They say everything changes when you have a baby. One of the biggest changes I've heard is your relationship with your pets. I've seen numerous reactions towards pets when a baby enters the mix. Some dogs are relegated outside. Some cats are limited to one or two rooms. Some people even give up their beloved pets because "it's just too much." Heck, I got Cody simply because the lady who had originally wanted him found out she was pregnant and didn't want a puppy and a baby (crazy!). Generally, though, the most common thing I've heard is that the relationship simply changes. I've been told that the moment your child is born you realize that nothing else is as important. You realize that your dogs or cats are pets and not the same as your children. Well, I'm here to tell you that may be true for some people, but it sure as heck isn't true for me. If anything, my love for my dogs and cats has grown exponentially.
When Anna was born, the first thing I thought of was how I couldn't wait for the dogs and cats to meet her. I knew they'd be fine with her, since they've been around plenty of other small children, but I wanted to see how they'd do with her. Would they be excited? Would they be annoyed? Would they care at all? I have to say, even I couldn't predict their reaction.
When I first came home, I was so excited to see my dogs. I went in first, without Anna, so the dogs would have a chance to jump on me and love on me, without me worrying about a tiny baby. They were thrilled at first, but once Cody had a chance to sniff me he immediately seemed scared. He retreated to a corner and started to shake. This was very unusual behavior, so I went out to Hans and asked him to go inside. Hans said something seemed off, but otherwise Cody was normal. He put both Cody and Lollie outside while I brought Anna in. I set Anna on the floor in her car seat and told Hans he could let the dogs in. While I waited for them to come in, I pondered what was wrong with Cody. I was really scared he could smell the baby on me and that he wouldn't take to her like I thought he would. Boy was I wrong!
Cody and Lollie came through the door. Lollie went to her normal spot on the couch, tail wagging ferociously. Cody, however, went straight for the car seat. He gave Anna a once over while I held my breath, and then he immediately started giving her kisses. Any sign of fear or hesitation was completely gone, and when Cody looked at me he was happier than I have ever seen him. Lollie did some celebratory (attention-seeking) barking, and I loved on both of them.
I then took a moment to figure out what had happened with Cody earlier. This may be reading to much into it, but I think his fear was based on the fact that Anna was no longer in my belly. I think he thought something was terribly wrong, and I truly believe that he immediately recognized Anna when he met her. Cody and Lollie had spent the past nine months smelling Anna, listening to her heartbeat, and getting to know her in a way that I could only imagine. Their attitude around me was one of the first reasons I decided to take a pregnancy test (Cody was very protective and Lollie just seemed confused). Their sixth sense allowed them to bond with her in a way that no other person could. It was as I realized this that I also came to the conclusion that these dogs are my world. Their love for me allows me to grow and to love others. Their love for Anna only makes me love them even more.
Since that first day, things have calmed down a bit, but their attachment to my only child hasn't changed. They come to her when she cries, they greet her with kisses, and they guard and protect her constantly. Anna has slept against them. She has learned to accept (and I think love) their kisses.
Now, I will admit one thing. Time for them is limited. There is a difference between a baby and the dogs. Anna is completely 100% helpless. I can't leave her alone for a moment. Unfortunately, this means less time to go on hikes and less time to simply hang out with the dogs. That doesn't mean I care for them any less. It only means I have to make more time for them, and I am more than willing to do that.