Can My Dog Be My Doula?
Yesterday, I took Rusty to play with my friend’s three-year-old daughter. I figure the more kid-time he can get under his belt now, the better. I want to get him used to all the loud noises, erratic movement, and pokes and prods in strange places that tend to appear when children are around.
Rusty is truly great with children (I really needn’t be worried about him relating to the baby). He just lay there while this little girl stuck her fingers in his mouth and pulled on his ears (of course I was right next to them to make sure everything was copacetic). Rusty comes with a convenient warning system –- he lets out a low growl to let those around him know that he’s getting miffed.
So Rusty lay there calmly as this little girl prodded him while asking me all kinds of questions (since that’s what three-year-olds are want to do). These inquiries were all over the place. “How many toes does he have?” (four on each of his back paws and five on each front paw). “What does he like to eat?” (little children, I mean, uh, dog food). “Can I touch his butt?” (well, you can, but it’s probably not a good idea). Finally, she asked, “Who’s his mommy and daddy?”
To which I responded, “Well, I don’t know exactly. He’s a rescue dog.”
“He’s a rescue dog?”
This little girl could not have looked more excited. “He rescues people?!?”
I thought about it. “Yes, I suppose he does.”
“Who does he rescue?”
“People who are sad,” I explained. “People who are lonely, or scared. He sits in their laps and they feel better.”
I realized it was true as I was saying it. Then it occurred to me that my whole debate of whether or not to have Rusty at the birth of my child was silly. Of course he belongs at the birth.
With only five to eight weeks to go, I’ve been giving the birth more and more thought –- what songs I should put on my labor mix, what foods I need to stock the fridge with and, most importantly, who I want to be there. I’m starting to realize that Rusty may provide more comfort to me than my midwife, mother, or even my husband.
Rusty was born to be a therapy dog. In our natural childbirth class, he would make the rounds among the expecting moms, curling up with his head in their laps or licking their hands while they spoke about their fears and anxieties around giving birth.
He’s the world’s first natural doggie doula. (By the way, I Googled “doggie doula” and all the sites were for humans who act as doulas for dogs –- not the same thing.) I’m going to try and get him certified. Sure, I’ve been making fun of the people who fly to Hawaii to have their babies delivered by dolphins. (Apparently this is a thing now.) But dolphin midwives and doggie doulas are totally different ends of the crazy spectrum, right?
To see if Rusty could actually be a certified doula, I went to the official DONA page (Doulas of North America). According to DONA, these are the main duties as a birth doula. I went through them to see if Rusty could qualify. From DONA:
A birth doula ...
- "Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life." Um, I don’t think Rusty has the presence of mind to do this.
- "Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor." Emotional needs, perhaps. Physiology? Well, this is a dog who regularly runs into screen doors, so I’m thinking no.
- "Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth." No, other than my plan to not have any crumbs on the floor.
- "Stays with the woman throughout the labor." Yes. I’m confident Rusty can do this.
- "Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions." Emotional support and physical comfort –- yes. Assisting in information acquisition, definitely not.
- "Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care provider." Um, debatable. Not sure my midwives speak dog.
Okay, so, birth doula, Rusty is not. I guess we’ll move forward with our initial plan of hiring a human doula, but Rusty can still serve as a canine doula assistant. I mean, look how professional he looks in his sweater.
Did you have a doula at your birth? Share your experience in the comments!
Read more by Audrey Khuner:
- How to Prepare Your Dog for the New Baby: Tips From a Trainer
- How to Prepare Your Dog for the New Baby: More Tips From a Trainer
- What Do I Do with My Dog During My Home Birth?
- The Only Way to Test Baby Carriers: With Dogs
- 5 Signs Your Dog Is Not Ready for a Baby
- What NOT to Do with Your Baby Around Dogs -- Yours or Others