Was a dog your first baby? For lots of young marrieds, a pooch is often the starter child. But what happens when the kids arrive? Often, man's best friend isn't mama's best friend.
Six months after I came back from my honeymoon, we bought a chihuahua. We named him Prancer, because he looked like a tiny reindeer. My husband, who never so much as hung a picture, set about making him a dog house half the size of our kitchen to resemble a castle. For my part, I clothed him in wee sweaters and secured him lovingly into his doggie car seat. I hand-fed him strips of white meat I pulled off the roast chicken, still warm, before my husband and I sat down to eat. Our Christmas card for the next four years featured Prancer...only Prancer, not us...dressed in his Christmas best. Newsboy caps were involved.
I had a few pals who were already parents warn me: just wait until the baby comes. You won't love the dog anymore.
Won't love him?! The fiends! How could I just stop loving my widdle poopsie woopsie dollie dumpling who slept in the crook of my elbow every night?
The baby came. I tried to fake it...for a couple of weeks, I think. But I didn't love the dog anymore.
Oh sure, he was still cute, and I didn't hate him. But somehow...he was suddenly more of a nuisance than anything else (the yapping! how had I not noticed it before?); another chore I no longer had energy for. I wound up giving him to my mother.
I've gone along for years thinking my action was completely justified. I harbored no guilt...until October 29, when I watched my neighbors evacuate our bay-side street ahead of Hurricane Sandy. The parents and their 12-year-old daughter stood outside their already jam-packed sedan, trying to wedge in a pitbull-terrier mix in a huge cage and a cat in a carrier. The 9-year-old son sat in the car, holding a fish in a bowl on his lap, looking like he was trying not to cry. The tide was rushing in; the girl stood in water half way up her calves.
Before we drove off, I tried to yell to the mom "Get the kids out of here! Leave the pets in the house and go!" But the wind was so loud she couldn't hear me. The next day, I called her to check in. I asked whether they ever did manage to take Moxie and Mittens. Without hesitating, she answered "Of course! What could we do, leave them?"
Huh. So maybe it's me. Parents can still love...really love?...a dog?
Did I do Prancer wrong? Do you still love your pre-kid pets just as much now?