The list of “things I wish I’d known” after bringing my first baby home was so long, it merited a frustrated phone call to my best friend, who’d had a baby 6 months earlier.
“Why,” I asked her, “did you not tell me what it was really like?”
Her answer: “You wouldn’t have believed me.”
She was right. I would not have believed that every second of the day would be consumed by when the baby ate, slept, pooped and pooped some more; that the middle of the night would sometimes feel like the middle of the day; that listening to my baby ‘cry it out’ in her crib would make me feel both awful and relieved.
Flash forward 15 plus years, and I figured that when I brought home my third “baby,” some of these same things would not blindside me. But even though #3 is a black, furry, jovial puppy named Zeke – making me, for the first time ever, a Dog Mama– the similarity to challenges that I had with my two human babies is astonishing.
(Here he is...baby #3!)
Oh, how I wish I knew …
1. That no amount of YouTube videos will prepare you for potty-training or fingernail clipping.
My oldest child was born in 1999, so I could not watch a You Tube video to learn how to swaddle a baby or clip the baby’s tiny fingernails or install an infant car seat. There was plenty of trial (and even more error). Before we brought our Cock-a-poo pup home at 7 weeks old, we researched and watched hours of videos on the Internet on the best ways to potty train: Take him out every two hours! Use a pee pad! Don’t use a pee pad! Teach him to ring a bell to go out!
On the first night the puppy was home, my husband set an alarm for every two hours, so we could wake and take the dog out to pee. The alarm went off the first time, and the puppy was still sleeping. We had flashbacks of when our daughter and son were babies and our cardinal rule was: NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY. So we went back to sleep, and learned to wait for the real alarm, the sound of the puppy whimpering.
2. That you can spend a ridiculous amount of money on a very tiny little creature.
No one told me that every time I set foot into Petsmart, I’d come out 50 bucks poorer. Because….oh, he really needs that cozy dog bed. And there’s a chew toy that he would really like. Is there carpet cleaner that removes the smell of pee? We really should switch to organic dog food. We need puppy shampoo with oatmeal in it. I bet he’d love those peanut butter-chicken treats.
(Compared to my other two, Zeke loves taking selfies with mom!)
3. That baby wipes are magic.
On one of the aforementioned trips to Petsmart, I had to laugh that my cart contained a box of baby wipes, something I haven’t bought since my kids, ages 15 and 12, were toddlers and I needed wipes within arm’s reach At All Times. Ok, technically these are pet wipes, but they still come in the handy dispenser thingie. Never would I have imagined that I would have to wipe a puppy’s bottom. (Cock-a-poos are hairy, people, and sometimes when that little bit of poo gets stuck in all that hair, mama has to clean it off!) The wipes are also great for cleaning dirty paws, and getting eye gunk out, not to mention cleaning up those pesky puddles of pee.
4. That my brain would be totally taken over by the new arrival.
I figured getting a dog would be time-consuming, but I had not anticipated how “mind-consuming” he would be. We are an active family of four, with the busy demands of work, school, sports practices, carpools, social outings, etc… Now we are a family of five, and puppy has his own demands, mainly that you always have to be thinking about him! When was the last time the dog peed? Doesn’t the dog need to go for a walk? What are we going to with the dog while we are at the soccer game? Who is taking the dog to the vet? Did you bring a bag to pick up the dog’s poop? The other day a woman walking a puppy told me that she is taking hers to “social hour” at a local dog park. I can see it in my future: “Sorry, kids, can’t give you a ride. Zeke’s got a play date!"
(My son and daughter love their new fur-sibling.)
5. That this little babe would make my heart double in size.
I have never been a dog lover. In fact, some might say I’ve never even liked dogs. After several years of begging from my kids and husband, and repeated testimonials from people who say having a dog is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family, I finally broke down and that’s how we got Zeke.
He’s nearly 13 weeks old, a tiny 5-pound-furball that will grow to be 15 pounds, and I already know he’s a game-changer. He is feisty, smart, loving and naughty. He has a growl that belies his size and an adorable look of curiosity that he accentuates with a cocked head. He doesn’t shed, doesn’t bark much, doesn't talk back to me, and runs around the house with a lopsided trot. He loves to chew shoes, his leash, and basically anything that comes near his mouth.
My phone is filled with pics of my newest baby, and my kids are so thankful they are no longer the subject of my Mamarazzi social media posts. There’s a new kid in town, and I wish I had known how great it would be…I would have done it years ago.