How Dogs Prepare You For Parenthood

How Dogs Prepare You For Parenthood January 8, 2016

There’s a popular saying that getting a dog is a good way to prepare for eventually having a baby. Lately people have been laughing at this idea but I still believe that it is absolutely true.

Sure there are some very clear differences. A baby cannot be left alone, while a dog can stay in the house by itself for hours. A baby must be raised responsibly to eventually become a member of society, while spoiling a dog has less dire consequences.

However, I have learned some very unexpected and amazing things from raising my dog, Thea.

Thea and I have been together for eight and a half years now. She is a silky terrier, which is a small breed. She has a very gentle and submissive spirit. Some would say that I am seeing human attributes in her where there are none, but it is very clear that dogs have distinct personalities. It is not all just instinct with them.

Here are the main ways that I think Thea has prepared me well for parenthood…

1) How Overwhelming Responsibility Can Be

When I had a dog as a kid I was able to just enjoy him without any of the stress. As much as I tried to help with walking him and feeding him, the ultimate responsibility to take care of him was still on my parents. It was a completely different experience when I walked out the door with Thea in my arms. She was only four pounds and I was hit very hard with the weight of the responsibility I had to her. She was so vulnerable and it was up to me and me alone to take care of her.

I found that I was literally unable to see how cute she was. Looking back at pictures I can see that she was a very adorable puppy, but I was completely blind to it because of the fear of not living up to the responsibility.

thea pup

I’ve heard that this can happen with babies as well and I hope that having experienced it already I will be better prepared to cope with it when a baby comes.

2) Sleep Deprivation

Another thing that I experienced that I’ve heard about with babies too is that every time Thea fell asleep I was terrified that she had stopped breathing. I couldn’t sleep because I was too scared about her. I spent my nights with a hand against her tummy making sure it was still rising and falling. Even once I started sleeping again, it was always a super light kind-of half sleep where I was always fully aware of her.

It was many months before I was able to sleep relatively normally but I never slept deeply again. I’ve always been very tuned into every movement that Thea makes. I also still (eight years later!) sometimes get up in the middle of the night to let her out to potty. My sense of sleep has been changed possibly forever.

3) Love Is My Job

This is the really big thing. The most important.

I realized that Thea doesn’t know what love is and it is not her job to love me. I chose to bring her into my life and it is my responsibility to love her no matter what. She doesn’t owe me love. She doesn’t owe me anything. People talk about how loving dogs are, but I actually think that they are not motivated by love. They are motivated by self-interest. Thea is affectionate to me because it benefits her. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s perfectly natural.

It is most noticable in the summer. During the winter when it is cold, Thea sleeps in bed with me and lays on my legs. In the summer when it is hot, she is not interested in cuddling at all! I’ll try to coax her into bed with me and she’ll refuse. She’ll go and sleep in another room! I remember one time when I was alone and I wanted comfort from her, she wanted to sleep on the tile by the front door and that’s exactly what she did.

thea and me
A rare snuggle

I can’t take that personally. My job is to love her unconditionally and provide what she needs. That’s what I agreed to when I brought her into my life.

I think this is something that’s very valuable to remember when it comes to kids. I chose to get pregnant and I am the one who wants a child. That child has not asked to be born and that child does not owe me anything for bringing him or her into the world.

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