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Remember the moment you laid eyes on your dog? This was likely before the thought of having children. You went to the breeder or pound in hopes of finding the next member of your family, you were eagerly awaiting that effortless connection between human and animal. And then it happened. The dopey eyes gazed up at you, the tongue licked you from chin to forehead and your heart all but leapt out of your chest at the love for this animal. Congratulations, you are now a mommy.

You walk through the door of your home, and you’re a bit nervous. “Will he like it here? I’ll do whatever it takes to make him comfortable.” Your puppy sniffs around, his ears flopping over his eyes and causing him to trip. He has a hard time walking on the hardwood floors and pees a little due to excitement. You chuckle at the sight of him. “Welcome home puppy. I love you.”

That first night is rough. Your puppy yelps, heck, he’s waking you up every 2 hours to go potty. By 3:00am, he’s in bed with you (I know, I know, you vowed to NOT let your dog sleep with you). Have you ever loved something so much? He goes everywhere with you. To the park, long walks, Home Depot, your office. You two are attached at the hip. You rush home from happy hour to spend time with him and tend to his needs, because you’re a good mommy.

Let’s fast forward two years. You are rushing to the hospital to welcome your first, real, human baby. Your baby’s sleepy eyes gaze up at you. She yawns and your heart shatters with the ultimate love for this little person. Congratulations, you are now a mommy.

You walk through the door of your home and sigh with relief. We are finally here. Hey, Mommy, no not mommy to baby, but mommy to dog. Go pet your dog. Love on him. Kiss him. He missed you while you were gone. Introduce him to the baby, let them smell each other, look at each other, get used to one another. Invite him to be a part of this fascinating experience.

That first night at home with baby is rough, really rough. She’s waking every hour, needing to be changed, needing to be fed. You settle down to feed her and glance at the foot of your bed. There he is, your loyal dog. Wanting nothing more than to be there for you, to offer you company. Petting him and loving on him is so much better than scrolling on Facebook. Thank God for dogs and their inherent ability to know when we need them.

Are you ready to fast forward again two years? Now you have a toddler. Toddlers can be jerks. They hit, push, yell, scream, pitch fits and if you’re in the line of fire, it ain’t pretty.

In our home, hitting the dog is not allowed. Pushing the dog is not allowed. If you are running and playing, you need to step around the sleeping dog, not on top of him. Just because you, tiny toddler, are occupying this space, doesn’t mean the dog gets kicked outside. It doesn’t mean the dog takes a back seat. You two need to learn how to live together.

Our dogs do everything with us. The playgrounds we visit have trails for the dogs and the vacations we enjoy have to be dog friendly. If we are outside on our scooters and bikes, guess who’s with us? Our dogs.

What’s happened is a mutual respect between dog and child. When my two-year-old daughter wakes up in the morning, it’s not us she’s calling for, it’s her dog. It’s not us she hugs first, it’s her dog. Her love for animals is bigger than herself. We often joke that we are saving up to send her to Vet School. Would this have happened if we kicked our dogs to the curb the minute we brought Baby home? And who would have thought our dog would have a stronger connection with the two-year-old than with us? I’m so happy we gave them the opportunity to bond.

In return, our dogs are so wonderful with all children. We’ve taught them how to interact with kids. We’ve taught them how to have patience. They get super annoyed with toddlers, but instead of snapping, they just walk away. Would they know to do this if we wouldn’t have given them the opportunity to exist around our family?

I get it, meeting the needs of the dogs and kids is hard, and yes, sometimes the dogs take a backseat. But all too often, I hear of families loathing their dogs after having kids. Their overly loved, indoor dogs, have become outside animals with little attention and care from their owners. How incredibly sad.

I’m here to ask you, to encourage you to please care for your animals. Lead by example and show your children what it means to wholeheartedly love an animal. Show your animal what it means to wholeheartedly love all humans. My 4-year-old has one chore right now. That chore is to feed the dogs breakfast and dinner. He does it joyfully. I love my family and I truly believe that all 6 of us are incredibly happy to be a part of this club.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
– Josh Billings

Jackie Boeheim

Jacqueline Leigh holds a BA in Journalism from Valdosta State University. She’s successfully published articles in multiple lifestyle magazines and online publications. She is passionate about entertaining both parents and children through her writing. Jacqueline's first picture book, Time For Bed With Ford And Red, is set to release in June 2017. She makes her home in North Carolina with her husband and two spirited children. You can follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/authorjacquelineleigh/?ref=bookmarks

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