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Columns

June 21, 2014

Toddlers and pets are about evenly matched

Whoever said that having pets doesn’t prepare you for having a kid is just plain wrong. 

Not that I’m saying it’s the same thing. (I never had to rock my dogs to sleep.) But there are distinct similarities between pet ownership and parenthood that I do think prepared me, just a little bit, for the experience of becoming a mom. 

There’s the whole “getting up at 3 a.m. because someone has to pee or eat” thing. (Or, in the case of my cat, because someone wants you to watch him eat. He’s a bit odd.) 

There’s the unpleasant reality of dealing with another creature’s bodily fluids (the less said about which, the better). When we lived in town, we had an outside cat, but we had to walk our dog on the sidewalk, with all the accompanying scooping of you-know-what. Now we live in the country with a fenced dog pen and a litter box. Either way, you’re getting your hands dirty, if only figuratively speaking. 

There’s the frustration of trying to communicate with a creature who understands you only dimly, or not at all; and the joy when you feel you have actually taught them something and made them understand. (Still working on this one with our dogs, who need extensive reminders about certain things. The cat mostly responds to hissing noises or the threat of being sprayed with water. It’s a tense relationship.)

From the beginning, I’ve been keeping a tally of how my daughter stacks up to our pets. And I’ll tell you, at first, they had her beat by a mile. My dogs and cat had full control of their bodily functions; they understood basic commands; they had the power of locomotion, and were able to eat solid food. Yep, they were miles ahead of that little squalling bundle that we brought home from the hospital 2½ years ago. 

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