Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dogs and babies


Up until now, my dogs have slept on the bed with me, allowing me to keep my thermostat very low (50 at night). There's truth to the saying "three dog night!" They keep me toasty. When the baby comes though, I've been thinking they are going to have to vacate the alpha-bed and sleep on the floor. I'm plannng on "co-sleeping" wth my daughter, as part of following the "attachment parenting" philosophy that is recommended for adopted children. Which means there will not be enough room in the bed for all of us!

So the dogs will stay in my room (which is thier "den", but on the floor). My parents are even worried that won't be enough, and they will "accidentally" jump on the bed and, not knowing the baby is lying there, crush her. (Knowing my dogs can smell a squirrel 10 miles away, I'm not so worried they won't know the baby is on the bed with all it's myriad of baby smells.) But my parents do have a point, the point being "how are you going to incorporate a baby into the canine-human balance that presently exists?"

One thing I cannot stand is when I hear of parents-to-be who are planning on re-homing (or worse) their dog! When I first got into dog rescue I heard that story over and over and over. It's a heart breaker: "Well, my wife is worried the dog will lick the pacifier on the floor and the baby will get dog hair in his mouth so we'll be dropping off our loyal pooch at the shelter any day now unless you can help us find a good home for him." These are people who thought it would be a good idea to "practice" parenting on a dog, and now they are having a "real" baby, they are disposing of their most loyal and unconditionally loving dog!

First of all, adopting a dog should be for life, just like it is for adopting a human.
Secondly, a little dog hair is good for a baby. Boosts the immune system. I might sprinkle some in the formula.
Thirdly, you'll be lucky if your child loves you as much as your dog does.
Fourthly, teaching a child you don't throw out the dog when life gets more complicated is a good lesson to teach. Or would you rather your child regularly disposes of inconvenient responsibilities whenever the going gets busy?

I'm sure you get my drift.

So, I was thinking, my dogs are really good and although they may not LIKE sleeping on the floor, any time a baby has been around them, they have been gentle and deferential. This goes for baby kittens, baby puppies, and baby humans. They seem to instinctively know that this creature is vulnerable as all get out and not a threat. I'm a little worried that I may neglect my dogs play time needs and I will try to be super conscious of not doing that.

Having said that, I have also learned from watching my friend Cate (mom to 5 dogs and 2 kids under the age of 3 yrs old) that you a) never leave the kid alone unsupervised with a dog; b) teach the kid as early as possible to touch the dogs gently (no pulling tails, poking out eyeballs, etc) and c) if your dog bites your kid guess whose fault it is? Yup. YOURS.

A local vet here conducts a class for new parents on cohabitating with pets and new babies. Maybe I'll sign up. It's a great idea, I wish more vets would do that. Maybe less new parents would throw away their dogs if this became a normal, natural thing to do, KEEP your dog when your baby comes.

Her is a photo essay labeled as "the most adorable sequence ever captured on film", this Neapolitan Mastiff, and of course the baby, indeed make a cute photo. However, these pictures also make me cringe. A Neo. Mastiff can weigh around 150 pounds or more. The middle picture is especially scary. All it takes is a slip. Or the dog to forget for one moment that the baby underneath him is delicate. Supposedly, dogs are at a 2 year old's level of cognition. Would you trust a 150lb 2 year old around your infant? So while I think it's good to co-habitate, I also think there's such a thing as going too far.

Ok, now this last one is very cute. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to think it was adorable.

Please leave thoughts and comments on how you incorporated your baby into your dog's life, or vice-versa if you got the dog second!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Ooh you know how this scares me too!

Tell you what if Baby P is born before you bring your daughter home, I'll tell you everything I learn!!