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.
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.