We purchased our first puppy, Issa, by the roadside. She was dangling by the scruff of her neck from a vendor’s hand. (Sometimes you’ll see the odd terrified rabbit or inscrutable turtle — this is how vendors lure gullible foreigners.) A few hours later, we brought her home in a ratty cardboard box.
Our Labrador-Belgian Shepherd mix left a path of destruction everywhere, shredding towels and pant cuffs, destroying plants and fraying nerves. By mid-September, we realized she needed a playmate or we would have no garden — and no fingers — left.
Enter Aya, a black Labrador puppy, two months younger than Issa. In one fell swoop, we doubled our workload and lay the groundwork for a pecking order that — for now — appears to be standing the test of time.
Between bouts of insomnia and irritability, it made me wonder: Can puppy rearing prepare you for parenthood?
Now before people get up in arms at this mommy-to-be, let me add a caveat: I know that raising a puppy and raising a baby is not the same thing. That said, I do think there are a few parallels.
The terrible Ts (toilet training, teething and taming)
Cleaning up after them becomes a full-time job (Aya in particular seems to be able to vanish, urinate and reappear within seconds). And they put just about anything they can find in their mouths, although their first choice is never one of the dozen toys you’ve bought them.
And, like babies, they also have a mischievous side; sure, you see the occasional flicker of obedience — just enough to keep hope alive, but not enough to show the light at the end of the tunnel.
They can’t talk
Like newborns, they can’t communicate their needs so you have to decode their signals. Do they crave boredom, food, a bathroom break or attention? Only time will tell.
Washing and brushing them requires superhuman strength and patience, because — like toddlers — they love to wriggle and squirm. Cutting their toenails seems like a form of torture. And like most babies (and some adults), puppies absolutely detest their vaccination shots (of which there are many!) in the first six months.
Puppies can be a handful at night: Whether they’re being housebroken or whining for your attention, their dependency is wearing. Like babies, they don’t run according to your schedule — and they won’t for some time.
With our puppies, it’s not just having to get up and deposit them outside at two in the morning; it’s also the fact that they inevitably decide it’s the perfect time to commence self-grooming or attack one of the toads lurking on our imperfect lawn.
Surveillance is necessary, as is a sixth sense. Forgot to take the garbage out? Left your laptop on the table? Didn’t secure the door? All recipes for disaster! Aya might drag that jettisoned fishbone from the garbage bag and choke on it. Issa may escape Houdini-like from the leash and wreak havoc on all your possessions. Anticipating the next move is critical when you puppy proof the house.
A new day, another embarrassment: A month ago, one puppy shredded my boyfriend’s pants approximately two seconds after he exited the house. Last week, the other peed all over our neighbour’s feet. Not to mention that The Crazy Squawking Pregnant Lady is doing a good job of deterring any future visitors.
Sometimes when I hear myself yelling at the puppies, it becomes an out-of-body experience. Did that shrill, cantankerous voice really come out of my body? I guess it’s a natural reaction when I’ve been listening to staccato, high-pitched yelps all day. And the rest of the time you’re catatonic, because there is a puppy-sized dent in your snoozing habits.
You adore them when they’re exhausted/sleepy/sleeping
Even though you just spent five minutes yelling at them for various transgressions, the second they calm down and curl into little fur balls, all you can do is coo over how angelic they look — until they get their second wind.
The second we leave the puppies at home to run errands, go out for dinner, breathe, we can’t wait to come back home and seem them. And they’re always excited to see us (or maybe they just have to go to the bathroom?). Either way, it seems to be compensation enough.
So what do you think: Can puppies prepare you for parenthood?
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