Last weekend we hung out with friends who work with my husband. Several of the couples have had babies in the last year. There was much passing back and forth of the two youngest babies along with conversations about human baby topics. Every adult wanted their turn at holding the adorable babies. They smelled them, and nuzzled them and spoke in baby voices.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a parent. I would not trade “my” kids in for anything. But somehow I just did not really get the baby gene. My kids are my stepkids and I missed that time with them. Although they have lived in our home as their primary residence their whole lives and I am in a parental role on a day-to-day basis, I missed the baby years. I have tons of advice for fellow parents of humans…after the age of three! That is how old our youngest was when I joined the family.
I’ve spent the last twelve years going to school functions, concerts, games. I’ve been up at night with ear infections and to offer up the puke pot. I’ve wiped away tears and been the really uncool adult who had to enforce rules they didn’t like. But babies kind of scare me. While I love to ooh and ahh at them from a short distance, I am actually a bit afraid of holding them.
Puppies, though, are my thing.
I have the same feelings around puppies that most other women have around babies. I want to smell them, nuzzle their pink puppy tummies, smell their liverwurst-mixed-with-Starbucks puppy breath. I want to hold them, snuggle them, feel their silky fur against my face. And most of all, I want to get all of the puppy kisses that they are willing to give. And then I happily give them back to their human and go home to my adult dogs who know where to pee and usually sleep through the night, which is not unlike a parent of teenagers handing the baby back to her parents and going home to kids who can drive themselves to band practice and make their own lunch before school.
Over the years, I have had some good laughs with friends and with my husband about the similarities between puppies and babies. Some of the concepts are the same in that they are helpless, can get into trouble in a matter of seconds if you turn your attention away. You have to teach them both where to go to the bathroom, not to get into things that can hurt them, and the rules of the house and how to behave.
Of course, there are substantial differences, too. Your human children will grow up, leave the house, and lead independent adult lives. Your dogs will always need you to care for them and you will watch them go through an entire lifecycle, from puppy to adult to senior dog.
Puppy Momma Tips
Because I have experience raising both Jackson and Tinkerbell as puppies, I write a lot about puppy topics and being a puppy momma. If you follow this blog, you know that I have a section called Surviving Puppyhood. My book Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner focuses heavily on the topic of getting and raising puppies. I also offer puppy owner coaching and mentoring.
Last week a friend of mine who rescued a three-month-old puppy sent me a message. She asked if I had any tips on getting her puppy to sleep through the night in his crate. He had been home a few days and she was as exhausted as when she had her human babies. She was thrilled when I told her that I did have useful advice. I was happy to provide information on how to get him to sleep through the night.
I shared with her some of the tips that I give in my book, including the benefits of having a crate in the bedroom right next to the bed. We talked about what to do when he cried and how to let him know that she was there next to him. Most importantly, we talked about how to be firm but also reassuring and loving all at the same time.
I was thrilled when the next day she wrote to me and told me that my tips had worked. He had spent a peaceful night in his crate next to her bed and everyone in the house got a full night of sleep.
The Allergy Conversation
At the party where our friends were getting their baby fix, the conversation turned to allergies in children. All of the other moms talked about when to introduce certain foods to their babies and the best ways to do it. Having missed the baby years, I did not have anything to add to the conversation, so I just sat quietly. The information being shared was very interesting, though.
Dogs also have food allergies and intolerances. I talk about this on a regular basis when dog owner friends and readers ask me about dog food and allergies. Of course, dogs have different symptoms than humans do when they are allergic to something edible.
Humans often break out in hives and rashes or experience anaphylaxis. Dogs can have skin issues and itch from food, but usually, the first indicator is that their ears become red and inflamed or they get an ear infection. Additionally, their anal glands often become irritated. My veterinarian called this the “ears and rear” effect. In dogs, a food allergy is typically not life-threatening.
Of course, food allergies in children are not the slightest bit funny. Many children have lost their lives and it is very important to introduce food to babies in a safe way.
Puppy Advice Does Not Always Apply
However, as I politely let the conversation go on, I thought for a moment about how human moms and dog moms ultimately discuss very similar topics. In previous situations but different topics, I have provided insight from raising dogs that was similar for babies.
I laughed to myself at the thought of telling them about my own experiences starting a new food. It was not their conversation or wisdom that I was laughing at. I respect their knowledge and experience.
What I found funny was my own lack of baby knowledge and how I know more about raising an infant of a different species than one of my very own. What could I add to the conversation? “Well, I tried a new protein when Tinkerbell was one, but her ears became bright red! Then she started scooting her butt across the floor, so I knew we had a problem!” My friends would probably look at me like I was crazy. But, after all, Tinkerbell is my baby!