Hot breath and warm bellies. Wide eyes and feet softer than feet have a right to be. Critters don’t get much cuter than puppies and babies. But it’s not their cuteness I wish to discuss here. It’s the vexing chaos they cause.
Several of my friends have recently welcomed puppies into their homes, and they keep telling me it’s “just like having a newborn.” And that’s a dangerous thing to say to someone who’s still shin-deep in pacifiers and Pampers. My youngest technically isn’t a newborn anymore, but the housebound days and bleary-eyed nights of his infancy don’t seem so long ago.
And though it’s been a long time since my dog was a puppy, I find it hard to fathom that an animal who eats off the floor and can gallop across the room at three weeks old could possibly be as demanding as a helpless human infant who — it’s worth noting — will wake itself up from a deep and much-needed slumber by involuntarily smacking itself in the face.
When we were first married, my husband and I bought a dog and told people — in all seriousness — that we thought it would be good practice for having children. It would teach us selflessness, force us to think beyond happy hour and plan beyond Sunday brunch. Surely the act of dishing out kibble, checking the water bowl, and pulling an occasional foxtail from a paw couldn’t be all that different from guiding a human being into adulthood. My family laughed at us. They laughed in our faces and then, I’m fairly certain, they laughed some more when we left the room.
Sure, puppies and newborns both rob you of beloved zzz’s. They force you into routines. They require supervision in a way that, say, your goldfish and your spouse do not. They futz with your travel plans, require the use of unattractive gates in your home, and leave your carpet strewn with freaky squeaky toys and saliva-caked stuffed animals. And they have a knack for crapping just as you’re running out the door.
But all similarities between balls-of-fur and bundles-of-joy end there. Unless your labradoodle must eat every two hours — from your cracked, aching nipples — then I don’t want to hear about the anguish of puppydom. Unless your schnauzer has to have its water purified and its food heated (but NOT TOO HOT!), unless he is prone to jaundice and diaper rash, unless he can’t leave the house without being strapped into a five-point harness that reeks of spit-up, you don’t know nuisances, buddy.
The scariest thing about puppy ownership is the fear they’ll gnaw your Ferragamos into jerky strips. But as far as I’m aware, no canine ever succumbed to Sudden Puppy Death Syndrome. Whereas dogs quickly become almost self-sufficient, babies (forgive me) are really quite useless. They can’t bark when solicitors come to your door, clean dinner scraps off the dining room floor, or keep your feet warm just by lying on your bed. And you can’t leave an infant locked in a crate with a rawhide while you run a few errands. That sort of thing is severely frowned upon.
Let’s remember, too, that your dog will never, ever tell a therapist you let him cry through the night while you slept peacefully in the other room — with earplugs — muttering something about how it’s never too early to learn self-soothing techniques.
Of course, raising critters is an investment; you get back what you put into it. A terrier’s less trouble than a toddler, but eventually my kid will be able to feed himself, travel like a trooper, and — most importantly — clean up after our dog.