WARNING: I’m about to make a controversial statement. Having a puppy is a lot like having a baby, you guys. I’m aware that saying this tends to piss some people off, and I’m sure I’m opening myself up to an onslaught of angry ‘What do you know, you’ve never had children’ and ‘HOW DARE YOU LIKEN MY CHILD TO A DOG???’ type comments, but you know what? It’s true. Little did I know, on the very same day I turned 30, a furry little bundle of joy came into the world that was destined to be mine. 10 weeks later, having discussed getting a dog for over 2 years, Ollie and I first laid eyes on our Beagle puppy Bonnie, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m certain it was fate that Bonnie would come to join our little family and during that first 6 months I couldn’t help but notice how similar our experiences were to those of our friends with new born babies.
Now let’s get the obvious differences out of the way. Firstly, I didn’t give birth to my dog, and kudos to women everywhere who have gone through that experience. Nothing in this scenario was torn, snipped or stitched (on me anyway – poor Bonnie had to go through every pup’s rite of passage of course!) and my body remains stretch mark free for now. Dogs also learn pretty fast, so by the time most first time parents are tackling the terrible twos, those sweet little pups are suddenly fully grown, adult dogs. But from that first night onwards, for both new parents and dog owners alike, a very similar journey begins, and life is never the same again for either party. Consider the following:
- Sleep becomes a distant memory
Everyone knows that bringing home a newborn is going to disrupt your sleeping patterns a hell of a lot. Expectant Mums must get really bored of hearing “Sleep now while you can, you won’t be getting much of it once baby arrives!”. Want to know how many people warned me about that when I said I was getting a puppy? Zero. And yet, 3 days into puppy parenthood, I found myself trying to remember what a good night’s sleep felt like. Firstly, if you choose to crate train like we did, that first few nights, puppy is going to cry. It’s going to cry blue bloody murder every time you try to put it to bed. And like a baby’s cry, that sound is the saddest, most heart wrenching sound in the world. Getting your pup into a healthy sleeping routine is tough, and you’ll also have to factor in getting up to let it pee (no nappies for puppies!) it waking every time it hears a new noise (the washing machine, the wind, a car alarm, it’s own surprising flatulence…) and it deciding that 5am is a sensible time to start PLAYTIME! For a whole year, making coffee before work had to be scrapped from my morning routine for fear of rousing our angel from her slumber. Thankfully that period is over much quicker for a pup than it is for a child!
- Pee, Poop and Puke feature in your life more than you could ever have imagined.
The day Bonnie came home Ollie went to collect her and as I sat impatiently awaiting her arrival I couldn’t stop thinking about the sweet little thing I had seen a few days earlier and the fun we were going to have. The moment they walked in the door though was not quite the emotional reunion I has expected, or not for the reasons I’d expected anyway! The drive over had been a traumatic experience for poor little Bons. She’d pee’d, puked and pooped, then she’d pooped and puked some more. What Ollie handed to me was not a sweet furry little playmate but a shivering, drooling, stinking bundle of filth. Thankfully she scrubbed up pretty well! But no sooner had she learnt to poop outside, she realised poop was fun to roll in. And eat. And bring inside to play with. Indeed, the very moment Ollie got down on one knee to propose to me on a Welsh cliff top was tainted slightly from the pong radiating from our baby girl, who had found a tantalising cow pat to plaster herself with. Celebratory drinks had to be had in the garden of the nearby pub rather than inside. Dogs are pretty gross.
- You worry about everything, and punish yourself for every mistake.
When Bonnie got her first jabs, I cried. When she got hiccups for the first time I completely freaked out. It took a few (eye wateringly expensive) trips to the vet before we realised she didn’t really need urgent medical attention every time she had an upset tummy. Still to this day I ponder what it was I did to her to make her so nervous of strangers and wonder if her barking is a sign of deep seated torment and anguish rather than just a display of boredom. It doesn’t help that any forums designed to offer advice and support on such matters are filled with people who think the way to help is to scream “OMG PLEASE DON’T EVER OWN A DOG AGAIN OR GO ANYWHERE NEAR AN ANIMAL EVER, YOU CLEARLY DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!” (Parents – you must feel my pain with that one, right? There are some awful, sanctimonious Mummies and Daddies out there too who seem to take pleasure in telling you you’re DOING IT ALL WRONG!! I know I now won’t be reading any parenting blogs when the time comes, thanks!)
- Your home and your possessions will never be your own again.
Houses must be puppy proofed just as they must be baby proofed. At least for a few weeks, when you put a baby down so you can get dressed, shower, or god forbid, go to the toilet, a newborn baby will mostly stay where you left it. No such luck with a pup. From day one, everything in puppy reach is fair game, and like babies, they explore the world with their mouths (and tiny, razor sharp teeth!) 2 years on and our kitchen bin lives mainly on the worktop, no one with half a brain leaves shoes on the living room floor (we learnt the hard way with that one. I still haven’t forgiven her for chewing through my favourite tan sandals), and most of our soft furnishings have seen better days. If it hasn’t been chewed, it’s been pee’d on, puked on or pooped on (revisit point 2) and I can’t remember a day when my tights didn’t come out of the wash still covered in dog hair.
- You become an overnight bore (so we’re proud of our little ones – get over it!)
Some people plaster Facebook with endless photos of their little darling’s every moment. I plaster Facebook with pictures of my dog. I’m not even embarrassed to admit that. There is not a friend, colleague or service worker in a 10 mile radius that hasn’t heard all about the time I accidentally shut Bonnie’s head in the dishwasher and if you aren’t careful I’ll tell you all about it too.
The main commonality though? They are both the best and worst decision you ever made. You will love them and hate them with equal passion at varying times, but you wouldn’t change them for the world and almost immediately you can’t imagine life without them. Having a dog might not be the lifelong commitment that a child is, but they really do become a part of your family. Getting Bonnie has prepared me in the best way possible for what hopefully is fairly impending motherhood, and showed me the father that Ollie will be too. No matter how many real live offspring are in our future, Bonnie will always be our first baby. She is, afterall, what changed us from a couple to a family!
DISCLAIMER: Please know that am in fact aware that Bonnie is a dog, not a person. I do have a slight grip on reality. Most of the time.