By the time many of you read this, I will be 38, 39, or 40 weeks pregnant. I’ll be in a frantic rush to complete assignments so that I can have some time to devote just to my new daughter. I’ll be washing and refolding impossibly tiny pairs of socks, onsesies and blankets. And my two dogs, Indiana Jones and Short Round will be wondering what on earth all the fuss is about.
For the last four years and nearly two years, respectively, I have been a work at home dog mom. Many people call their pets their ‘fur kids’ or their ‘children’ but for me, my two German Shepherd mixes have been more like coworkers and confidants. When I need to complain about a work frustration, they are there. They have slept through countless late night and early morning deadlines while I log hours in front of a glowing computer screen. In fact, they are both curled up around me right now as I make the race to deadline with this reflection. And when I need to clear my head, they are always too eager to get leashed up and head to the dog park or walking trail. They don’t do many tricks except for one–keeping me sane as I work alone.
But all that is about to change. I know it and they suspect it. As both of them have taken to licking my belly on occasion, I think they know that something is up besides a new found cookies and cream ice cream addiction. Just like they can smell an oncoming storm, they can feel a change coming. But this one will last a long, long time.
I am surrounded by dog owners and all of them love their dogs like family members. Similarly, all of them that have children have told me how much life changes for their dogs when the human kids enter the picture. There’s less time for snuggles, a game of catch or a long walk on a Saturday afternoon. And rightly so. Our instincts to engage with our children are there for a reason. At the same time, a part of my heart breaks when I think that my dogs will get less of my love and time. Because as much as they get from me, I get tenfold from them.
In fact, I think that they’ve given me some solid parenting training. My husband freely admits that he fears diaper duty less after years of picking up poop on walks, cleaning up accidents in the house or reaching into the jaws of death to snatch dead animals or other foreign objects from their gullets. Shorty, in particular, has a penchant for catching birds or locusts and then ‘playing’ with them. And similarly, late night feedings can’t be so very different than waking up to Shorty barking at phantoms in the wee hours of the morning, right? We’ve already started playing the ‘baby toy or dog toy game’ with some amusing results. (Hint, they are very very similar!)
But when I get weepy thinking about the lost time with my pups, (and I do, frequently) I can look forward to the joy that they will give and receive to and from my daughter. Sure, the first year or so will be a little boring but my dogs love kids. When I call my five-year-old niece over Skype, her first question is not, ‘How are you?” but “Where’s Indy and Shorty? Can I see them?” Her sister, likewise, took to licking Indy back when Indy licked her as a 9-month old. They thought that both of the dogs where simply the best thing since sliced bread.
And so I’m assuaging my guilt for this first year of sleepless nights and less walks and love that may be grouped together more instead of spread throughout the day and looking forward to when my daughter will grow up with the two best dogs a girl could ask for, something that I begged for as a child and never received. And yes, I am determined that my pets will still have plenty of love and care and priority but I know that at the end of the day, I’m only human and humans fail. Not all of us can be as steadfast as a dog. If only we could.