My Baby's KeeperLauren Hartmann
When we brought our little Fern home from the birthing center, one of the things we were most excited about was introducing her to our dog Marley.
We laid Fern down on the couch and had Marley come over so she could give her a good once over with her sniffer. But, after that initial introduction, Marley didn’t show much interest in Fern. She didn’t seem jealous or anything and she was never mean or rough with Fern, just mostly indifferent. In Marley’s eyes any person unwilling or unable to throw her ball isn’t worth much of a time investment.
But, recently as Fern is spending more and more time on the floor having tummy time at Marley’s level, her feelings seem to have changed.
Read more after the jump!
The main photo for this post was from bath time this week. It was the first time that Marley had seen us give Fern a bath and she was incredibly concerned about it. It was almost like she thought I was maybe trying to drown her or something, but whatever the case, she barked at me and whined and paced back and forth in the bathroom during the entire bath!
Another similar situation was when we went camping with a group of people recently and it was the first time that there had been other dogs around Fern when Marley was around. As is the usual with situations with large groups and a baby, she was passed around throughout our time there and anytime she would be in someone else’s arms Marley would go walk right by them. And if there were any other dogs around Fern she would be on high alert.
It’s sweet to see her with “her baby”. Unfortunately Marley never had babies of her own, but I guess she just saved up all that motherly instinct for Fern. I can’t wait for Fern to get bigger and have wonderful adventures with Marley!
If you have pets, how have they responded to your little one(s)?
So You Want a Pet…
Babies, houses, pets… they seem to go together. Deep in our minds (OK, sometimes not so deep) we all have an image of family—so often that image involves a tumbling ball of kids and animals, cavorting sweetly on the green grass lawn. Is this your dream? A house filled with laughter, furry creatures, and children?
This longing for a complete family—including domestic animals (the hunting hound sleeping by the fire)—sometimes blinds us to the cruel reality that pet and babies are like oil and water, each wonderful, but not always great at blending.
Now, I’m a pet lover, a cat lover, a dog adorer—I’m not saying don’t have pets, just time them. I’ve come to this conclusion after experiences of my own (and we don’t even have a tender baby in the house!) About a year ago, my hormones finally got the best of me (“Next time I start making noises for another baby, get me a dog, will you?” I told my husband long ago). Enter Mollie, an 8-week-old Labrador shepherd also known as a mutt, a pound special, an all-American blenderization, a mixed-breed, a little six-pound sleepy wonder. Cute? You’ve never seen so cute.
Then Mollie got bigger. And bigger. And then she began to bite. We’re not talking serious damage here, but her teething was so extreme that it drove us to puppy training classes where I grimly showed my shredded arms and wondered what kind of bestial fiend I was exposing my only daughter to. Then my daughter Annie showed the class her shredded legs, and my reputation was toast. Burnt toast.
Of course, “mouthy” puppies grow out of it, if trained correctly, and the only time Mollie attacks my feet now is when I’m on a business call. Every afternoon, Annie runs into the house, flops on the floor, and the dog licks her face, both of them completely gentle and trusting. But it took a year to get here. For quite a few months, Annie’s progress around the house was impeded wherever she had to actually touch wood planks or carpet instead of hopping from chair to couch to cabinet to avoid the puppy.
While Annie spent months hiding from the puppy’s sharp teeth, I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t gotten a dog when Annie was a baby. And I started thinking about pets and babies in general. Both dogs and cats can be loving or ignoring of babies. But it is a risk. Think of the worst-case scenarios: cute little furry kittens with big eyes and razor sharp claws that can take out the eye of an infant. Grown dogs, who might be tolerant of a few tail pulls but might rebel and snap the nose off a curious toddler who pokes that pencil a little too far up the dog’s nose. Hamsters that nip. Birds that peck.
I know, from experience and from all those books and movies, that animals and children can be an amazing combination. Loyal, friendly, loving to each other. But that’s kids. When your baby is a baby, stay out of that pet store, don’t even walk into that animal shelter! And by all means, stay away from those cages in front of the supermarket that the local humane society haul out every weekend filled with needy, sweetie, animals. Wait, I tell you, wait! Puppies and kittens and bunnies and babies do not mix.
But There’s Already an Animal Here!
Have a pet? Having a baby? Well it’s better than having a baby and getting a pet. If you have a household companion animal when you find out you’re expecting, you shouldn’t get rid of Bowser or Fluffy—they can, and will, adjust to your new little one, and so will you.
When You Arrive Home
Remember that famous scene in Lady and the Tramp where Lady, the spoiled little Cocker Spaniel, is unceremoniously deposed from her place on the royal bed? When you have a baby, you will be overjoyed, your pet will feel betrayed, and the next step…? Trouble. So, whether you’re staggering with stitches or bearing your proud baby, her mother hanging on your arm, don’t ignore your leaping animal when you first get home from the hospital. Think of it from your pet’s perspective—you’ve been gone for days, and Bowser missed you. Isn’t Bowsie Wowsy your little woozy boozy doogy dog anymore? Bowser doesn’t understand, Bowser won’t understand. The new baby is like a new sister or brother—expect jealousy. Your pet will not instantly love your new little bundle of joy. (Give it time!)
- Let your pet get used to children before he has a human child of his own.
- If Baby is staying in the hospital (even for the first day), bring a blankie of his home for your pet to sniff.
- When you arrive home, meet the potential conflict head on. Get on the floor, holding the baby wrapped tightly (with another adult in the room to intercept Bowser if he suddenly gets nasty) and let the animal sniff. No, not lick, sniff.
- Let him snuggle next to you while you nurse.
- Watch the doggy like a hawk, and the kitty like an eagle—do not leave them alone with the baby.
Not Listening To Me?
Still thinking puppy or kitten? Let me try to talk you out of it some more. Do you really want two babies to housetrain? Two babies to cry at night? A puppy can put you over the top, what with the piddling and the chewing and the crying. Our yard is down a flight of stairs, and we’d had the dog a full month before she was able to negotiate all twelve steps. Until then, it was every hour “Come on Mollie, let’s go potty!” Where will you fit those in with all the diaper changes?
And what if baby pulls Doggy’s ears (because babies do) and Doggy, unfairly provoked, snaps off Baby’s tender nose?
OK … Well, Then Be Smart About It!
If you’ve decided to do the puppy/kitten/baby thing anyway, I’ll bite my tongue … but not until after I’ve given you some tips.
- Choose a dog with a “soft mouth”—that means shepherds and Dobermans and pit bulls and snappy terriers aren’t such a great idea. Go for a retriever, or a dog known for having a CALM temperament.
- Keep them separated, except when you’re there. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of the animal? Especially in self-defense?
- Flee the fleas! Flea bites are just plain bad for babies—and bad for parents of flea-bitten babies, too. Deflea your animals regularly (check out the 1-drop-a-month medications that go on the back of a dog or cat’s neck.
- Deworm when prescribed, and keep your pet’s immunizations current.
- Wait on the hamsters, bunnies, guinea pigs, and snakes until your kid is old enough to know not to eat them. If you do have small animals, let the child stroke the animal—when the animal is in YOUR arms.
- Understand that, under the age of 2, kids simply cannot understand that pulling the puppy’s ears and swinging kitty by the tail hurts.
- If the animal is sleeping, don’t let the baby touch. If the animal is eating, don’t let the baby touch.
- If baby is bitten, clean the bite area with antiseptic soap, and keep it clean until healed. Bites can become infected easily. If it’s deep or scary, call a doctor. If the dog is not yours, make sure the immunizations are up to date. If you don’t know, CALL A DOCTOR and, if you can, catch the dog—it may need to be checked for rabies.