Updated July 2021 – Originally published in Life in Multiples, 2016
COVID-19 Update: All of the content below was originally written and published prior to COVID-19. While many of this still applies, please consider COVID-19 regulations, policies, and advice.
I have had two dogs in my life, Hungarian Vizslas. They saw our family through many changes: miscarriages, fertility, pregnancy, babies, and several moves. They were my fur babies. Hunter and Maggie were both sweet, affectionate, and excitable. Maggie loved to play fetch and Hunter liked to sniff his way around the dog park; she was a daddy’s girl and he was a momma’s boy. I let them lick my face and spooned with them on the couch. They loved my girls.
During the first trimester of my pregnancy, my nose was in overdrive. I could smell everything and it all made me want to throw up. For the first time, our house smelled like dog to me. The poor dogs must have thought I was possessed because I couldn’t let them near me without gagging. I had to wash everything and Febreeze what I couldn’t wash. Throughout my pregnancy, Maggie would excessively sniff my lady business and Hunter would curl up beside me and rest his head on my baby belly. Until my baby belly became too big, straining his neck, and then he used my leg instead. He would tilt his head on an angle and look at my belly like he could actually hear something. He would nose and lick my belly too. Did I mention that he was a momma’s boy?
When the babies first came home, I kept telling the dogs “You will love these girls someday when they are big enough to chase and play fetch and sleep in big girl beds that you can climb into.” They looked at me very skeptically, but it turns out that their patience paid off earlier than I thought. Maya, at the age of one, was already playing fetch with Maggie though she couldn’t throw very far yet. The dogs were also adept at chasing the girls around when they had food in their hands. They thought the girls’ mealtimes were the best times of day and waited patiently for food to drop on the floor.
I heard from a friend that once you have children, your dog just becomes a dog. They are no longer your baby. I didn’t find this to be true. I didn’t get tired of mammals touching me just because I have four of them in my care. Granted, sometimes it’s not convenient, but I loved snuggles from the girls and the dogs alike. The dogs somehow recharged my batteries. They required so little of me and gave so much, especially when it came to my mental health.
Walking the dogs gave me a reason to get out of the house and take a time out, sometimes with the girls but often without. We would walk the trails and the dogs went ballistic. Cami and Maya came to the dog park with me for the first time when they were two and a half weeks old. Then, when they were old enough, they would get out and walk with us, picking up rocks and sticks along the way. It made me feel like supermom taking them all out on an adventure. Nature has always been therapeutic for me but even more so when I could enjoy it with the dogs. Their unbridled joy was contagious. I still think of the dog park as my Zen place.
Granted that many things are more complicated with children than with dogs. Discipline for one, toilet training, eating, sleeping. Talking. Repeating everything you say. Developmental stages tend to happen faster with dogs—when you’re stuck in a stage with children it drags on and on. However, there are several things about being a parent that are very much like having a dog:
- I cleaned up their poop, puke, pee, and dirty faces, hands/paws, and bodies.
- They understood instructions but didn’t always follow them. Whatever I wanted them to be doing, they did the exact opposite.
- They wanted to be wherever I was—try cramming one adult, two toddlers, and two dogs into a powder room when you have to pee.
- Whatever I was eating, they were all after it. Eating became a race so that you can finish whatever it is before they eat it all. Forget savouring anything.
- The dogs and girls shared everything. I tried segregation in the beginning, but soon whatever the girls had was fair game for the dogs and vice versa. Food and toys especially.
- They were adorable when they were sleeping. They emit this smell we’ve coined in our house as “waftage” that smells soft and warm, not really clean or dirty, but completely delicious.
- There’s grooming involved, trimming nails, cleaning ears, brushing hair and teeth. It was all challenging and I was left frazzled afterwards in both cases.
- I swore that I wouldn’t, but they often end up sleeping in my bed. The dogs learned to stealthily climb into bed after I had fallen asleep, and I was so tired as new parents that it ceased to matter as long as they stayed still. The girls usually only when they are sick, but due to any combination of these circumstances, sleep was a rarity.
- They all loved being outside, which is great. The dogs and girls were also fascinated by most other animals…but for very different, and likely obvious, reasons.
- No matter what they did, I couldn’t stay mad for long.
Still, after all the dependents were sleeping at night (fingers crossed), I would think to myself “I wonder if they know how much I love them?” It started with the dogs and continued with the girls. The dogs have since passed away and the girls are now almost seven years old. But the bottom line is that if you have pets or children, life is rich and sweet. Enjoy!