(Yes, that is the dog’s water bowl. Yes, that is my child. No, I did not take this photo.)
When we brought home our adorable mutt, Zulu, a number of friends told us that a puppy was a great training run for parenthood and that we’d have a baby within a year.
Much to our surprise, they were right on both counts. We had our first child eleven months later, and this year we’ve learning that puppies and babies are remarkably similar in some ways.
1. How they’re similar: Once upon a time, I said that I would never have a dog or a baby sleeping in my bedroom. Both dog and baby ended up sleeping in my bedroom upon arrival home.
How they differ: The dog was evicted after six weeks. Nine months after birth, the baby still hasn’t been evicted.
2. How they’re similar: They’ll put anything they can get their little hands/paws on into their mouths.
How they differ: They don’t.
3. How they’re similar: They are both completely food motivated – they will fixate on food that crosses their path in preference to any toys or affection that is also on offer. They both whine whenever they see this food. In particular, they whine every time they see me eating said food without sharing any.
How they differ: The dog will sit at a respectful distance and whine softly and hopefully, at intervals. He drools on the floor. The baby thrusts his face as close to my mouth as possible. If non-stop whining hasn’t worked in five seconds he escalates to demanding roars accompanied by banging fists and a red scrunched-up face. He drools on my shoulder.
4. How they’re similar: In these situations the only truly effective way to shut them both up is to feed them.
How they differ: The dog can eat half an omelet in 0.8 of a second and then goes right back to begging as desperately as if you’d never fed him (as if, in fact, no one had ever fed him). They baby takes at least a couple of seconds to eat what he’s given, although he can ingest everything from crackers to strawberries remarkably fast given that he only has two tiny fangs in the front of his mouth.
5. How they’re similar: If they like the taste of what they’ve been given, neither of them will voluntarily stop eating. They will both continue until they’ve made themselves sick.
How they differ: After they’ve made themselves sick, the dog will throw up on the floor (or sometimes, on particularly special occasions, on the baby’s play mat). The baby will throw up on my shoulder (or if my shoulder happens not to be available, on anyone else’s shoulder).
6. How they’re similar: They are both, theoretically, trainable.
How they differ: At nine months, the dog could sit, lie down, stay, come, and stop biting me on command. We could put pieces of cheese on his paws and he would wait to eat them until we’d given him the OK. At nine months, the baby can do none of these things. He either laughs or roars indignantly at the word “no”, depending on what mood he’s in. He doesn’t stop biting me upon command.
7. How they’re similar: Their favorite toys are cardboard boxes, empty water bottles, and plastic Tupperware containers. They are also inordinately fond of shoes. There is much tail wagging, happy flapping, and joyful noises when any of these items are discovered lying around.
How they differ: Zulu can rip apart most of these items (and disembowel the odd baby toy) in ten minutes flat. Not being as blessed in the canine department, Dominic must resort to sucking and banging to wreak his havoc. Sucking is more effective than I might have guessed when the item in question is cardboard.
8. How they’re similar: We can never leave either of them unattended for any significant length of time.
How they differ: For the dog, that means several hours. For the baby that means two seconds unless he’s safely contained in his crib.
9. How they’re similar: They both wake us up in the wee dark hours by making lots of noise for no good reason.
How they differ: The dog only does this once a week or so. The baby does this several times every night.
10. How they’re similar: They are both of dubious parentage. When we asked the person we bought our puppy from what type of dog he was, she said “mother medium, father large.” As for the baby, we remain baffled as to how two dark-headed, tall individuals produced a red-headed child who is weighing in below the 20th percentile. We believe that he may have been switched at birth.
They both provide hours of entertainment. They make us laugh, and we love watching them exploring and getting up to new antics. We wouldn’t trade them for the world.
How they differ: Actually, we might trade the dog for a sweet-tempered, smart golden Lab. We’d keep the baby though. We’ve grown quite attached to him, even if he was switched at birth.