Many years ago, long before we had popped out any kids or had any real understanding of what having a child actually entails, I said something stupid. Something exceptionally stupid. Something so stupid that I now cringe with embarrassment when I think about it.
When we brought home our dog, Oscar, he was incredibly tiny and easy to take absolutely anywhere (if people didn’t mind him peeing on their rug or barking at anything that moved). As he was just a puppy and we were up to our eyeballs in canine training of every kind (house training, leash training, attitude training, don’t eat your poop training), we were reluctant to leave him home alone to tear up our cushions and gnaw on our good work shoes with his needle-like baby teeth.
So one afternoon, we brought him over to our friend’s house for a bit of a mutual show-and-tell. They had a fairly new baby and we had a fairly new puppy who we treated as our baby, so we decided that the two should definitely meet. For a while, it was all going remarkably well. They cuddled and nuzzled with our little puppy. We cuddled and nuzzled with their little baby. It was pure bliss.
And then I opened my big, fat mouth.
“Well, having a puppy is just like having a new baby.”
Everyone stopped whatever cuddling and nuzzling they were doing and stared up at me in utter shock and disbelief.
Rather than noticing their reaction and backtracking on the stupid statement that I’d just made, I decided to try to defend my statement. It’s times like that when the hubby should just break out the duct tape and swiftly place a piece over my mouth
“I’m just saying that it’s really, really similar. I mean….the puppy gets me up at all hours of the night. He’s teething. He demands almost constant attention. Last night, I was up four times in the night to bring him outside to pee. I’m exhausted.”
Oh, this was not good. Not good at all. Forget the duct tape – I should have just super glued my lips shut.
“You’re…you’re exhausted?” our friend asked. I’m pretty sure the bags under her eyes had started to twitch. She had mentioned earlier in the visit that her baby was feeding constantly and she’d only had about three hours of sleep the night before.
I don’t remember exactly what I said to her at that point in the visit. I remember going on and on about how much work a new puppy is – constantly scrubbing poop and pee off the carpets, taking him outside almost every hour to hopefully get him house trained, watching him closely because he was into everything, giving him my full attention and care- and how it was much more demanding than I had originally imagined.
Our friends could have said so many things at that moment in time. They could have nailed me and my naivety right to the wall. They could have listed all the many, many ways in which having a baby is much harder than having a new puppy. They could have made me see just how ridiculous my statement was and how I was being a tad dramatic. But they didn’t – they’re far too kind and forgiving to do that. They just smiled and changed the direction of the conversation.
So, nearly ten years later, the more experienced and not-quite-so-naive me has decided to compile a list of the many ways in which having a puppy is nothing at all like having a baby. But first, a short list of the similarities between having a puppy and having a baby (because obviously I wasn’t completely ridiculous and there are a few common points to make).
1. Puppies and babies both tend to wake up during the night.
2. They both require a lot of care and attention.
3. They both like to be cuddled and played with.
4. They both tend to get pee and/or poop on the carpet in one way or another.
5. They both like to be taken for walks outside (although the latter must obviously be carried).
6. They both require vaccinations.
7. They both need special food/milk.
8. They both experience teething.
And that’s about all I can think of right now….
I don’t think I really need to make a list. It’s kind of a given. But here it goes….
1. A new puppy will only wake up during the night for a very short period of time. A baby, however, will wake up during the night for many, many months to come. Heck, Fin is almost seven and he still wakes up from time to time for any number of reasons (bad dream, needs to pee, wants to talk about something that happened four weeks ago at soccer practice, heard a funny noise outside, bored with sleeping). I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of ever getting a full night of sleep again.
2. Eventually, a puppy will catch on to the whole house training thing and won’t relieve itself on your carpet very often (aside from the odd whoopsie, or sudden need to barf when he/she decides to bite off and swallow a piece of chew toy). Your baby, however, has only just begun with the mess making. It starts with spitting up milk and then it progresses as your child gets older and older….play dough smashed into the carpet, mushed up cookie shoved in between couch cushions, apple juice sticky spots in places where apple juice shouldn’t even be (like on the ceiling…exactly what were they doing to get the juice to splatter that high? I remain puzzled).
