Monday, June 24, 2013

Babies V. Puppies

When I first announced my pregnancy I heard a lot of comments from family and friends about how different taking care of a baby would be from taking care of a dog or a cat. How much harder it would be, and so much more demanding. I'm sure some of you have heard similar, whether it was when you were pregnant or merely when you brought up that you were trying for a baby.

In my case everyone was saying taking care of a baby would be harder than taking care of Neelix, my 25 lb. 3' tall cat. He's not fat, just huge. One conversation in particular, where I was saying Neelix was actually great practice for motherhood the other participant said, "Yeah, but you've never had to clean poop all the way from his butt to his head."

To which I had to laugh and retort, "Yes I have." The cat suffers from a number of issues. He needs to be bathed because he cannot reach all his own parts due to his size, he has a sensitive tummy so if I'm not very diligent in timing and preparation his meals he'll wind up exploding into poop, he has allergies that require he takes antihistamine pills twice a day, and he is afraid of the dark. Just to name a few. But I digress.

Now, don't get me wrong, particularly in the first few months taking care of a baby is extremely taxing both physically and emotionally. That generally has less to do with the baby though and more to do with the after effects of labor and the transition from being with child to with child. It's a monumental adjustment. Before your baby arrived you probably had all sorts of expectations and predictions and you're bound to find out you were drastically wrong about some or all of them. This can take some getting used to, like living with a tiny dependent stranger. But that's another topic entirely.

Once you're adjusted to raising another human being it actually parallels raising a puppy pretty accurately though. It needs to be fed, bathed, cuddled to sleep, and talked to. It will go to the bathroom at inopportune times and you'll be cleaning up after it. It will make messes, some small, some enormous and you'll be responsible for cleaning those up too. You need to teach it things. It will need its own space and toys. You will be responsible for keeping it safe from harm. It will be curious about everything and you'll have to watch it constantly so that it doesn't choke or drown or get carried off by an eagle. You're "on the clock" even when it's asleep.

So what's the difference between raising a puppy and raising a baby? The baby is actually less work overall. After a few years it will become a more independent being, capable of doing many things by itself. It will no longer poop wherever it wants to. It can clean up its own messes. It will be out of the house for several hours a day attending school. It will be able to communicate with you using English.

A dog on the other hand will always require your constant attention. You're left guessing what the hell is wrong because it can't tell you. It never leaves the house without you. It cannot feed or bath itself, or do anything other than run, chew things, and bark without your help. You are solely responsible for cleaning up all of its messes and feces for the duration of its life, which for most large dogs is about seventeen years. Basically the length of time you're responsible for a child. Except at the end of those eighteen years (barring unforeseen tragedy) the child will go on to amaze you into adulthood; the dog will just make you sad because it will have died after all that time and emotion invested.

So really if it comes between collecting "fur babies" or just having a real one, you're better off just having a real one. That said, taking care of a pet is great practice for taking care of an infant human. I would suggest anyone intending to have children raise a pet first. It will really prepare you for the commitment, frustration, and rewards of caring exclusively for another life. If you cannot take care of a pet that doesn't mean you'll be a terrible parent and should never have kids, just that you should probably hold off a while. It is a big responsibility and time makes a world of difference.

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