My son in a typical second child. He has to share his toys, food and parent’s attention. I am constantly trying to balance his needs with those of his older sibling. I try my best to ensure that they both stay happy, healthy and out of my cupboards. 

There is just one problem: I only have one child. My baby is our firstborn and his older sibling is our dog. I am embarrassed to say that we are second-childing our baby because of our dog.

What is second-childing, you ask? Well, remember all of that time and attention you doted on your first born when they were an only child? My dog does. (I mean, probably. It’s hard to ask her.) 

When you have a second, you have to split your time and energy. Understandably this results in a few compromises. You lower your standards because you are now having to meet the demands of two dependants rather than just one. Inevitably the second child gets a little less than the first child or the first child gets a bit shafted. Or both.

Our dog was quite jealous when her “little brother” arrived. For the first few months, every time I nursed the baby, she would bring me a toy, drop it at my feet and cry. I would of course, feel terribly guilty for neglecting my fur baby. This dramatically changed when the baby began dropping food. Now they are best friends. (I should mention that I have a labrador retriever. Food solves all problems with labs.)

Here are some times we second-childed our first born:

Dog: Took a million photos, printed them out and created a shrine to the dog in the house. Until recently, a large wall in our house was dedicated to only dog photos. A pretty big wall. All dog photos.

Baby: The baby had to wait ten months before we printed photos of him and hung them on a wall. Oh, we took photos of him. It was an excessive amount of photos, which we happily showed everyone we met on our phones. We just didn’t print them. There was really no excuse. We have a photo printer in our house and some empty frames. Visitors would come over and look for our baby pictures. It was fine at first, but after 10 months, it was getting embarrassing. When we eventually got to it, we had to move some of the dog photos to make space. It’s fine, the dog will get over it. (In time.)

Dog: We would quickly toss out any toys that were broken or slightly ratty. The house was full of brand new toys all for the dog.

Baby: The house is now full of baby toys. However, the baby toys are not so new. Actually, most of our son’s toys have some degree or teeth marks or dog drool on them. This is mostly because all dog and baby toys are basically the same, but also because it is almost impossible to keep the baby and dog from playing with each other’s toys. So, the baby is getting dog hand me downs, but at least the baby will learn to share. The dog is working on it too. 

Dog: Called by her name or a bunch of cute nicknames. 

Baby: Mostly called his name, but also sometimes called the dog’s name…or her nicknames. Try explaining to strangers why you just called your baby “puppy wuppy”.

Dog: Whimpered slightly and we rushed over to figure out what was wrong. Did she want to play fetch? Want a treat? A belly rub? Poor dog, let’s go for a walk. 

Baby: Whimpers and we wait for a minute to see if he needs attention or is just making noises. He is probably fine. After all, we can’t go rushing over every time he whimpers or he will never learn to soothe himself. 

Dog: “Our dog will never sleep in our bed,” we said to each other smugly. We had a huge list of things our dog would never do. This included jumping up on people, stealing food off the counter and chewing up furniture. She did all of those things in the first year. Always in front of whoever we just told that she would never do them. Once we told our in-laws that the dog doesn’t steal food from the counter, only to turn around and catch her trying to eat butter from the counter behind us. 

Baby: We don’t make statements like “Our baby will never…” We learned this from raising the dog. We also learned that in time, we can work to change behaviour we don’t like. For example, our dog no longer chews the furniture. If we can do that, we can get our baby to stop trying to eat kibble. Right?

I know there is someone reading this who is thinking that I am crazy. When I write all this out I know it makes us look pretty bad, but I can’t help that I love my dog. We do realize that she is not really our child. We know we spoil her with too many treats, too many toys and too much attention. But you don’t see her run to the door when we come home, tail wagging, ready to greet us with sweet doggy kisses. If you saw how gentle she is with her “baby brother” or how happy she is when we take her to the beach or how she snuggles with us on the couch, you might understand why I secretly consider her to be my first baby. 

Maybe I am crazy, but if you are a dog person, you might understand. Judging by the way he smiles at our dog, I know my son will too. If not, he’s got a good story for therapy later in life. 

Liz Parker-Cook

Liz is a mother of three children under four and has the dark circles under her eyes to prove it. She is also a high school music teacher, which is much louder than parenting but has much fewer dirty diapers. When she gets any time to herself she writes on her blog: She lives in Toronto with her husband, children, and dog.