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Cute, Cuddly Animals

I got my first dog many years ago. I was young and single, living alone in the big city, constantly expecting my mother to be duly impressed. I would call and regale her with exciting stories of my life and puppy, and she would respond with a well-timed “Really!” or “You’re kidding!”

Then one day, after a particularly long night of caring for said puppy, I called her again. “This is unbelievable!” I cried on the phone. “We’ve been up all night over here! It’s been non-stop crying! I don’t know what to do for him! I’ve tried everything: holding him, feeding him, walking him. Nothing works! You cannot tell me that having a baby is harder than having a dog!”

There was a moment’s silence, and my mother, who had six children, said, “Well, yes, honey, I think I can. First of all, you don’t actually have a dog.”

It took me a moment to realize she was referring to giving birth, and I was appropriately admonished. The jig was up. She had indulged my youthful narcissism as long as she could. All the years of “oohing” and “aahing” over my exploits were nothing more than a diplomatic yawn. And I must say, it ticked me off a bit. . . for a little while, anyway.

Once I had, er, got a dog, I thought, “Oh, yes, children will be a piece of cake.” Once I had children, I thought, “Hmmm.” In retrospect, the dog was pretty darn easy. Now that I have a new puppy, after having had my children, I’ve pretty much thrown in the towel. They’re both hard. Sure, there are a few vague differences, but generally, what I’m finding is that a baby is a baby.

For instance, dogs don’t wear diapers for two years (or four, not that I’m saying that’s happened in my house). Of course, babies don’t pee on the front lawn. . . usually. Babies have to wear diapers until they understand what the potty is for. Puppies, on the other hand, learn relatively quickly what the potty is for. Drinking.

Dogs will never ask questions like, “Mom, if Daddy’s cousin’s daughter got married to a man with two kids my age, what is my relationship to them?” But babies won’t bark at their own shadow.

Dogs won’t have tantrums if the sleeves of their blouse are a millimeter too long; nor, incidentally, will they insist on wearing sleeveless shirts in the middle of winter. Of course, babies don’t shed.

Babies have a grace period before they can actually move about the home and wreck things. One can enjoy their cuteness safe in the knowledge that when you put them somewhere, they’ll be there when you get back. Puppies, conversely, are immediately mobile, and their cuteness is often muted by the expensive loafer between their teeth.

The good news is they are both legally capable of being subdued. Babies have strollers, and puppies have leashes. And in many cases, vice versa.

Babies, often called “ankle-biters,” won’t actually bite your ankles. Puppies, never in my experience called “ankle-biters,” will.

When puppies get overexcited they can go in their crate for some quiet time. When babies get overexcited they can go in their Pack’n’Play—which is exactly the same size as a crate—for some quiet time.

There is a very similar tendency to compete in both species. Parents are often overheard bragging, er, conversing about whose baby sleeps better, whose dog sleeps better, whose child is potty-trained first, whose dog is house-trained first, whose baby is smartest, whose dog is smartest, whose baby or dog has bigger paws. Very rarely will you hear someone say, “Wow, he is so. . . average” in terms of either your baby or your dog.

I love my children. I love my dog. And I chuckle when I think of my mom smiling all those years ago every time I called. It’s probably the same way I smile at my own daughter these days, as I deftly pry my thigh from the jaws of our dog while she sniffs, “You think that’s hard, Mom? Try first grade! You can’t tell me—!”

Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living
in Baldwinsville. Reach her at maggiesimone@verizon.net.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York