July 6, 2006 my life changed forever with my new baby girl. I had new purpose and responsibility to new life. I needed to be firm and kind to raise her up in a world where she could see love and bring joy to those around her. My baby was here, fitting snugly in my arms and covered in black curly fur.
December 27, 2013 life started again. Another little girl now belongs to me and is strapped in her car seat for our journey home. Our adoption director wraps me in a big hug and says “That other baby you have at home? Congratulations, she’s now your dog.”
At the time, I couldn’t imagine losing a piece of the big heart I had for my dog to my baby, but I also saw it happen to the crazy dog ladies who had gone before me into parenthood. Sure enough, the amount of devotion I could give my pup began to slip when we got home. A little less time for walks, a baby on my lap watching TV at night instead and the treats and toys budget moving over for diapers. We’re out of the fog of new baby phase these days and it recently became clear to me that I don’t have any less love for my dog now that I’m a Mom. In fact, I think I appreciate her more.
I love all of my family equally and wouldn’t be able to imagine life without any of them. But no doubt, I like my dog the most.
She reminds me there was a life before baby.
Before our baby came, we had five years in our house as another little family – husband, wife and loving pup. When we’re in the throws of getting through daily life with a toddler, it can be hard to remember my husband and I had a universe way before a small person walked in and decided to control it. I can get wrapped up in making it my daughter’s world at home. A walk with my pup around the neighborhood, and I’m remembering the many years of our house before baby and all of the things we accomplished. By the end of our lap, “I’ll never figure this out” often turns into “Maybe we do know what we’re doing.” She’s my daily connection to the past and a reminder of a few chapters before parenthood when we also felt overwhelmed and came out on top.
My dog has my back.
My daughter has taught me how good a selfless, service filled love feels. How amazing it is to see someone need you and stretch yourself to grow into a better human for someone else’s benefit. This year, my husband really needed that love too. There was a really tough time this year when, for different reasons, everyone in my family needed more from me than they could give back. It was a challenge and I’m a better person for it.
And I’ll never forget how much my dog loved me in those times. How she never let me sleep or lay down alone. If I needed a good cry by myself, I was never really lonely with her draped across my stomach, letting me pet her and watch her belly move from breathing while I calmed down. In a time where I felt like I was disconnected from the universe, I could look down and see her at my feet and feel a little more normal. I didn’t tell many people about what I was going through, and I know if my dog had a phone she’d be that best girlfriend texting me at work, “Hey girl, you ok today?” And really, that’s not a bad idea. Someone figure that out, please.
I love my dog without expectation.
And all of those little moments I share with my dog? Here’s why they amaze me: I don’t expect them of her. She’s really started impressing me the more I’ve given up on asking anything of her. You see, she may have a bit of a reputation with my friends, extended family and the team at Amazon delivery as not being the most well-behaved dog in the neighborhood. She’s jumpy, yappy, an invader of personal space, a food thief and a lover of fine leather goods well beyond her puppy years. All of the lofty expectations I had for her behavior began to dissipate not long after her arrival. Probably around the fourth day together when she pooped at Target in her adorable dog tote and I left in tears.
This month was eight years since we’ve brought her home. After a long day of being disappointed with my daughter and husband over various small things – putting up toys, saying thank you and loading the dishwasher correctly, to name a few of the atrocities, I picked up a really nice dress off my bed and discovered my dog had gnawed a hole in it. My husband braced for impact but watched me shrug instead. “Well I guess I really shouldn’t have left that out. After all, she’s been inside all day and is just a dog.” I looked at my husband and understood how to love him and my daughter a little better. My dog is just a dog and we’re all just humans. The less it’s about how we’re supposed to be and the more it can be about who we are, the more love we feel.
My husband is my soul mate, and I love my daughter so much my chest could explode at any moment. But when I’m secretly grateful for my husband’s work travel or an early bedtime for my daughter, it’s because I’m psyched to spend alone time with my dog. She’s my live in, mute guidance counselor and built in best friend. And she likes my cooking the best.