I am neglecting my first child

I am neglecting my first child
Sun Dog

Claire Zulkey wrote the post that I had been thinking about writing for some time now.

John and I were married just over eleven years ago. Not long after that, we decided to get a dog. This came about after our friends, B.K. and Steph, got a bird. Suddenly John was in “pet” mode. I would not be having a bird, but I had always wanted a dog of my own.

We lived in an apartment in Evanston at the time and we tried to adopt from the shelter, but they were not receptive because of our limited space (despite the fact that John was in school at the time and left later in the morning and I was a teacher who did not work long hours and I split time between two schools and was therefore able to come home in the middle of the day to walk the dog and don’t get me started on this shelter bullshit).

We found a woman out in Huntley who had a labrador retriever who happened to get pregnant. She wasn’t a breeder. She was just a lady with a horny dog. The puppies were getting older and she needed to find homes for them. So her dogs needed to be rescued as much as the ones in that stupid shelter I hate.

We had initially wanted a yellow lab, but all the yellow labs were girls and I’m skittish around female dogs because of the time I got my face bitten off by my own akita (again, another story for another time). The chocolate lab was a boy and he seemed so docile and quiet (ha!). We fell in love immediately and decided to name the dog Indiana.

For five years he was our baby. He wasn’t as calm as we’d assumed when we first got him, but we still loved him (still love him; he’s still with us). He made every ride with me from Evanston to our new house  when we were preparing to move, resting his head on my lap, which was probably very unsafe, but whatever. He was a good distraction when I was trying to get pregnant and kept not getting pregnant. I still remember one day where I found out my cousin was having a baby and I sat down on the stairs and cried and he licked my face and cuddled with me because he knew that was what I needed.

When I finally did get pregnant, I was not going to treat the dog any differently. He was my first baby, he’d always be my first baby, and nothing was going to change that.

Except, I’m sorry, a dog baby is not an actual baby.

There is a difference. I was adamant that there wouldn’t be, but there was. And I think Indy could sense that. He didn’t take to my son right away. I never believed he would bite him or anything, but I didn’t know. So I was always especially careful when the two of them were together. I kept the dog at arm’s length. I used the baby gate upstairs as much for keeping the dog out as for keeping the kid in.

We started to take him for fewer walks. We stopped going out in the park to play fetch. He had a yard to run around in. Wasn’t that enough?

Eventually, Indy got more used to the new demands on my attention. He also got older and less energetic. Since his spirit had already been broken by the existence of the boy child, he’s been much more receptive to my daughter, and she’s much more interested in him.

He still drives me crazy though. He’s still one more being asking for my time and attention. And he doesn’t pick his moments well. Every night, after we’ve eaten and I’ve cleaned up the kitchen and I go to sit down in the living room, he barks at me. Or he stares at me and whines. Or he throws his Kong at me and expects me to fill it with a treat. And I just get so angry at him because doesn’t he understand that I have nothing left to give?

And then eventually something happens, he has another seizure or he seems sick or the light catches the gray hairs around his mouth just right and I realize that he still is my baby and he won’t be around forever and I hug him and promise to take him for more walks and hope that he knows, in spite of it all, I do still love him.

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