Our new pup is so damn cute!
Isn’t he? Those floppy ears? Earnest eyes?
He is cute. Really. And I adore him.
Just as I adored my newborn. He was really cute too!
What I hadn’t anticipated back then about cute newborns, is that sometimes their incessant crying can drive a well -intentioned mom to distraction. Like the memorable night when I stared at my six-week-old squawking on our bed. With his face wrinkled and red, he struck me as a flailing miniature monstrosity. My breathing was shallow with panic and anger; I’d changed his diaper. I’d rocked him. I’d nursed him.
“What? What is it you want?” I’d barked, unheard above his own wailing. It would not be the last time I would bark at my child (as I bark most school mornings when he turns on the Wii rather than get dressed). But I felt a terrible shame in being so angry at my cute, tiny miracle.
When my husband came home, I’d handed him the squawking bundle. I ran away.
To Starbucks. I remember cradling a cup of cappuccino against my trembling lips, my eyes blurry with suppressed tears. I faced up to exactly how unprepared I was, as if I’d embarked on a trip without even a tooth brush. Truthfully, in all my preparations for motherhood – the perfect musical (annoying, see above) bassinet; crib; expansive onsie collection – I’d never once considered that my limits could be so thoroughly tested.
Neither had I with puppyhood.
Last Friday, the barking was as incessant as my newborn’s crying. I couldn’t have our cute little puppy running around, tearing the binding off the rug and ripping holes in the couch comforters, while I had to be upstairs changing sheets and vacuuming, so he was in his crate – which he didn’t like.
“Just go about your day as you usually would,” my new vet had advised, when we’d discussed the barking and crate training.
So I did – to the background drone of relentless barking every time I was out of Toby’s sight. He’d pause as he saw me coming down the stairs, then start up again as I disappeared down to the basement to put a load in the washer, or back up to slip into the kitchen.
My ears were ringing. A headache threatened. I resisted barking back “What do you want?” as I had at my tiny cute miracle. I knew better this time – to escape sooner. To Starbucks! (which I could since, unlike newborns, I could leave him home alone. In the crate which was supposed to feel like a comfy “den.”)
And as I crossed the threshold into that Starbucks’ soothing ambiance of a fake fire burning in a fake fireplace, I was intensely envious of all those sipping coffee, hooked up with headphones to their computers. This envy, the same I’d felt eight years ago, again brought tears to my eyes –the guilt. How could I want so desperately to escape our new little cute puppy “miracle” ?
Sitting there in Starbucks, I faced up to the fact that I was as unprepared for puppyhood as I had been for motherhood. In fact, getting up ten times a night to nurse appealed to me more than my having now to get up and take a pup out into the cold night, wind whipping leaves around my bare ankles, in my pajamas for pup to pee!
There ensconced in Starbucks ambiance, I was acknowledging fully that becoming a dog owner is not about the first time you set eyes on your cute puppy. Just as becoming a mother is not about first setting eyes on your little miracle.
It is about the moment I looked at my watch. Instinctively, I was able to rise up out of the comfy Starbucks chair, rise above my exhaustion and despair, and know that I had to leave. Just as I had with my newborn, when I’d worried I might have been gone too long.
This time, it wasn’t about leaving behind a baby that might be in need of nursing. It was about a new pup, whose barking, frankly, I understood a lot better than my newborn’s crying jag; this little doggy creature simply was afraid of being left alone.
So I went home. Walking up to the house, I could hear it. The barking. I now have far more sympathy for all those annoying barking dogs I can hear barking for hours, probably locked alone while their own owners are away.
And I’m learning – barking makes dogs really thirsty! So I let him out to drink, and then took him out to pee, and for a long peaceful barkless walk.