We we were warned over and over again not to get a dog before we had a baby. But I really wanted one so last spring we adopted a rescue dog—a four-year-old Silky Terrier. When I first saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was a scraggly mop. She rested her head on my foot and I fell in love. It didn't matter to me that she was matted and looked like a toupée someone had thrown away, I didn't care that she had bad teeth, and I really didn't care that she was actually a he, because I had my heart set on naming my first dog Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Side note: People really get in a tizzy when you call a dog by the wrong gender. It's fascinating since animals have no concept of gender or our silly English pronouns. Plus, she has no balls, so I don't see what the fuss is all about. But I digress.
I'm really glad we decided to get a dog before having a baby. Buffy has taught me so many things and, now that I am expecting my first child, she's been imparting valuable lessons and preparing me for motherhood in a way no houseplant could have ever taught me. (Especially since they are all dead.)
1.On Potty Training. Our dog came potty trained. Or so we thought. Until she pooped at the bottom of the stairs on my birthday.
Lesson learned: Accidents happen, especially when it involves pooping and it doesn't matter if it's your birthday.
2.On the Impermanence of Material Items. Buffy slays all of her chew toys almost immediately after purchase.
Lesson learned: Budget for an inordinate amount of toys, clothing etc. Children, like dogs, destroy things and have no money to replace them.
3.On Placing Another's Needs Before My Own. Sometimes I don't feel like walking her. But when Buffy has to poop, I must get dressed and take her, even if I don't feel like it.
Lesson learned: A dog, like a baby, must poop on its own schedule and I have to clean it up. Every time.
4.On Cleaning Up Vomit. When a dog pukes, it does not say "I do not feel good" before it pukes on your shag rug.
Lesson learned: A baby will not be as helpful as a dog as it will not eat most of the vomit while you get the paper towels. But still, it will be gross and I will have to clean it up. Every time.
[H]aving a dog has given me a slight measure of confidence that I can keep something alive by feeding it, loving it and cleaning up its poop.
5. On Boogers. Our darling has gross, runny eye boogers that crust up into black balls that I used to leave for the groomer to cut out when we first got her. These days I scrape them off every day with my fingernails. It used to make me ill, now I get extreme satisfaction from it.
Lesson learned: I will be picking boogers off my child and wiping his nose which sounds disgusting but I'll do it anyway because I won't be able to stand looking at it.
6. On How to Behave in a Health Emergency. When Buffy had her first seizure, we scooped her up and took her to the vet, where she proceeded to run around and go insane in a perfectly healthy manner, but we found out she has epilepsy.
Lesson learned: Always err on the side of caution and take your baby to the doctor whenever you feel like it, you never know when something is really wrong.
7. On Accepting Help. When I first started working again, I had full days of training so my brother-in-law came over to walk Buffy during the week.
Lesson learned: Reach out to friends and family when you need to. It's hard to raise a baby on your own.
8. On Finding Appropriate Health Care. We were very lucky to have a friend who's a highly respected vet and gave us great recommendations for all our doggy health care needs.
Lesson learned: Make friends with doctors and dentists preferably ones you can call at midnight or message on Facebook to ask if something is "normal."
9. On Interpreting Non-Verbal Cues. Babies can't talk for like a year or something. Dogs cannot speak English but they let you know what they need. Baby might not paw my arm when he needs to poop but I'm sure he'll do other things. Like cry.
Lesson learned: Pay close attention to baby to determine his needs.
10. On Taking Joy in Another's Happiness. I've been primarily focused on my own happiness for the past 36 years and have been wondering what kind of mother I will be so late in life. But I have to say my heart swells with pleasure when I see my darling dog in a joyful mood simply because we are taking her for a walk or giving her a treat.
Lesson learned: I will enjoy making my baby happy and it will make me happy, too.
11.On Accepting My New Title. When we got Buffy, I started referring to myself as "Mommy" and my husband as "Daddy." Incidentally, my husband believes that is how we got pregnant because of "all that mommy and daddy talk."
Lesson learned: Fake it 'til you make it. I never thought I would be someone's mommy but I like the way it sounds.
12.On Tiny Clothes Shopping. Buffy has so many adorable sweaters. I never imagined how much fun it could be to shop for someone else and for such small outfits.
Lesson learned: I'm going to love dressing my baby.
13. On My Husband's Readiness for Fatherhood. Buffy likes to get up at 4 a.m. for a little pee and my husband is the one who takes her out. Whenever Buffy wants to play, he obliges and he is 100% devoted to her. When she looks "off," he will rush her to the vet.
Lesson learned: I picked the right baby-daddy.
I know a dog is not the same thing as a child, but having Buffy in my life has really helped me get used to the idea of caring for something alive—besides the aforementioned dead houseplants. Am I ready for motherhood? Probably not, but having a dog has given me a slight measure of confidence that I can keep something alive by feeding it, loving it and cleaning up its poop. I guess we'll find out if Buffy's lessons worked in about four months!