3. The older a puppy gets, the bigger its appetite will be. That is still NOTHING compared to what your baby will eventually eat. With three growing boys under one roof, I practically live at Costco. I’m not exaggerating. I’m there every week. If I ingested the amount of bread, yogurt tubes and milk that they do, you’d have to lift me out of my house with a crane. How are my boys so skinny? Tapeworms?
4. A puppy may be very active and have bucket loads of energy, but just wait until your little one starts walking. That’s when the real fun starts. They seem to progress right from toddling along looking slightly drunk, to full-speed running. All of a sudden, you don’t need to go to the gym anymore because you’re constantly having to drop whatever you ‘re doing and sprint to catch your toddler. From morning until bedtime, my boys do not stop. They finish one activity and they’re on to the next. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why they eat so much.
5. The older a puppy gets, the easier it is to take care of it. Oscar is almost ten years old and spends two thirds of his day sleeping (and the rest of it thinking about sleeping). As a baby grows, the type of care it needs changes. I look back on the baby days now and realize how easy it was. I just had to feed him, change him, sing to him (although that made him cry at times), bathe him, dress him, cuddle him. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (as Fin now says). You set a baby down and they tend to stay in that general area. But before you know it, they’re moving. They’re off to school. They’re making new friends. They’re asking difficult questions and suddenly you’re losing sleep at night for a whole new reason. Did I give the right answer? Am I giving him the guidance that he needs? Am I crap at this whole parenting thing? And that’s when the grey hairs really start to sprout out of your scalp. Suddenly training a puppy feels…well, easy.
6. Puppies are a lot less expensive. Yes, they may require visits to the vet and fancy ointments to fight off worms and all that nasty stuff, but you don’t need to dress a dog or pay its university tuition bill. End of story.
7. You can go out and leave a puppy for a few hours. Babies…not so much. Well, not without Child Protective Services paying you a visit and sending your keester to the slammer.
8. Your dog will never have a melt down in the middle of Walmart. Or Target. Or any other store. Because dogs don’t generally have temper tantrums, not even over a flashy toy or a new kind of dog treat. That’s the beauty of dogs.
9. Puppies lose their baby teeth and it’s pretty certain that you’ll find those sharp little teeth in weird places, like the tip of your running shoe or at the bottom of your hand bag. But for babies, the whole teething experience is “slightly” more traumatic. Nothing makes you feel more helpless than the sight of your child’s gum as it swells under the pressure of a new tooth and literally throbs with pain. If I’d known how much pain Ro-Ro would be in at times, I would have bought stock in Infant’s Ibuprofen. And who knew that someone so small could drool so much?
10. Ok, now for the sappy one. Puppies are wonderful. Dog are amazing. I love our dog. I think we’ll always have a dog in our family because they make us laugh, protect us fiercely and love us unconditionally. But your baby. Where do I begin? Raising children is the hardest job in the world. The worry, the stress, the never ending list of things to do, the immense sense of responsibility. It’s by no means easy. But that’s not why we do it. You’ve never known true, unconditional love until you hold your child for the first time. With each of my boys, I remember just laying there in the hospital bed, cradling them and staring at them in complete wonder. And the rewards. The rewards are endless. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like writing their name by themselves for the very first time, or graduating from high school. You find that you’re just beaming with pride (and fighting back the tears….why doesn’t anyone warn you that you’ll be a teary mess from the moment your child pops out? Consider yourself warned). Every time they score a goal at soccer, I’m shouting with pride on the sidelines (even though Cal tells me to be quiet because he’s trying to concentrate). I can’t help it. That’s my kid out there.
And that’s my comparison over with. I’m done now. I’ll never bring it up again (especially at our friend’s house). Is having a new puppy just as demanding and exhausting as having a new baby? Of course not. I must have had too much wine when I made that statement. But did raising a dog break us in for this whole parenting thing? Oh yes. If you can scrub puppy pee off of your fresh bed sheets at three in the morning and not lose your mind completely, you might be ready to have a child. Just maybe.