence of raw food, wall to wall dog beds (their favorite is still standing), alternative vet care, and an abundance of chewing options. To that I say, good. Every dog should be so lucky. As should every family with a new baby. Lucky to have dogs, old ones in particular, that are only too willing to sleep when the baby sleeps, to not need as much exercise as they used to, to know me well enough to understand the importance I’m placing on this new thing, and respond accordingly. They’ve really been quite amazing. Never missing an opportunity to give the baby a thorough once over, complete with cold nose snorfles and kisses, they honestly don’t seem confused about his presence. I do have to monitor potentially misplaced feet of lady dogs of a certain age, who may not know exactly where to place them anymore. That, however is not specific to the baby. It’s our reality in general.

So, our relationship is changing. When I look at these dogs, at the current unprecedented chaos in our lives, and how they seem most happy that I’m home more, I find that new found appreciation I didn’t know I was capable of. They are bridging old life and new – theirs, mine, ours – with relative ease. It gives me inspiration actually. If they can do it, they can find the new normal, happiness in what is often a devastating situation for pets, then I certainly have nothing to complain about. Except that they are sleeping better than I am, but hey…

We always *say* we learn from our pets. Patience, consistency, joy, calm. I am no exception. However, its usually in hindsight. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such an in my face example. I prepared my dogs for this. I also (not so) secretly worried that it wouldn’t be enough. That mommy-baby love would over shadow them. That I would resent their presence. Lord knows, I’ve seen it happen enough times. That they would become instantaneous baby haters. Maybe all that truly is a spontaneous phenomenon. Like most (but, not all) of my worry, it was for naught. If anything, I more pleased, ecstatic even, that we’ve invested so much into those relationships over the years. Its given us a solid base to fall back on. Something I don’t think most families have.

There’s still plenty of time for this to go sideways. Babies that don’t do a whole lot of moving are much more innocuous than crawling, babbling, drooling, chasers. Course, by that point he’ll also become a consistent source of dropped food, which may off set movement. Either way, now that I’ve seen them in action, I wonder how I doubted them, me, us, and a decade plus of already being a cohesive family unit. Now we are a little different. And all the better for it.

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Comments

Miser Mom
Reply

Awww . . . they’re so cute together.

I still remember bringing my 6-week old, adopted infant son home to our dog. Lucky Dog immediately accepted the baby as part of the family: dropped a ball on the baby’s lap, hoping he would throw it, or rolled over in front of the baby, asking for a belly rub. She (the dog) was always surprisingly (to me) gently with this puny little person. Her favorite spot in the house soon came to be at the table, resting her chin on the bottom rung of the high chair, hoping something would fall . . .

Your son is going to have a better life for having animals in it. He’s going to learn a lot about compassion and companionship.

Cassi
Reply

That picture is the cutest thing I have seen all day. Precious.

Also, I’m so glad that after your not so great birth story, the merging of baby and dog is going as well as expected. (Well, I expected. I always knew you’d have it in you to spread the love around and keep everyone happy!)

Betsy
Reply

Poignant, sweet, thoughtful… and this whole post makes my day – as I’m sure you knew it would! Your son is blessed to be born in an animal loving home. He’ll learn compassion by example – and he’ll always have a best friend on hand.

Van
Reply

Sweet story. Glad to see your adjusting well to parenthood with beloved pack in tow. Gotta play catch-up on your blog, now! :D

SoNotCal
Reply

I got both my Aussies as 8 week old pups, they are now 10 and 6. My daughter is 5. The truth in our house is that they are just good girls – I didn’t focus on how they would react when we brought her home other than the blanket thing as she was in the NICU for almost a month. During the toddler times, I think we had already laid the groundwork when they were pups with sticking our hands in food bowls while eating and taking away bones and such. She never hurt them by pulling on their fur either. I was always watching for that one with the amount of fur (!) to latch onto. My daughter and the youngest are best friends. They play together constantly and will sometimes just sit in the big open crate together snuggling. We love them and they love us…family. I enjoyed reading your article because it made me realize how much I took for granted how seamless it all has been. :)

Stevie Swendsen
Reply

Post made my day…beautiful story…we just had our baby girl (human lol) and we are getting her ready for the dogs…so far our dogs have no idea what these odd creature is in the house :)

Love your blog..keep up great work!

Stevie.

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