Training Wheels

There are a lot of ways my dogs have prepared me for motherhood. When I brought my first dog, Cole, home as a puppy, I learned about the incredible weight of being responsible for another living creature. I woke him up throughout the night to make sure he was still breathing. I worried about his health and development. I loved him tremendously, and would often stare at him and wonder how I’d ever survive losing him. Then he got sick, and my worst nightmares came true. While that’s a story for another day, the experience taught me how to put his needs ahead of my own. To make choices for him, even if they broke my heart.

After we lost him, I learned there was room in my heart to love another dog, and it didn’t make my love for him any less. And then there is Gabe. He has been a lesson in “you get the dog/kid you need, not the one you want” from day one. He is an anxious mess. He is scared of people, weird with dogs, high strung, and intense in every way. This was a blessing while deep in my grief, as he didn’t give me a chance to be sad. He needed so, so much. He’s taught me a lot about patience, about meeting him where he is, about the importance of relationship building, and the joy in very small successes. He will probably always be a work in progress. But then again, aren’t we all?

At some point on the internet, there was some viral article about a mom who was furious that people compared owning dogs to having children. After experiencing both, I can confirm they are different. Of course I love my son more and differently than my dog. When the dog wakes the baby up, I feel downright annoyed by him. But I do love that dog, even if it’s differently. I still love to snuggle up with him, to feel the weight of him on my legs as I sleep. I still worry about him and whether or not I’m doing right by him, whether the baby disrupted his life too much, if he’s happy, if he’s healthy. And I know that I was ready to just love my son for who he was the second he was born because my dogs have trained me for that.

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