Let me preface this post by allaying your fears — I love my dog, and he’s not going anywhere. That being said, I’ve come to have a much better understanding as to why people get rid of their dogs when they have kids in the name of child safety.
I’ve written before how having a dog prepared me for having children, but nothing could compare to the real thing. Once that little bundle of joy got here, the level of stress and responsibility that found its way into my life was not something I was prepared for. Something as simple as going for a walk around the neighborhood became a huge ordeal, if not impossible. With all of my time being absorbed by this new tiny life and the regular demands of running a household, plus working full-time, it’s no surprise that the demands of having a pet can really become the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Dogs are social, energetic creatures. They require interaction, exercise, and mental stimulation. In the first couple of weeks after my child’s birth, I’m almost ashamed to say poor Axle didn’t get much in the way of exercise or interaction. I was beyond tired, and all of the energy I did have was devoted to caring for my baby. My husband was working late hours, so he only had maybe an hour with Axle each day. We gave him interactive toys and he had frequent visits outside, but it wasn’t the same as our pre-baby routine. The lack of mental and physical stimulation quickly became evident, as Axle became more hyper and more “adventurous” in his hunt for amusement. This, of course, only added to my stress.
I had to stop and reassess me situation. Although Axle was getting on my nerves, it was because he was not receiving the amount of attention and exercise that he needed. I was getting more accustomed to the demands of my new baby, so I decided to make use of my baby-wearing wrap and take Axle for a walk. It should be no surprise that we were all much happier and relaxed afterwards. Following that first venture, I tried to make it a point to either walk Axle or play a game with him. He was happier, I felt better, and the baby was just content to be wherever I went.
I’m fortunate enough to have a job with flexible hours, holiday leave, and weekends off. My husband’s new job lets him off in time for dinner, which means he’s home to help with the household chores and the baby. I guess I should also say I’m fortunate to have a life partner that is there to help.
I could only imagine how much harder it would be to manage a job, household, baby, and a dog as a single parent. As hard as it’s been for me to adjust to all of the changes having a baby brought on, some people have it so much harder. They feel so overwhelmed, and their beloved dogs become neglected creatures in the backyard or hushed away in a back room. Those are the people who often relinquish their pets, either to the shelter or to an individual. Those are also the people we often judge so harshly.
“Why did they get a dog in the first place?”
“Obviously, they didn’t really care about the dog at all.”
“I would never give up my dog, no matter what!”
These are all things we’ve all likely said or thought when we heard about someone giving up their pet after having a baby. Until you’ve been in that situation, it’s really hard to say what you would do.
For me, giving up Axle wasn’t an option. I loved him, and we’d already been through too much in the last three years to just call it quits. I was able to recognize that his temporary behavior problems were due to a lack of involvement on my part, and my situation would change as I adjusted to my new responsibilities as a parent.
While it makes me sad when new parents give up their dogs, I can completely understand what they are going through. Welcoming a new life into the world is simultaneously amazing and terrifying. The weight of new responsibility can be so overwhelming, and it can be hard to see that things will get better and easier very quickly.
Perhaps instead of judging new parents, we can try to help them overcome those first few trying weeks and months so that they can keep their dog. If they still give them up, we can help them find a loving, responsible forever home. Choosing to lend a helping hand and a kind word leads to greater and better changes than sitting back and passing judgment.
I’m glad I’ve made it through the toughest part (so far) of being a pet owner and new mom, and I hope my experience encourages other new parents to stick it out. Your dog will understand, and you’ll be setting your child up for a wonderful first best friend!
Have you ever had a dog and a baby at the same time? How did you handle it? Did you ever consider giving up your dog, or finding a new home for her while you adjusted to life as a new parent? Tell us your story in the comments!
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.