When we got married 11 years ago, my wife wanted a dog, but I didn’t think we were ready for the responsibility or the cost. I convinced her to put it off for a few years since we were living in small apartments, but as soon as we bought our first house, she started looking for a four-legged friend.
We got our first dog and he quickly became part of our family, so when my wife brought home a stray she found running by the side of the road, we welcomed him in as well and soon had two dogs. And for the next four years, the four of us made the move from Texas to Louisiana and then back to the Lone Star state, though I think they could tell something was different during last last move, as my wife was pregnant.
When my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby, we started wondering what the dogs would be like with him. They’d never spent a lot of time around little children, but whenever we’d encountered them on our walks or at other people’s houses, the boys never acted up.
And since the dogs love us, we really hoped they’d take to our baby. We did everything we could to get them acclimated to our new addition and let them know his presence wasn’t going to change our love for them.
But they have never seemed to be too impressed with him.
During the first year of his life, they were mainly indifferent to my son, just going in to sniff him a few times and then giving him a wide berth. Once he started moving more, they became a little more interested, but mainly were just watching to make sure their luxuriating wasn’t interrupted.
Once the boy started walking, the dogs realized they were in for it because he found them endlessly fascinating.
Our older dog, who is also the one we’ve had the longest, really wanted nothing to do with the child. The younger dog craves our approval so much, he allows the boy to pat him and hug him, but it’s clear from the dog’s face, he doesn’t enjoy it.
Now that my son is 18 months old, he’s gotten strong enough that he can get a good grip on the dogs’ tails and pat them a little too hard. The younger dog has yelped a few times from the boy grabbing his fur, but the older dog will straight up growl at the boy.
And that’s a problem, because my son thinks it’s hilarious.
Whenever that dog growls, barks or nips at the boy, he just giggles up a storm. We tell them both — repeatedly — not to do that, but it’s clear neither one of them understands. I think my son is likely to learn the lesson sooner than the dog, but right now he’s still in the stage where he just starts crying when we grab his hand away from the dog and tell him “no.”
We recently had a short reprieve from the evenings of our son chasing the dogs around the living room as they went to stay with my in-laws for a few weeks, but they recently returned and things are back to “normal.” The one thing that has improved, so far, is their attitudes about going for walks.
Before they left, neither one of them wanted to go for a walk if they saw my son coming along. He loves holding one of their leashes, so I would usually bring him with us whenever we could, but the older dog got to the point where he would only walk very slowly behind us and practically had to be pulled along the route.
Since they’ve been back, the dogs have been enthusiastic about going on walks and have charged ahead no matter where my son is or who is holding their leashes.
Now if they could just learn to hide in the living room, we’d have completely peaceful evenings.
William C. Wadsack is the managing editor of the Herald Democrat and a first-time father. He never realized just how expensive children could be until the birth of his son. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WCWadsackHD.