Love at furst sight
We got our dog the week before our wedding … obviously we weren’t thinking very clearly! We had been wanting a dog for a few years and when we saw her, we just knew she had to come home with us. A beautiful golden retriever with honey colored fur, bright expressive eyes and a huge goofy smile. We decided to name our fur baby Leinie. (Sidebar – I grew up in Minnesota where Leinenkugel’s HoneyWeiss beers were famous, and known as Leinie’s). Leinie came into our lives like a furry wrecking ball. She was full of energy and mischief, and we spent the first year of her life in constant training. Eventually, she evolved into the sweetest and most lovable dog we have ever known.
After we were married, we started thinking about having kids. We started off slowly with the “let’s just stop preventing pregnancy and see what happens” approach. After almost a year, I grew impatient, and a little worried, so we started tracking and charting. After 6 months of that, we decided to see a doctor. Then another doctor. And another. With every heartbreak along the way, Leinie was there with her sweet face and calming temperament. I can’t tell you how many times I cried into her beautiful fluffy fur. We truly LOVE her; she is as much a part of the family as my husband and I are. So in a weird way, Leinie became our “first kid.” We doted on her, took her everywhere, bought her the very best toys, food and treats. For 5 years she was the center of our world and she loved every minute of it.
When we found out that we were (finally) expecting our first baby, we were over the moon at the idea of Leinie and this new baby becoming fast friends and growing up together. I had visions of our daughter playing dress up with the dog, running around the yard and having tea parties. When I had my maternity photo shoot I even made sure to include the dog. She had to be included – she’s going to be a big sister! She seemed very excited to be part of it. She was all over me, perhaps I should have noticed some foreshadowing there…
We took birthing and parenting classes before the baby arrived where they actually discussed introducing pets to a new baby. We learned to bring a (new/unused) dog toy to the hospital and lay it near the baby for the first day. Then have someone take the toy home before we returned to let the dog smell and play with it. We also learned to take it slow and not expect pets to immediately warm up to the new “intruder” in their home. I took note but didn’t really think there would be an issue at all; our dog was the most loving dog on the planet. She would adore the new baby!
The first day we brought our daughter home from the hospital we were a wreck, but that’s another story. We forgot all about the dog toy idea and just came strolling in with the baby in her car seat without a thought what-so-ever about poor Leinie.
And so began the unfortunate trend of our dog lacking attention. Our days were consumed with caring for this new tiny human and we were as overwhelmed as we were overjoyed. It was a struggle to remember to eat lunch let alone remember the last time we took the dog outside.
We had our newborn photo shoot at home (thanks to an amazing friend/photographer). So I thought it would be perfectly adorable to have Leinie included again. It was right around then that I finally noticed the expression my dog had wasn’t that of excitement, but disdain. Every photo position we tried she would either squirm away or just gaze up at me and sadly tap her tail against my side; her eyes pleading “but I’m your favorite, I’m your favorite, I’m your favorite…”
Slowly, we noticed more changes. Leinie didn’t sleep at the foot of the bed anymore – she was often in the hallway or sometimes even all the way downstairs. She started having accidents in the house (which was completely out of character). Her mood, in general, was mopey and erratic all at the same time. She was jumpy, barked at every noise and followed us around like a shadow, to the point where she nearly tripped us at every step. It became clear that the new baby was taking a toll on her big sister.
Despite our best intentions, I felt we had FAILED. We didn’t acclimate our fur baby to this crazy new life we had created and she understandably took it pretty hard. It’s been 18 months now and while I won’t say we have it all figured out (not in the least!) we have all started to adjust. Most of the time, you can find Leinie lounging in the middle of the house, happily watching the chaos go on around her.
Each day brings new challenges
When baby moved up to solid foods (most of which ended up on the floor), Leinie learned to stay close.
When baby learned to walk, Leinie learned to move out of the way a little bit quicker.
But she cautiously and curiously follows our daughter around the house now. And will gladly allow her to sit up next to her and snuggle. Sometimes there is some unfortunate fur-pulling and eye poking, but she always remains calm and patient. Although she tends to give me this hilarious side-eye glance when she’s over it.
It may not have been the perfect start but our girls are slowly, but surely, building a cute little relationship that I hope will last a very long time.