The year of our engagement, my now-husband and I found the perfect puppy at the animal shelter: Willie was a rescued Sato pup from the streets of Puerto Rico and he came to mean the world to us. We were childless and knew that someday we wanted to have children, so occasionally people would claim that Willie was “good practice” for the day when we would raise them. Not knowing any better, I took those words to heart.
Three years later, our first daughter was born. Those first two days in the hospital were magical. She slept like a champ and I nicknamed her “The Hoover Vacuum” based on her prodigious ability to breastfeed. Our time in the hospital was lovely because they made us feel like we knew what we were doing … and then we went home.
Our “perfect sleeper” stopped sleeping and breastfeeding was majorly difficult. Blowups were a part of our lives, laundry piled up, chaos ensued, and all that confidence we had — the confidence that we’d be prepared since, you know, we raised a dog — went right out the window.
I’m here to tell you the truth. Owning a dog is absolutely nothing like raising a child. If you happen to be half as naive as I was, back when I was a one-dog, zero-child person, listen up. Here are a bajillion ways (or, you know, 10) that owning a dog is vastly different than child-rearing (though some may not apply to you, since my dog is abso-freakin-lutely perfect).
1. Babies wake you up a million times a night, and that’s just if you’re lucky and have only one.
Your baby will teach you the brutal realities of sleep deprivation. Yes, they may seem like they are the “perfect sleepers” in those first few magical days, but reality will set in soon enough.
Dogs? They’ll wake you up only if they suspect there’s a burglar outside, and then their bark is so threatening that no one would be crazy enough to break in (even though you know your dog would just try to lick them to death).
2. Do you like peace and quiet? Your dog will give you that. Children, on the other hand …
… will talkalldaylongwithouttakingasinglebreath.
Today my 4-year-old daughter talked at length about mermaids, superheroes, dogs, hoary bats, poop, underwear, pen pals, donuts, cupcakes, pie, slides, princesses, and frogs … all before my first sip of coffee. At 6 AM. Before that, she talked in her sleep all night long. Oy.
3. Your dog actually eats the food he’s given …
… and would not in a million years consider complaining. He even asks for seconds. And thirds. And fourths. Oh, and all that food that a child throws on the floor? He’ll eat that, too.
4. Your dog will refuse to go out in the rain and will hold his bladder for a full 12 hours if necessary, allowing you to stay warm and dry.
Children will find a way to get you soaking wet at least five times a day. Vomit, juice, bathwater, and that just-filled glass of wine are all fair game.
5. Your dog waits at the door when he has to puke.
Oh, not your dog? Yeah, I told you my dog was awesome.
6. Your dog lets you dress him in funny hats and doesn’t care.
When my children were infants, I would have been insane to try and change their outfits or put anything atop their pristine little heads, in fear of a two-hour crying fit.
7. You can watch whatever you want in front of Fido without worrying about traumatizing him.
I still have nightmares from my childhood when I walked out into the living room late one night as my parents watched Silence of the Lambs.
8. Your dog actually lies in bed the entire day when he’s sick.
Kids, or at least mine, refuse to notice the 103 degree fever that plagues them and will run and scream and play, then sneeze all over your face.
9. You actually have to bathe children once in a while.
Oh wait, I don’t really do that. Moving on …
10. Have you ever noticed that dogs never step in their own crap?
Children’s shoes are attracted to those land mines, and that just happens to be the time that they forgot to take their shoes off at the door, poop-printing your brand new rug from Bed Bath & Beyond.
That said, a child is not likely to chew up your brand new MacBook. You can explain things to them and they understand you. You can’t leave them at home when they’re little, but that means you get to take them everywhere with you and that can be awesome. Children grow and learn. The first time your infant smiles back at you is life-changing, her first words are unforgettable, and before you know it she’ll be stringing words into lengthy sentences. Hearing your child’s true thoughts and feelings is indescribable.
So you think you still want to give the dog experiment a try anyway? That’s wonderful! Dogs are really great and will seem simple to take care of once you have children. And, perhaps the very best part of all, is that your child and dog will end up the very best of friends.