Over the past couple months or so, I’ve been increasingly aware of the fact that having a puppy is preparing me, in a small way, to be a mother to a small human. Some of the similarities between puppy parenting and human parenting are barely visible, while others are laughably identical. I’ve chronicled some of these observations below.
At some point in their lengthy careers, mothers for millenia have claimed to own a pair of eyes in the back of their heads. This sounded like a suspicious assertion to me, but after being the mother of a puppy for the past six months, I’ve realized that, indeed, I now have them. Granted, they are still a little out of focus since I’ve not cost the last few times Bear peed on the carpet or snagged one of my ear plugs as a chew toy. For the most part, however, slight changes in sound, sudden movements across the hallway, or a general awareness that “things are not as they ought to be” are all daily occurrences in my life as Bear’s mom. So that second pair of eyes, they’re there, opening slowly, waiting for the tiny person who will certainly require them.
I didn’t grow up with a dog. Our first pet was a hamster named Esther, whom I purchased while I was in my first year of college. I lived at home at the time, which did not bode well for Ester due to presence of pet-curious sister and the nearly perpetual pet-free nature of my parents’ home. During that year or so, I gained a glimpse of what it was like to be responsible for another something, something that was not myself. Feeding her, changing out her cedar shavings, making sure her exercise ball did not roll down the stairs – caring for Esther was often dull. But it had to be done. After we adopted Bear, my responsibilities multiplied. And so did the joy of having a pet. Together Josh and I feed Bear, take him on evening walks, clothe him (although with little success since he usually chews the Snuggie off before the velcro patches even touch), and dream up ways to make him happy. If this isn’t a peek into our future as parents, well, I truly have no idea what I’m doing.
Another skill I’ll need with the baby is the ability to differentiate between cries and various other sounds. Bear is giving me a quick lesson in this as I learn how to discern the nuances of his communication. There’s the “please play with me” bark, the “please let me out to pee” bark, “the oh my gosh I’m about to pee on the carpet” whine, the “I’ll have what she’s having” bark/puppy eyes request for food, among many others. Bear is a fairly verbal dog, but unfortunately he only knows one word: “Ruff”. We are working on this, of course, as we fancy all our children to be bilingual. For now though, the task of translation is a constant one.
Perhaps one of the most best puppy-baby similarities is that the same person (or animal) who annoys me greatly one minute can charm my heart the next. One minute Bear is crashing through the kitchen, slipping and sliding into the cabinetry, begging for food and causing a general ruckus. The next minute he’s worn himself out completely, tucked under the kitchen table, sweetly gnawing on a rawhide or nodding off to sleep. It’s incredible that he can go from feeling like a terrible nuisance to an adorable ball of fluff in a matter of seconds. It’s like I forget that I wanted to banish him to the backyard only moments before, and I find myself exclaiming how cute he looks or bending down to nuzzle him. I think this may be one of my greatest gifts as a parent: the ability to see more than a mayhem and chaos-causing noisemaker, but instead a cuddly, fun-loving, bundle of joy who, remarkably, looks a lot like me.