It’s true — having a baby has changed things between me and my dogs, GhostBuster and Marshmallow. Just not the way people predicted. Despite all the warnings I got while pregnant, our post-baby relationship isn’t defined by chewed-up shoes and resentment, but rather by sanity-saving walks in the fresh air and the comfort of constant companionship.
It started the night I went into labor. GhostBuster definitely knew what was up. He refused to go to bed and followed me around as I counted the minutes between contractions. When my water broke, my loyal Lab/Golden mix was right there beside me, practically herding me to the bathroom.
I’m sure if GhostBuster had his druthers, he would have come to the hospital with me, but of course he had to stay home with Marshmallow and our kitties (Ghost Cat and Specter) when my husband and I left for the hospital. They weren’t with me, but my pets stayed on my mind as I added another life to our family.
“Can you believe poor Marshmallow and Ghost Cat had to go through this?” I said to my husband after a particularly painful contraction. As rescues, they’d both had at least one litter before ending up in shelters (GhostBuster also wasn’t fixed when he entered a shelter, so I’m sure he has pups all over the countryside as well).
Thankfully, I only had to deliver one baby — not a whole litter — so the process was fairly quick. We got to the hospital around one in the morning, had a baby by five, and my husband was able to run home at seven o’clock to take Marshmallow and GhostBuster outside for a bathroom break. The next afternoon we brought our baby home to meet his furry family. I was mostly confident that everything would go well, but in the back of my brain there was a little voice of doubt echoing the questions various people had asked throughout my pregnancy.
What if the baby is allergic to animals? What if spoiled little Marshmallow feels left out now that she’s not the only “baby” in the house and starts chewing everything? What if I can’t safely walk the dogs while pushing the stroller?
Thankfully, the chorus of “what ifs” was quieted almost as soon as my husband and I got home with our new little human and introduced him to our animals. Everything was just fine, and I should have known it would be. I’d been planning for this day since finding out I was pregnant.
Over the previous nine months, I’d made my bed off-limits to the dogs (something that really needed to happen regardless of pregnancy), got both my dogs acquainted with walking with a stroller, and stepped up my training efforts with GhostBuster. My dogs adjusted to all these changes better than I would have ever thought possible, and I’m so proud of them both.
GhostBuster in particular has really worked hard to become a great family dog. Back when my husband and I first adopted him, the leash pulling was insane, and I never would have trusted him to walk near a baby carriage. I remember arriving at a dog walking seminar back in 2014, and as I unloaded GhostBuster from my car, I noticed a woman across the street pushing a baby stroller while walking a large black bully breed on a loose leash. I looked down at my own crazy dog who was yanking his leash in every direction and thought, “I’d better not get pregnant anytime soon.”
Fifteen months (and plenty of training sessions) later, my baby boy was born. The first time I walked my dogs while pushing the stroller I cried tears of joy and pride as GhostBuster walked loose leash beside me, obeying my “slowly” command as we navigated icy sidewalks.
During the day, my dogs, the baby, and I walk cautiously around our neighborhood, but after dark GhostBuster and I move swiftly through the chilly night air unencumbered by the stroller or Marshy (who can’t stay out in the cold for as long as we can). I cherish these nighttime walks as much as GhostBuster does. After a long day of holding, wearing, and feeding the baby, it’s nice to hand him to my husband and take off with my big dog. Our nightly walks boost my mood and preserve my mental health.
Marshmallow may not be an energizing walk companion like GhostBuster, but she has also made me proud as she’s settled into her role as self-appointed Mother’s Helper. My little shadow, Marshmallow, follows me around, sleeping at my feet as I rock our little guy. The first time I left the baby alone in his room during nap time, Marshmallow was hesitant to follow me out into the hallway. She cocked her head when I called her with a whisper, as if to ask me, “Aren’t you forgetting the baby?”
Everyone warned me that Marshmallow would feel displaced by the baby, but we’ve made an effort to make her feel included, and she seems happy to be a part of it all. Thankfully, Marshy didn’t even bat an eye at her post-baby bedtime routine, which includes a crate. It sits in the same spot where her dog bed had been since I transitioned her out of my bed months ago. She gets a pork treat at bedtime, and I don’t have to worry about tripping over her in the dark when the baby cries at night.
People said I would have my hands full adding a baby to my pack, but I think my dogs have made things easier. The early days of parenting can be tough — you can lose yourself in late-night feedings, endless laundry, and dirty diapers. I appreciate that my dogs drag me out of the parenting rut. When I have no other reason to put on real pants, they’re there waiting for a walk. When I’m bummed out about being constantly covered in baby vomit, they’re there to lend a sympathetic (if floppy) ear.
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About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +.