Babies and pets: how to prepare & manage
So before Flynn came Bear. He is a black pug and the most loving, well-behaved dog I’ve ever come across. Bear was our attempt at parenting before we decided to try and do the same with a real human – and I think we did a good job. Now that my son is weaning and teething, I totally see the similarities between raising animals and babies!
Everyone warned us about how new parents often decide to put an animal up for adoption once the baby comes home, due to jealousy or unintended neglect towards the animal. I was borderline offended when people kept telling us this, as we think of Bear as our child. You wouldn’t get rid of a toddler when a new baby comes onto the scene, so why would you do this with an animal who is just as much a part of your family?
Initially it was hard juggling Bear, who was previously treated like a baby, and Flynn. Bear was visibly upset and sulked a lot in the early days. My husband and I did our best to give him the love and attention he craved, but when we’d had four hours broken sleep between us, any down time was spent napping or staring goggle-eyed at the TV. Everyone remembers the newborn blur and how you have no idea what is going on.
We quickly recognised that Bear needed a bit of TLC and so we introduced him to a local dog walker, who he now adores, as he gets to spend time with his Labrador pals. At the time, I felt terribly guilty and worried that Bear hated me and didn’t want me as his Mum anymore. Add this into the mix of already feeling guilt and pressure about parenting and being irrational due to lack of sleep, and it felt quite full-on at times. So be mindful of this before your baby arrives and make plans for your dog, be it regular exercise or spending time with other dogs if he/she is social. If you have a cat or smaller animal, ensure you have a plan B should they need the same or additional care and attention, and you struggle to give it to them. And remember, animals provide unconditional love, so their feelings will always remain the same for you – don’t feel guilty.
Now that Flynn is approaching one year old, Bear has the best friend he could ever wish for. Flynn can be a little rough at times, as he learns the difference between stroking and fur-grabbing/slapping. Bear, of course, doesn’t flinch when this happens, but gets his own back when Flynn attempts to throw his squeaky toy across the room and Bear pounces on him (unintentionally) in an excited frenzy. He sits patiently by Flynn’s side when he cries and sees Flynn as the ultimate feeder of all kinds of snacks when he is in his highchair. The key to every dog’s heart.
So yes, it was hard initially juggling a dog and baby, but the good times really do outweigh the hard bits. I grew up with a dog and cat in our childhood home and still hold fond memories of both being my first friends in life. I wanted the same for Flynn and he has got it in Bear.
One final point: when babies are on the move, you will lose track of how many times the baby goes for the dog’s food and water bowls; they may even lick it! Also, when you find the baby using the dog’s antler chew as a teething toy or, my favourite, the baby biting the dog on his neck (this is Flynn’s way of showing affection) and then smiling at you with a mouthful of fur. Once you get to this point, Milton antibacterial wipes are redundant. Just smile and think of this period as your child building his/her immune system at an exponential rate. Every cloud has a silver lining.