No, I am not my dog’s mother

annie-9314Back in 2008, I published one post after another about my puppies Annie and Chico. This was my motherhood experience, I believed. The pups were exactly the size of human newborns when my late husband Fred and I picked them up from a nearby breeder. For that first year, I was obsessed with those furry critters. There was an element of mothering, the feeding, the cleaning, the shots, the classes. I even had a puppy shower, hosted by my church choir. I was a raggedy mess as I neglected my poor husband because it was all about the puppies.

Reality woke me up. Fred’s Alzheimer’s became so advanced in 2009 that I had to put him in a nursing home. Now the dogs were big enough to knock me down. Chico started jumping the fence and fighting with neighbor dogs. After months of chasing him and threats from the neighbors, I gave him up to a shelter. So it was just me and Annie. Did I think of myself as her mom? Yes, but I don’t anymore, even though I devoted a whole chapter to dog-motherhood in my Childless by Marriage book.

Annie, now eight and a half years old, is my friend, my companion, and my responsibility, but she is not my child. I continue to live in a home that is much too big for one person with a yard that I can’t quite keep up because of Annie. I hesitate to travel because she doesn’t travel well and I hate to leave her. She is a constant responsibility, but no, she’s not my baby. She’s just Annie, an aging yellow dog with arthritis.

Does she help fill the gap where children would be? Some. Get a dog or a cat. It helps. A cat or a little dog stays baby-sized forever. But it does not take away the sting when I get to hold someone’s infant for five minutes then have to give her back because she’s not mine and I will never have one of my own. Last week I had that chance and it felt good until reality kicked in again like a punch in the stomach. No children, no grandchildren. Ever. I hate it.

But a dog does help. When I got home from my travels, Annie leaped in joy. We collapsed together on the loveseat as she wiggled all over, licked my face and let me know that I had just made her the happiest dog in the world. I probably wouldn’t have gotten that kind of greeting from my kids.

No, my dog is not my child. But she is a precious gift, and I’d glad she’s here.

What about you? Do you have pets? Do you think of yourself as their mother or father? Do you know people who do? Let’s talk about it.

***********

Want to read some of those old puppy posts?

“Sounds Like Motherhood to Me”

“Sometimes Even Puppies are Too Much”

“Puppy Love is the Best”

 

Advertisements

Giving My Fur Baby a Bath


My big yellow dog sat patiently in the tub as I scrubbed her from nose to tail, taking time to wash her private parts and her ears, all the while talking to her and loving the feel of her under my hands. It did not matter that I was getting all wet or that an elbow injury I’ve been suffering with hurt worse. I was bathing my baby dog Annie, all 80 pounds of her.

We had had less pleasant bathing experiences, like the time I tried to wash her with a garden hose and she ran away or the time I tried to wash her in my bathroom and I wound up in a tub full of fur and stink while she remained on the floor dripping water all over. Usually I just wait until she happens to be staying at the kennel and let the people there bathe her. But sometimes a dog just has to have a bath. This time I took her to Moondoggy,here in Newport, a doggy daycare and spa where they have a place dog owners can wash their own dogs.
It was perfect. Annie walked up three wooden steps into a big tub. A worker helped me loop “seat belts” over her neck, showed me a shelf full of different shampoos and scrubbers and left us to our fun. It was fun. Even Annie seemed to enjoy it. The water was the perfect temperature, and nobody was in a panic about how to wash this giant dog.
When my late husband was around, we washed our dogs in a metal tub in the back yard, one of us holding the dog while the other scrubbed. It’s not as easy with only one set of hands. But Moondoggy worked.
I couldn’t help thinking about how this is a lot like bathing one’s baby. Of course we wouldn’t put a halter around their necks or douse them with flea shampoo, but there’s that same physical closeness, that intimate touch, the loving with our hands that feels so good. I have never washed a human baby, probably never will. I suspect they’d be a lot more slippery and more responsive when I talk to them.
But Annie is my baby dog. She was eight pounds when we brought her home, about the same size as many human babies. My friends gave us a puppy shower. I showed her off to everyone, and I kept track of every milestone. (“Today she doodled outside!”) Now she’s five years old. Every day I’m at home starts and ends with Annie, taking her outside to “go potty,” feeding her, medicating her various infections and ailments, walking with her, talking to her, and loving her.
I wish I had human children, but God gave me this canine child/friend to take care of. It’s not so bad. Do you have a four-legged baby, too?