Growing up, I was terrified of dogs. We never had one, so my only experience was getting chased repeatedly by the aggressive mutt who lived three doors down who either did not own a leash or had mastered the art of slipping his collar.
Then there were my next door neighbors, who somehow managed to always have the ‘scary’ dog. Barking up a storm, growling, yanking at his leash attached to the stake in the ground. One of their dogs even attacked a boy playing at their house and mangled his arm almost to the point of completely severing it. The worst, however, was their next dog. This dog attacked my neighborhood friend while we were outside playing, bit her on the cheek, and latched on for dear life until a neighbor ran over and pried his jaws loose. Needless to say, my experience with dogs was less than positive.
As I grew up and made friends, some had dogs, so I was always the girl standing in the corner, shying away and pretending I wasn’t ‘afraid’ of dogs.
Fast forward to age twenty one. My husband and I were dating and I came across a French bulldog, his favorite breed. (incidentally, my husband is a ‘dog’ person) I excitedly told him about the cute little dog I had found and insisted that we meet him. I have no clue why I even thought this was a good idea, given my previous history, but I guess I will just chalk it up to the things we do for love! I knew the dog would make hubs happy, so that made me happy!
During our first visit, we instantly fell in love. (and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘he’) We decided that he looked like a ‘Bob,’ so from then on we referred to him as Bob. Each time we visited, our bond grew. Finally, we reached the decision that it was time to bring Bob home. Just one small problem. My husband’s living arrangements at the time did not allow for a dog, and since my apartment was pet friendly, that meant that Bob was coming home with me.
Hold up. The new puppy was coming home with the girl who didn’t even like dogs?!?! I know, I know. My thoughts exactly. And truly, this wasn’t a very well thought out plan. I did not know the first thing about taking care of a dog! Which brings me to point number 1:
How Owning a Dog Prepares You For Parenthood
YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING
You don’t get a manual when you bring home a new dog. There is no set of instructions available in three different languages. There is no 9 month waiting period to prep and mentally prepare. And if you are like me, you have absolutely no clue where to even begin. Heck, back then, even Pinterest didn’t exist, so at least new parents today have that going for them. I had to rely solely on Dr. Google.
IT’S ALL TRIAL AND ERROR
Much like bringing home a new baby, a new dog is all about trial and error. What works great for one dog may work terribly for another. For example, working full time, my only option for Bob was to crate train him while I was away all day. Easy enough, or so says Google. Put down your newspaper, leave some food and water, lock the door, and you are all set.
Except with my dog. Over the course of Bob’s life, I have found myself saying that more times than I can count. Normal dogs do “this,” Bob does “that.” Story of our life. I could seriously write a book on this guy! In any case, poor Bob DID NOT cooperate with the whole crate training concept. Instead, he went full-blown panic mode. Screaming and howling all day, heard firsthand from my poor roommate, shredding the pee and poop covered newspaper and somehow throwing it all over the room. I never knew what kind of disaster I was going to come home too. Worse yet, clearly poor Bob hated the crate and was seriously traumatized by it.
As he got older, we have now realized that he just suffers from severe separation anxiety. Still to this day at the ripe old age of 12, he HATES when we leave him.
YOUR FREEDOM IS LIMITED
You now are responsible for someone else who relies entirely on you. Gone are the days of coming and going as you please. No more whirlwind weekend getaways or last minute day trips. There is a little person (dog) eagerly waiting at home for you to feed, take potty, play with and spend some quality time with. You have responsibilities. And your dog should be number one, just like your someday baby will be. As soon as we brought Bob home, life instantly became more about him and a little less about us.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t prison or a punishment or anything. It’s just something to be aware of before you become a parent to a fur baby. But I will say, this is a major step in preparing you for parenting your own child! For my husband and I, becoming parents was not such a huge transition since we were already used to the limitations and responsibilities that come along with raising a dog.
Much like motherhood (especially with a newborn), raising a dog can be MESSY! They will have accidents, they will make a mess, they will get into things that they shouldn’t. And let’s not forget potty training! Dogs do not come ‘ready to go’ and fully trained; you have to WORK at it! Much like with a child, potty training is a full time job.
You will be cleaning up messes, sweeping up dog hair, repairing whatever items they ‘accidentally’ break. This basically is equivalent to raising a child; trust me, I’ve been there!
YOU WILL FEEL A LOVE LIKE NO OTHER
Dogs love unconditionally. As I mentioned before, I was NOT a dog person. Therefore, I did not have an instant bond with Bob that many pet owners feel. Nonetheless, from the moment I brought him home, he was attached. Me on the other hand, I took a bit longer to come around.
Initially, I admittedly looked at Bob as a responsibility rather than a new member of my family. I took care of him to the best of my ability, fed him, bathed him, took him outside and everything else you should do with dogs. But I didn’t feel that deep, unconditional love in return to what he so obviously felt towards me.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks together. I came home from a bad day to greet Bob, tail wiggling up a storm, smiling and ecstatic to see me. We did our normal ‘go outside and eat’ routine, then I sat down and just let the flood gates open; full out crying. I honestly don’t even remember why I was so upset, but I do remember one thing. Bob came right up to my face and started licking and nuzzling me. He snuggled me and comforted me the best way he knew how, and from that moment forward, our bond was forged forever.
Bob is a part of me and my family, just as we are a part of him. Our love is real and deep, and although it may be hard for outsiders to understand, if you’ve ever had a pet, you know exactly what I am talking about!
YOU WILL MAKE MEMORIES TO LAST A LIFETIME
For the better part of Bob’s life, he was an ‘only child.’ We included him in every single family activity possible. Over the years, we have made quite a pile of memories together. He’s attended family holidays with us (ugly Christmas sweater and all), gone on vacation with us, experienced the drive in movie theater, weekly trips to the ice cream shop, and more.
Much like a child, together with Bob we have created a ‘family,’ and the memories that accompany that.
It Will Be the Most Rewarding Experience of Your Life…
Everyone will tell you that life begins when you have a child. You will experience a love like no other, as well as the rewarding feeling of raising a tiny human who loves you unconditionally. A dog is truly no different.
To this day, at the ripe old age of 12 1/2, we still come home and are greeted by a wiggly-tailed Bob, ecstatic to see us. He still gets just as excited as the day that we brought him home to go for a walk or a car ride. And we aren’t the only ones to reap the rewards of Bob’s amazing personality. He spreads smiles wherever he goes. He’s the goofy, bat-eared, bug-eyed, tripod (a story for another time), who never goes anywhere without being fully clothed. He’s a people person, and everyone just loves him! There’s no greater feeling than being a proud momma, knowing you raised a good dog/child who spreads joy wherever they go.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to raise my dog. Not only has it been an amazing experience, it has also prepared me for life as a ‘family’ person, and a mother. My husband and I always say that Bob is who brought us together as a family, rather than just two individual people.
Now I’m not saying run out and buy a dog, but I do want share my experience and how my fur baby has changed my life in so many ways. And if you’re on the fence and already have a child or two, know that it’s not much different! I would love to hear about your experiences with your fur babies!