My wife and I often say that the hardest part of parenting is our pets. I’m not sure if this is unique to us, so I thought I’d put it out there and see how other people feel.
Let me start by saying that we are animal people. We have two dogs, but we both love all dogs and most other animals. Our dogs have always been included in every aspect of our lives, from hikes to trips to just lounging on the sofa. We have always bought them nice, comfy beds, toys, collars, and other accessories.
When we initially brought home the baby, our younger dog was positive we had brought her a prairie dog with its very own cage for our bedroom (crib). She was THRILLED and we panicked a little, researching high-priced, specialized trainers to help the dog understand she couldn’t eat the baby. It took her about 48 hours to realize it was a human, and then she kind of kept her distance. The older dog experienced a LOT of stress. He would hide in the closet when she cried, and he really started to keep to himself. I know he could sense my stress hormones with being a new parent, and this stressed him out too.
Cut to six months later and the baby loves the dogs and the dogs love the baby. They are at that really cute phase of sniffing her and she giggles when their whiskers tickle her or she reaches for them to touch their fur and they think she is scratching them. She lights up when one of them walks in the room. It’s cute.
Here’s the problem…as much as I love them both, the dogs have been driving me CRAZY for the last seven months. They have an uncanny ability to shake their heads and jingle their collars within 15 seconds of the baby falling asleep at least twice a day. The older one has really increased his bunny-chasing dreams, meaning he wakes us all up running and barking in his sleep in the middle of the night. The younger one steals pacifiers and delights in chewing the tip off and then tossing it around the house with glee. They also, both, for some reason now STAND exactly where I need to walk in the house, ALL. THE. TIME. Lastly, and this one isn’t really fair, but walking them has become SUCH a burden. I walk them morning and night between 20 and 60 minutes (sometimes even longer), and I usually have the baby strapped to me in the Lillebaby. In concept, it’s not such a big deal, but every afternoon it feels like such a chore. I used to enjoy the dog walk, but now I just daydream of strolling along with a sleeping baby and no dog insisting on sniffing EVERY BLADE OF GRASS or while the other dog is yanking and pulling toward the squirrel she saw cross the road 3,000 feet ahead of her. Alternatively, put the baby in the stroller and walk the dogs? No. The stroller wheels might touch their legs, because they persistently try to walk in front of the stroller on their leashes, and they jump 3 feet in the air like you’re clearly trying to murder them.
Maybe it’s just that we’re more tired, so we have less patience. Maybe the reduced attention is making them act out. Maybe I’ve just become bitchier with parenting. I feel terrible about it. I know that they are impacted, and they are coping in their own way, but sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out! I truly spend a LOT of time trying to remain calm, patient, and understanding with the dogs, because none of this change is their fault. I’m hopeful that this phase will pass and they will magically blend back into our daily routine and not feel like an additional burden on top of parenting a young child.