Why puppies are like newborns

I was holding the warm blanket-wrapped bundle in my arms when my husband came home from work. He dared to ask how the second evening with our third baby had gone, and the floodgates opened.

“I haven’t had a minute to myself! I’m with her every second! Am I going to have time to sew or paint or do ANYTHING alone ever again?!”

The puppy started licking my neck excitedly and I couldn’t help but kiss her fuzzy head. I remember having exactly the same desperation for alone time twice before.

Wise dog owners told me that having a puppy in the house was like having a newborn, but I thought they were only referring to the lack of sleep. Oh no. It’s much more than that.

Except it’s possibly MORE painful now, because I’ve been spoiled in recent years — having two independent, capable children whom I can trust to do their own thing. We’ve been out of the “baby stage” for a solid two years now, and I’d forgotten how tiring it can be.

1. Just like in those newborn days, the life I once knew has evaporated completely. I have zero alone time or time with my husband. I literally have not watched an adult TV show because I go to bed at the same time as the kids, knowing I’ll be up a few times in the night. Except instead of breastfeeding and maybe eating a midnight snack, I’m standing in the front yard in my PJs — waving to the startled deer across the street.

2. There’s also the hot debate over sleeping, just like the crib vs. co-sleep drama on all of those parenting forums. My husband was firm that we make Annabelle sleep in her crate overnight, while others convinced me she’d sleep better in our bed. Even though I was totally against co-sleeping with our human children — every stir woke me up — I guiltily welcomed our puppy into bed from the very first night. (Thank God for husbands who work night shifts, huh?) She’s been a dream to snuggle with, even when she wraps her fuzzy body around my neck like a travel pillow.

Taking Annabelle outside to “potty” what feels like every 30 minutes reminds of the days when I was sitting down to breastfeed round-the-clock. I can’t get anything done! Although at least while I was breastfeeding, I could watch TV or eat a snack. Nowadays I’m standing in our yard, poo-bag in hand, coaxing a 4 lb. fuzzball to do her business. I am, however, getting a lot more fresh air. When she’s bigger than a hamster, I’ll also be getting more exercise since we’ll be going on actual walks.

Going places used to be a breeze, especially since both kids can buckle themselves and the eldest can open and close the sliding door of the van. But the kid and I had to run errands less than 24 hours after getting Annabelle, and the experts said not to leave her at home in her crate for the first few days. What were we supposed to do?

I ended up wedging her not-meant-to-be-mobile crate into the passenger seat — oh, the memories of dragging around those heavy bucket car seats — and she quietly curled up on her blanket while we drove through town. Dogs aren’t allowed in most stores, unlike babies (who are happily accepted everywhere except nice restaurants). I couldn’t leave the dog in the hot car and I certainly couldn’t leave the dog AND the children waiting outside of the store. It felt like that river-crossing puzzle about the chicken, the fox and the bag of grain!

In the end, I picked super-small stores and waited right outside the door with Annabelle, sending my children in with a $20 bill to get whatever we needed. They were overjoyed with the responsibility of going in alone and keep begging to do it again. (I also bought a doggie carrier that looks like a gym bag which will apparently allow me to bring Annabelle into certain stores.)

Without a doubt, though, the biggest challenge has been the fact that I have to watch her every movement — inside, outside, everywhere. If she looks like she’s squatting to pee, I need to see that and swoop her outside. If she gnaws on the kitchen stools or the dining room chairs or the coffee table — seriously, is she part beaver? — I need to distract her with a chew toy. It’s exactly like supervising a baby that’s into everything!

With babies, though, you can stick them in a bouncy chair, Jumperoo or Circle of Neglect (i.e. Exersaucer) and bring them around the house with you. Not so much with puppies — at least not yet. I’ve read that you’re supposed to introduce new areas of your house slowly so they don’t get overwhelmed. Our main level is the only puppy-proof, carpet-free area so that’s where I’m spending 95 per cent of my life these days.

(My favourite place in the house, my office/studio, is a death-trap because the floor is littered with bobbins, scraps of fabric, bits of paper and probably a dozen pins. I’m either going to need to morph into a tidy creator or never, ever bring her in there.)

Just like with babies, puppy naptime is sacred. When she finally crawls into her crate and closes her sleepy eyes, I’m elated that I have half an hour in which I don’t have to watch her every minute. I get a bit nuts about it, too, especially when my four-year-old and six-year-old DARE to wake the sleeping baby.

“Shhhh! Please! Just let her sleep!” I’ll plead from the kitchen, when I’m washing dishes, loading the dishwasher and making dinner as quickly as I can. Those thirty minutes are pure gold.

Annabelle is barely eight weeks old and I know things will get easier, just like it does with babies. She’ll learn to stop chewing the trim, we’ll be able to crate her when we go out, and our lives will settle into a new normal. Despite the potty breaks and the accidents and the constant supervision and correcting, she is already a beloved member of our family and the perfect “third baby.”

So what do you think?

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