Thursday, September 26, 2013

Andy, Raw Food, and Transitional Motherhood

Sampling the goods.

I've decided to finally ditch the kibble and put Andy on a raw diet.  The recipe I found uses raw hamburger, cooked rice and boiled eggs (shells on).  She has recently discovered that she LOVES boiled eggs, so much so that we probably should have named her Joanna.

Anyhow, the first batch is done, packaged, dated and in the freezer, awaiting it's 14-day parasite quarantine.  I'll have to find a real thermometer to be sure it's at least -4F in there.

But I digress.  She costs a fortune, but having Andy around finally seems worth the trouble.  Rationally, we knew the puppy phase wouldn't last forever, and that ultimately it was about investing the time and resources necessary to have exactly the dog we wanted around for 10+ years.  

But despite the fact that we just really wanted a dog, and that she just makes us happy, it was the nearest thing to having kids we could manage at the moment.  It's almost like being a real family, not just emotionally but practically.

We tell our friends we got a dog for "practice" before having children.  Some laugh it off, but others who have infants and toddlers of various ages dismiss the idea out of hand.  "Pets are NOTHING like kids," they say.  "It's completely different."  Well, that may be so, but there are several important transitions which pet ownership has in common with parenthood, fundamental transitions which many young families may have forgotten about by now.

We planned on having kids right away.  Clearly that didn't happen, and that's a story for another post.  Now, four years later, we were actually quite comfortable in our childless existence, being able to go where we wanted to go and do what we wanted to do whenever we wanted.  Romantic evenings alone were the rule rather than the exception.  We could go see movies, take trips, and had a very flexible schedule.  Dave had his work and his books, I had my crafts and hobbies, and we managed to occupy all our time.

The master plan for most of the last four years was to look into adopting a few kids once we were settled and debt-free.  By our original schedule, we were set to begin that process in a year or so.  But despite all the financial preparation, we were in no way psychologically prepared.  That's where the dog comes in.

We committed to getting a dog, a very specific kind of dog, a small poodle or doodle suited for apartment life and the real possibility of getting kids with allergies.  Dog acquired.  Happiness shall follow, right?

Not so much.  We were first acutely aware of our lost freedom.  We couldn't go anywhere for very long and had to be back at a certain time.  We had to stick to a schedule.  Somebody besides me needed to be cleaned up and fed in the morning.  Somebody else needed her laundry done.  There was no more sleeping in.  Everything was a choking hazard.  There was much more unpredictable excrement and bodily fluid.  Parents, does this sound familiar?

Personally, I was already swamped.  I was trying to redesign the apartment and start a business, I had a long list of backorders for Christmas stockings and was working an early-morning part-time job.  Cooking and housekeeping had been forgotten long ago.  Now I was following a three-month-old puppy around the house, fishing her out from behind the furniture, designing makeshift barricades, and generally spending my entire waking life doubled over picking crap up off the floor, literal and otherwise.

Many times I considered - sometimes as long as a few seconds - getting rid of the puppy.  She was clearly a mistake, a lapse in judgment, and we would all be better off without such an expensive distraction.  But each time I realized that if I couldn't cope with a puppy now, I would stand no chance coping with toddlers later.  At least I could put the puppy in her crate when I needed some space.

Now, on the other side of puppyhood and house-breaking, we've achieved a very harmonious existence.  We still don't have our freedom back, but that isn't as big a deal as it used to be.  Sometimes she walks off her potty pad before the poo falls where it should, and she howls and cries bloody murder from the other room whenever she detects any marital romance, but we're glad to have her.

Overall, I think we're better prepared than we were before.

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