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I Take It All Back: Raising a Dog is JUST Like Raising a Kid

Photograph by Twenty20

Once upon a time, I might have given the side-eye to anyone I ever overheard talking about “fur babies.” You know the type: the women who call themselves “Mommy” to their dogs and who send Christmas cards with photos of their cats where most people would feature children.

Those people have always driven me a little nuts.

For the record, I understand that some of those people are infertile, and babying their pets in some small way makes up for not being able to have the babies they’re desperate for. But the truth is, nope, I never understood why people thought having a pet was on the same level as a baby. And after I became a mom myself, the comparison seemed even more farfetched to me.

“They have no idea,” I used to think. “Having a pet is nothing like having a kid.”

And then I adopted a puppy.

I honestly don’t know how this happened. I’ve never really been a pet person. But as my daughter grew older and started asserting herself as an animal lover, I found myself warming up to the idea more and more.

And so, at the age of 34, I became a pet owner for the first time in my adult life.

This really could have gone one of two ways. Either I was going to wind up massively regretting my decision to adopt a dog, or I was going to fall madly in love with that dog and have to swallow every smug remark I ever made about people and their “fur babies.”

Consider this my apology.

I adore this dog. And I totally call myself “Mommy” when I’m talking to him. I’ve also already dropped a ton of the rules I originally set. Like right now, our pup is snuggled up next to me in my bed. A place I swore I would never allow him to be.

I have no idea how I became this person.

But you know what else? For as much as I love this puppy, I'm also willing to admit that puppy ownership is hard! My kid was sleeping consistently through the night by 8 weeks old. My puppy is 18 weeks old now, and still waking me up at least twice a night to go to the bathroom.

(And did you see how I just referred to him as 18 weeks, when I'm pretty sure most people would have reverted to months by now?)

I’m exhausted and can’t remember what 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep feels like. But I still love this dog.

Just like I still loved my daughter when she kept me up all hours of the night.

Then there's the potty training. I had mostly deleted the memory of those weeks spent potty training my daughter from my mind. Until I found myself following the dog around, watching him like a hawk, cleaning up pee from random corners and cursing myself for not catching him in time.

It turns out potty training a dog is pretty much exactly like potty training a kid.

I so wish I were kidding. I honestly do not know who I’ve become.

When I began researching options for what to do with my dog when I go out of town, I realized a lot of people have a lot of opinions on kennels vs. puppy sitters, and they aren’t afraid to tell you what they think you should do—just like when it comes time to sending your kid to daycare vs. leaving them with a nanny.

I even, I kid you not, met an anti-vaccination puppy mama at the dog park. She told me she believes that vaccines destroy dog immune systems and she “wanted better” for her dog. She then asked for my number and texted me information about why I shouldn’t get my pup any more of his shots.

I got home and did some research, and apparently this is totally a thing—a whole subset of anti-vaccination dog people who truly believe their pups are better off without those shots. And who aren’t afraid to push that rhetoric on other puppy owners every chance they get.

Mind. Blown.

This dog has completely taken over our house, just like a newborn would. And I have started taking him with us just about everywhere we go, because I genuinely hate the idea of leaving him home alone.

I even put him in a puppy kindergarten class to help him be better socialized, and I’ve started sending him to puppy daycare a few times a week because I was afraid he hadn’t made enough friends in our neighborhood yet.

I so wish I were kidding. I honestly do not know who I’ve become.

Never mind. I take that back. I know exactly who I’ve become. I’m now officially one of those people.

Need further proof? I booked our family photos last week, and I totally asked our photographer if I could bring our dog along. Because, duh… he’s part of the family. And he needs to be on the Christmas card.

So to all you pet people with your fur babies, I’m sorry I used to judge you. Because it turns out, I’m just as neurotic about my puppy as I was about my baby. And at least for the time being, he is also just as much work.

You win. Raising a puppy is just like raising a baby.

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