Growing up, I was a serious animal lover. But after starting my family, any desire to own a pet flew right out the window. My time and arms were full enough with the five kids I gave birth to between the ages of 20 and 32, and having small children touching me all day drove away any desire for a dog to scratch or a cat to stroke.
But when my youngest daughter turned a year old and my oldest son became the magical age where he could be expected to pick up a lot of the dog-care slack, I began to have a change of heart. The kids desperately wanted a dog, and with more time and space on my hands, I found myself not so opposed to the idea as I once had been.
Finally, we adopted a pointer-beagle mix from a local animal shelter, and became a bona fide Dog Family. Here’s Moxie, our first doggy, shortly after we got her:
Raising Moxie has been an education, but mostly a low-stress experience. She sheds a little more than I’d like (going from a house with no dog hair to a lot, especially in the spring, is a rude awakening) and is an unrepentant food stealer, but we’ve all adjusted and for the most part, she’s fit into our family just fine.
So this year, when a friend had an adorable five-month-old Cockapoo-Bichon Frise puppy she needed to find a home for, I thought “Why not?” Moxie needed a buddy, I figured, with the kids off at school all day; and how much trouble could one more little dog be?
That’s how we got Renly, and our family swelled to 9 members: my husband and I, our five kids, and two dogs.
Renly hasn’t transitioned quite as easily as his big sister Moxie did. He’s skittish, sometimes literally afraid of his own shadow, which doesn’t always work well in a house where cousins and neighborhood children come in and out all day. He’s also been resistent to potty training, and only seems interested in pottying outside if the mood strikes him. Believe me: I’ve had some poop-pile meltdowns.
People who have more than one child often worry that they won’t be able to love another. In my case, it was a matter of a mother of many worrying that she wouldn’t be able to feel anything but annoyance – and definitely not affection – for four-legged creatures.
But sometimes I’m surprised by how much my heart has opened up to these two animals.
That said, I’ve found that raising dogs is, in some ways, more difficult than raising children.
Here are some examples:
- None of my children have ever chewed up three $50 Victoria’s Secret bras. In one sitting.
- Never has a child of mine looked me dead in the eye, squatted, and pooped on the carpet.
- My kids don’t put their chins on the counter and steal scraps of raw meat as I’m cooking dinner.
- I’ve never had to take a child outside in the middle of a freezing winter night to use the bathroom.
- Between boarding fees (turns out it’s easier to get people to take five kids for the night, than two dogs), grooming fees, heartworm medication and flea/tick preventive, dogs can be amazingly expensive to maintain.
On the other hand, there have been parts of the dog-raising process that have made me realize just how hard raising kids can be. Here are five ways raising kids is more difficult than raising dogs:
- Putting kids on a leash to take them on a walk is generally frowned upon.
- If your kid poops on the ground and you scoop it up with a plastic bag, the neighbors are going to talk.
- No child was ever tricked by wrapping a pill in peanut butter.
- If I pointed at a crate and said “Clara, go to bed,” she would just look at me like I’m crazy.
- “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Heel” – once you’ve got those, your dog’s education is complete. No flash cards, sports activities, musical instruction or SAT tutoring required.
As it turns out, the pet we got “for the kids” – and the second we got as a companion to the first – have grown on me. They annoy me sometimes (okay, often) and I’m not the kind of “dog mom” who treats canines like my actual children, but yep: I do love those furry little mutts, in my own gruff way.
Plus, when I walk into a room and see this?
How can my heart help but melt a little?
Were you a reluctant “dog parent” who’s since had a change of heart? An inveterate animal lover? Or are you still avoiding jumping on the pet bandwagon?