Since being pregnant, I have discovered that there are three conversation starters that commonly occur between the non-pregnant/pregnant population.
First, there's rubbing the pregnant lady's belly. (Goodbye, personal space!) Then there's talking to her stomach. (Hello, my face is up here!) And finally, there's the inquiries about the gender of our expected little one. When it comes to the latter, my experience usually goes something like this:
Interested Person: “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?”
Me: “Really, we'll be perfectly happy with either, as long as whatever-it-is is covered in fur and has four legs.”
Me: “Oh, I'm sorry, I should have explained. You see, our lab puppy is in desperate need of a playmate.”
It's no secret among my close family and friends that ever since I was old enough to know the difference between an animal and a human that most of my love has been lavished on things with tails and paws. (A notable stumbling block when it comes to my Christian ethos.)
So a few weeks ago, when my husband Tom found a puppy wandering the streets of Atlanta, everyone figured it would be love at first sight for me and the tiny black lab with the white patch on his chin. But this was not so. (Apparently, pregnancy hormones affect the brain just as much as they do the body.) Despite my love for all things furry, I was level-headed enough to know that a new puppy and a pregnant lady, who only drags herself off the couch to stare into the toilet bowl 10 or 12 times a day, do not a pleasant household make.
Still, I'm a sucker for my husband's puppy dog eyes even more than actual puppy dog eyes, so despite having seen Marley and Me, I agreed to let the cold-nosed orphan stay for just one night. As goes the story with most strays, that “one night” has turned into one of the longest months of my life. “Shotgun Jake” now has a collar, a bed next to ours, and a toy box as big as he is.
But, I don’t mind, really. The last five weeks have prepared me for living with a baby in ways I never thought possible. Some of you may be thinking that raising a lab puppy is nothing like raising a child. And you're right: Babies wear diapers rather than “going” directly on your carpet, they don't have razor sharp teeth from the moment they exit the womb, and you can tote them into a store without looking like a weirdo.
Since coming to live with me and Tom, Jake has accustomed us to sleepless nights, to offering genuine praise to small creatures that complete their bodily functions in the right place, and most importantly, to the awesome (and by that I mean both “weighty” and “fantastic”) responsibility of having something be completely dependent on us for life.
They say when you have a baby that your life is no longer your own. I've discovered that—at least for a time—the same goes for a puppy. Being pretty close to clueless about this whole mothering thing, I've had a small glimpse into what it takes to care for another life: patience, selflessness, consistency, affection, and last but never least, an easily-accessible sense of humor.
Here's to hoping that Jake doesn't use all my reserves before Baby Palmer gets here and that if the baby arrives bald and with only two legs, after all, that he/she and Jake will still be the best of friends.