When we got our puppy just months after having our first baby, everyone thought we were mad.
We hadn’t planned it that way but our circumstances were a little unusual. We didn’t go out looking for a puppy as such, but we had always said that when Mum bred from her bitch Molly, we would have one. It just so happened that my baby and Molly’s puppies were born just three weeks apart.
Mum was a complete superstar and kept Thomas, our brindle boxer puppy, at her house for a little longer than usual so she could give him a head start on things like toilet training. By the time he came to live with us he was a good three months old and ready to go out for walks and such like.
I quickly found myself in a bit of a routine which worked for both Ben and Thomas – we would get up first thing, feed Ben and then take Thomas out for a walk around our local park. I soon learned that if I walked Thomas as soon as I could, he was much easier to deal with during the course of the day! Ben would often sleep in his pram for most of the walk and I tended to just stay out walking for as long as he slept – meaning not only did Thomas get plenty of exercise but so did I. With a combination of breastfeeding and puppy walking I lost my baby weight very quickly and without even really having to try.
Having a puppy to walk meant I got to know more people in the area – for a start, you don’t get to walk a beautiful boxer puppy around without people wanting to stop and talk to you! But we also made friends in the park, other people who were generally walking their dogs at around the same time as us each day. It’s not that I’d have gone for coffee with any of them or anything but it did mean I got a daily dose of adult conversation which any Mum on maternity leave with a newborn knows can be hard to come by some days.
We didn’t suffer any sort of jealousy issues as neither Thomas nor Ben knew a life without each other, which meant that when we had the girls at a later date Thomas never really bothered with them. Babies were just the norm in our house at that time. We struck lucky with “Toss” – he was gentle and patient and surprisingly calm for a boxer (unless he was chasing around with his sister and then it was a different story altogether). He was always beautifully behaved, even if he did pull a bit when we walked him sometimes, and we trusted him as far as anyone should trust a dog with their children.
We lost Thomas two years ago now. He was only seven and it was a real shock to all of us but loss is part of life isn’t it and far better that our children’s first real experience of grief is that of a pet than a family member. Growing up with a pet teaches children responsibility, empathy and boundaries. It shows them how to take care of the needs of others and gives them a friend. Yes, getting a puppy while we had a newborn was probably one of the maddest things we’d ever done but I wouldn’t change it for the world.