Fur-Baby Meets (Mostly) Bald, Human Baby

This is Fanny. She puts up with quite a lot.

This is Fanny. She puts up with quite a lot.

Pets are basically the best. They love us when we’re down, they don’t care how we look, they keep us company, provide stress-relief, comic relief, and an excuse to get out of a boring encounter (“Oh sorry, I have to go walk my dog/feed my fish/count my sea-monkeys). Many of us parents have pets in our lives who predate the kids and, in my case, even the spouse. My dearest doggie, Fanny, just celebrated her 14th birthday and, in many ways, she is my first child. It seems like just yesterday she was a sproingy little thing and now she’s a lovely, rambling, old biddy. She had me from the moment we met eyes in the shelter and she has been my canine better-half ever since. We have been a package deal from the beginning: You have to be accepted by my dog to get to me. Cleary she liked my choice of boyfriend because she even let me take him home and marry him!

Fast forward until I got pregnant. My dog seemed to know what was up right away even if I was a wreck and had NO idea what I was doing.  All of a sudden there was going to be a person (okay, not so sudden, nine months, but still) and for the first time, Fanny would not have a say in whether I got to keep it. I got nervous. Like really nervous. What if my dog doesn’t like the kid? What if my dog tries to EAT the kid? What if I have to find a new home for the dog?! I decided to start creating the conditions for my dog to welcome the new baby. I read some Dog Whisperer stuff (I don’t love or hate Cesar Milan, also this is not a post about dog-training), went on some websites, and tried to think like a dog. And as I got thinking, I realized I was thinking about my dog as if she were a person…Are you confused? Sorry. Here’s the thing, I needed to find a place in my multi-species pack (there’s a cat in the mix too, but he’s super chill) for the new baby, strengthen our bond, and establish roles for the rest of us. Different pets and people need different things. There are so many approaches and right ways to do it, but the take-home is that the work is much more for the humans than the animals. For me, it looked like a determined walk everyday and a series of new rules, like being invited onto furniture instead of just taking up the space.

Our pets are family and they deserve to feel secure through the big changes. Even with all the prep work we did and my fervent hope that Fanny, the wonderful wonder-weenie of love, would take to my tiny, (mostly) bald human baby, I still got my parents to dog-sit her for a few days while we reentered the world after our daughter’s birth. It did, thankfully, all work out for me and my pack and now I almost forget what it was like wondering and worrying. She has more than earned her nickname “Nanny Fanny”. I have an extraordinary dog. She was the four-legged doula at the birth of my second baby, but that deserves its own post some day.

For some pets and families, bringing home the baby isn’t all dehydrated liver and roses and that’s okay too. It’s okay to be sad if your pet is not feeling the love. It’s okay to find help with training, or if you have no other choice, to find a new family for your pet. And it’s okay to love your human baby more than your animal. You probably have the best, most amazing, loveliest pooch or pussy in the world, but this is what having a baby does to you! You don’t love your pet any less than you did, you just love that little baby more than you’ve ever loved anything ever in your life. The steps you take getting the fur-baby ready for the person-puppy are important practice. And with a little luck and some solid work, you just might be able to live happily (if messily) ever after. Trust me, the kids (human and pet variety) are alright.

Feel free to share your pet-baby relationship stories here. We want to hear how it went down in your households.

 

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