The Dog Owner Files: You’re having a baby! How to break it to your dog.

This is the latest installment in The Dog Owner Files, where CLE dog owners tell their stories. This post is written by Amanda Meriwether, a dog owner, new Mom and blogger at Cleveland Mommy Diary (http://clevelandmommydiary.blogspot.com/)

Cleveland dogs
Puppy Bruiser

I have a five (soon to be six) year old Spanish Water Dog (cousin to the more well-known breed Portuguese Water Dog). His name is Bruiser.  He was the cutest puppy you ever did see and he’s still a pretty cute dog. Anytime I am out walking him I get stopped by at least one person to ask me what kind of dog he is. He loves the water, especially swimming and jumping in the waves. My husband, Sam, and I love him to pieces. That said, he is a bit of a challenging dog at times. He is wary of strangers (something the breed is known for), still has the occasional accident in the house, and is high maintenance. When I found out I was pregnant I remember one of the first things that crossed my mind was, ‘I wonder how Bruiser will be with the baby?’ This thought consumed me day in and day out. ‘What if he tries to eat the baby?’ ‘What will I do with him?’ I worried about it nonstop for exactly 40 weeks.

I'll always be your baby right?
I’ll always be your baby right?

Then Charlotte was born. She was our first baby – a girl. We didn’t know what we were having so the surprise was just fantastic. The minute I saw her I fell in love. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. Sam and I felt so lucky and blessed to have such a healthy and happy baby in our lives. Although she was perfectly healthy, Charlotte was kept in the NICU for 48 hours. This was something we hadn’t planned for – we were expecting to go in, have a baby, and come home. We hadn’t made arrangements for anyone to take care of Bruiser for 48 hours. Luckily my mom and sister stayed at my house one of the nights, Sam’s dad let him out the first night I was in labor, and Sam went home periodically throughout the two days to let him outside. Luckily the hospital was only 15 minutes away.The day we were allowed to take Charlotte home, I was thrilled. Finally they took the wires off of her fragile body and I could hold her free and clear. As I dressed her in her tiny going home outfit, I again thought of Bruiser. Sam had taken the hospital blanket home earlier that day to let Bruiser sniff it and “get the scent” so the experts suggest. When I asked Sam what Bruiser did when he showed him the blanket he replied, “He tried to eat the blanket.” Oy. Not what I wanted to hear.

This story has a happy ending. Bruiser and Charlotte are best friends. Bruiser absolutely loves her. The first night we brought her home, he did bark at her once. We corrected him instantly and that was it. I remember sitting in the glider in the nursery holding her, and Bruiser jumped up. I saw his mouth open and thought “Oh no” and then I saw his big, pink tongue come out as he licked the top of Charlotte’s head. I breathed a sigh of relief.

char and B
Charlotte’s very own guard dog

I’ve heard people say that dogs just get it. And it’s true. At least that’s been my experience. Bruiser understands that Charlotte runs the house now and he has accepted his place as her sidekick.  He still follows me all around the house, whines at me for a treat, or barks loudly just as I’ve gotten Charlotte to sleep. I won’t sugarcoat it: there are definitely some trying times ahead if you have a needy dog and a newborn baby. But there will be some awesome moments too. I remember a particularly rough day during the first month – Charlotte was being extremely fussy, I was sleep deprived and hadn’t gotten out of the house in over a week. I was on the verge of losing it. Sam came to my rescue and told me to get out of the house for a couple hours. I was so tired though, all I wanted to do was rest. As I took a quick snooze on the floor in her nursery (because I didn’t have the energy to move), I heard the door open. It was Bruiser. He plopped down beside me and just looked at me with his big, brown eyes as if to say, “I understand. I’m with you.”

babies and dogs
Best Friends Forever

Bruiser isn’t the best dog. He certainly has his flaws, but then again, so do I. The best thing about having a dog is that they’ve seen the absolute ugliest side of you and love you anyway. And all you can do is love them back.

first family photo
The happy family!

Tips for parents that own a dog and have a baby on the way:

  • First of all, congratulations!  Get your dog involved right from the get go – include them in the birth announcement video or photo announcement.
  • Arrange to have someone watch your dog while you’re in the hospital. Plan on being in the hospital for at least 48 hours that way you are prepared in case something unexpected happens.
  • Fence your yard if it’s not already fenced. This was a big chunk of change we dished out, but so worth it when your dog starts imitating your baby’s sleep patterns and has to pee at 2 a.m.
  • Ask family and friends for help with the dog. If you have friends or family that live close by, ask them to help you walk the dog or watch the baby for 30 minutes so you can walk the dog. Keeping your dog active goes a long way in maintaining a healthy and sane home.
  • Don’t force the baby on the dog. Let the dog come to the baby and warm up to the baby on the dog’s own terms. It may not happen the first night or even the first week. Give your dog time to adjust to the new pecking order in the house.
  • Realize that you will get mad at your dog and that’s OK. It’s not OK to yell at a tiny, helpless baby. It is OK to yell at your dog who knows better than to pee in the house.
  • Try to keep your current schedule as much as possible. When I was pregnant, I walked Bruiser every single evening. When I was home on maternity leave, I put Charlotte in a baby sling and walked Bruiser every morning. I really think it helped them to develop a bond and an awareness of each other.
  • Be realistic about what you can do. You’re going to be tired, and you’re going to get cranky. Make time for yourself so you can take better care of your family.

Editor’s Note: I absolutely loved how Amanda incorporated Bruiser into her birth announcement on Facebook, check out her video:

 

For more information on the breed, visit: http://www.swdclub.org/

Follow Amanda’s adventures in motherhood at http://clevelandmommydiary.blogspot.com/

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