The story sounds familiar: Couple gets dog, loves dog tremendously—life revolves around dog—couple gets pregnant, has baby and grows to resent, even hate dog. But is it that familiar? Does that have to be the common narrative? Is there room in a house, and in the heart, to love and adore both a baby AND a dog?
Yesterday Slate.com reposted an old article to their Facebook page titled “The One Thing No One Tells You Before You Have Kids: Don’t Get a Dog.” The story is not much different than the one above. “It’s not that I don’t love my dog. It’s just that I don’t love my dog. And I am not alone.” It’s a cautionary tale from one mom to future parents-to-be. Sure they’re cute and cuddly now, but you’ll care less about’em the second that baby comes home so you might as well skip it altogether. The dog was her world before children and less than an after thought following. She is right about one thing; she isn’t alone. And I have a problem with that. I have a problem with dogs being used as novelty items whose allure grows stale with time.
I am the beginning of that story but I do not want to be the end. I want to have a baby and dogs and dammit, I want to love them all. From what I know, love doesn’t have capacity. We have an amazing ability to open and expand our hearts; we don’t have to stop loving one thing just because something shiny and new comes along.
I understand my naivete on the subject. Without kids how could I possibly relate? So I asked my dear friend Elke her thoughts. Elke is the mother of two beautiful girls. Aasta is two and a half and little Ingrid is nearly six months. She also has two dogs. Camilla, an eight year old goofy Boxer / Bernese Mountain Dog and sweet Luna, a four year old rescue Pit Bull. At 85 and 50 pounds these pups shed and bark and require as much exercise and attention as most large breed dogs do. “I’ve certainly had moments where Camilla is barking at me, Aasta is crying and Ingrid just had a poop explosion all at the same time.” Her solution; laugh it off. Yes, fur gets everywhere, so pass off that Swiffer Sweeper to the two year old and have her help! Dog is whining at the door? Aasta can let her out. Not only does it give her something meaningful to do, she learns about responsibility, empathy toward other creatures, and shows her that mom trusts her. Those are lessons I’d love to teach my future two year old.
My pups are hilarious, sweet, loud, obnoxious and sometimes stinky, so very stinky. I love them unconditionally, flaws and all. That’s the commitment I made when I brought them home. The same commitment when anyone brings a dog into their home. The joy they bring makes all the hard stuff seem easier. They’ve taught me about responsibility and patience and that there is always room for more love. And I want to share that with my children.