So You Want a Pet...
Babies, houses, pets... they seem to go together. Deep in our minds (OK, sometimes not so deep) we all have an image of family—so often that image involves a tumbling ball of kids and animals, cavorting sweetly on the green grass lawn. Is this your dream? A house filled with laughter, furry creatures, and children?
This longing for a complete family—including domestic animals (the hunting hound sleeping by the fire)—sometimes blinds us to the cruel reality that pet and babies are like oil and water, each wonderful, but not always great at blending.
Now, I'm a pet lover, a cat lover, a dog adorer—I'm not saying don't have pets, just time them. I've come to this conclusion after experiences of my own (and we don't even have a tender baby in the house!) About a year ago, my hormones finally got the best of me ("Next time I start making noises for another baby, get me a dog, will you?" I told my husband long ago). Enter Mollie, an 8-week-old Labrador shepherd also known as a mutt, a pound special, an all-American blenderization, a mixed-breed, a little six-pound sleepy wonder. Cute? You've never seen so cute.
Then Mollie got bigger. And bigger. And then she began to bite. We're not talking serious damage here, but her teething was so extreme that it drove us to puppy training classes where I grimly showed my shredded arms and wondered what kind of bestial fiend I was exposing my only daughter to. Then my daughter Annie showed the class her shredded legs, and my reputation was toast. Burnt toast.
Of course, "mouthy" puppies grow out of it, if trained correctly, and the only time Mollie attacks my feet now is when I'm on a business call. Every afternoon, Annie runs into the house, flops on the floor, and the dog licks her face, both of them completely gentle and trusting. But it took a year to get here. For quite a few months, Annie's progress around the house was impeded wherever she had to actually touch wood planks or carpet instead of hopping from chair to couch to cabinet to avoid the puppy.
While Annie spent months hiding from the puppy's sharp teeth, I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn't gotten a dog when Annie was a baby. And I started thinking about pets and babies in general. Both dogs and cats can be loving or ignoring of babies. But it is a risk. Think of the worst-case scenarios: cute little furry kittens with big eyes and razor sharp claws that can take out the eye of an infant. Grown dogs, who might be tolerant of a few tail pulls but might rebel and snap the nose off a curious toddler who pokes that pencil a little too far up the dog's nose. Hamsters that nip. Birds that peck.
I know, from experience and from all those books and movies, that animals and children can be an amazing combination. Loyal, friendly, loving to each other. But that's kids. When your baby is a baby, stay out of that pet store, don't even walk into that animal shelter! And by all means, stay away from those cages in front of the supermarket that the local humane society haul out every weekend filled with needy, sweetie, animals. Wait, I tell you, wait! Puppies and kittens and bunnies and babies do not mix.