We had barely crossed the New York state line with Pip before I started wondering if we had made a terrible mistake.
We went to Connecticut in hopes of finding Ridgeback mixed puppies I saw on PetFinder, but since it was day two of the event, many of them were already gone. We hemmed and hawed over dogs for quite a while; there wasn’t one that I instantly connected with. After walking a few, Chris finally said he wanted to get Pip. I wasn’t sure. “He’s so little,” I said. “Perfect for kids,” Chris replied. “He seems skittish,” I said. “It’s overwhelming in here,” Chris reminded me. And because we had driven all that way, it seemed a waste to go home empty handed. So I acquiesced and we brought “Red” home.
First things, first. He needed a new name. In honor of my maiden name, we name all our dogs with “P” names. After brainstorming awhile, I suggested “Pip” because we had great expectations for him. I hoped.
He’s cute in his own funny, dingo way. But, as we drove home, I kept wondering if he was going to be able to fill Puck’s and Pogo’s shoes. I might have wished that we could just ask for Pogo back, never mind that my brother loved him to death already. But we couldn’t do that so I was trying to make the best of it.
I’ll admit, the first week or two were hard. I didn’t have the instant bond with Pip that I’d had with Puck and Pogo, and it was pretty clear that our Puerto Rican street dog had never been in a house before. Ceiling fans, stairs, vacuums, tile floors and all sorts of things scared him. We fretted and fussed because he didn’t scarf bowls of food the second we set them down. He freaked out and squeezed his little body through the tiniest of holes when left in our outside kennel.
Slowly we worked through these things, got some training under our belt, and just when things started to get good, we threw our unsuspecting dog for a loop.Pip wasn’t quite sure what to think of Nora, though mostly he stayed out of her way. All of a sudden, we had lots of strange visitors to the house, I wasn’t taking him on nearly as many walks, and then there was that tiny creature he knew was very important to us but probably seemed useless otherwise.Once Nora was getting more regular floor time, Pip started to be more interested in what she was doing and keeping her company, and by six months, the interest was mutual. When Nora realized that she could through food to him from her high chair, he was completely sold on having a baby. Though he was great all along, I think that was what finally made Pip decide we could keep her. He really is a great family dog. He’s patient and gentle, and puts up with so much. He’s protective, too; since she moved to her own room he’s always slept right outside her door.
I wrote on Monday about how my ability to empathize quadrupled the moment she was born. Another big emotional change I experienced was in how I view pets. I like Pip; he’s fun to have around and I think it’s great for Nora to have a dog, especially one that she so clearly loves. I like him…but that’s about it. Before Nora, I might have said that my dogs were like my children. Now, he’s just my pet. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him, but I don’t think it would be traumatic if something did. The love for a pet cannot and will not match the love for a child. I know that now.
I also know now why we didn’t let people with children under five adopt from our shelter. Poor Pip is always the last thought. He gets short walks most days, but not nearly as much as he needs. Some days it just seems like too much to rally a toddler and dog and myself and head somewhere that he can run his energy out with other dogs.Pip would be happy if he could live at Tupency and run all day, every day with the dogs.But it’s a car ride away (on an island where I rarely get in my car) and so it never happens as often as it should.
He’s fed and bathed and let outside, but he’s not always the center of attention. He can sit and stay, mostly walks well on a leash (mostly…), and knows how to “go away,” but it’s unlikely he’ll get the training needed to become a “Canine Good Citizen”. Every now and then I remember what a good dog he is, but mostly I get annoyed by all the fur, his Houdini-like escape skills, and barking at the slightest noise during nap time. When he was regularly escaping our yard, Chris and I even said that it might not be so bad if her didn’t come back.
This is how I’ve changed since becoming a mother. Before, I was one of those rare dog owners who could qualify as excellent; now, I’m fairly average. In fact, I even leave parts of his care up to Chris that I never would have done before. I’ve wondered if it would be different if Puck were still around, and if part of it is that Pip and I didn’t start out with a great bond to begin with, but mostly I think it’s that I’ve discovered a greater, deeper well of love that comes with motherhood. A well that I didn’t know existed before, that can be all-consuming, and that doesn’t transfer to animals.