I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while but something’s stopped me. Honestly, I am worried I might get a bit of backlash. We are a nation of dog lovers and well, I am about to admit that I might, just might have pushed mine out a little bit… it’s Sprogs Before dogs…
We got Vinnie, our little Shitzu, as a puppy. He was my birthday present. And we adored him. We still do. He was our life. We revolved things around him. Found new places to go so we could include him. Dog friendly pubs made it’s way into my google search. Evenings we spent walking him along the river, then curling up on the sofa with him. Bliss. He is soppy beyond measure. He gave us so much fun and laughs. At my baby shower he wore a tshirt which said “Edens big brother”. I filmed him, photographed and framed his every move for three years. During labour of my head on gas and air I was actually convinced he was in the room. Whispering to my husband that he needed to go!
I did worry how his little life would change when the baby came. He didn’t ask for this. I worried he might feel neglected, pushed out, jealous even, but I needn’t have. Vinnie laid his head on the Moses basket when I bought Eden home and was as gentle and soppy as I knew he would be. But I had changed. Suddenly everything needed to be clean and sterile with a new born. Vinnie does not do keeping clean. Two words- fox poo. He’d always slept on our bed and still does to this day but suddenly I wasn’t as happy about it as I used to be. It was not as cute as it used to be- literally sharing a pillow with me. And I was tired, of course I was, when that baby was asleep after being stuck to me all day the last thing I then wanted was a dog stuck to me too. But he took it. He took it all in his little four-legged stride. I just felt that bloody guilt all the time. When Eden was unsettled and Vinnie hadn’t had a walk in between the nappy changes and feeds, I resented that extra thing on my ‘to do’ list.
Some days, Vinnie was a help. He got us out and about. When it all went to plan and we walked round our local park it was great. A dog does give you an excuse to get up and get out the door. Blow the cobwebs away. He also had a way of curling up with Eden just when I get ready to give up and make my heart swell. I snapped away at the two of them like that. They still do it now. And dogs don’t judge. Vinnie didn’t judge my mum skills or my ability to breast feed, he just watched and put his little head on my leg every now and again.
Vinnie has taken the growth of my two boys completely in his stride. Despite being launched on, ears pulled, food given and taken away, he has never snapped at them once. Seriously, what did we do to deserve dogs? But, for all his loving, sweet ways, I am honest enough to admit, Vinnie is a right pain in the arse since having kids too. Vinnie, through no fault of his own is not allowed in kids public parks. They are all around my local park and Eden inevitably wants to go in. We’ve solved this now- Vinnie hides in the basket of the pram and I take him in anyway. But sometimes he has escaped and all hell has broken loose. I can’t tie him up outside because I’m worried he will get stolen and I can’t keep eyes on two kids and a shitzu.
Vinnie likes to bark at the TV. He barks at animals on the TV. Fine, we know about this so avoid most programmes that might contain creatures. Even though I love a good documentary. But when he barks at Usain Bolt getting in the starting blocks for his 100m sprint (because he is on all fours) and the babies are asleep- I could quite happily put him up for adoption. When he hovers round the weaning baby and gives them the puppy eyes until they give in and feed him- again I could call the RSPCA. I really want my child to eat these nutritious vegetables and not my dog. When he’s following me around, under my feet, while I’m trying to shush a little one and I nearly trip over him and drop the baby and break my neck. When he goes in the swampy bit of the park for a wallow and I’ve got the double buggy and a dog covered in tar. When he jumps up my bare legs when I have a dress on and scratches them. When you attempt to transfer a sleeping toddler from the car but the dog is so bloody excited to see him he jumps all over him. When the baby has tipped the doggy water bowl over again. When the dog is chewing something and you realise it’s a crayon. When the baby is chewing something and you realise it’s a dog biscuit. When it’s raining outside and his muddy footprints trample all over the floor. Sometimes the little dog is more stress to an already hectic day. Weekends are now full of family days out and Vinnie can’t always come so we have to start begging for doggy day care. Not only do you have to get childcare but dog care too. It’s just another stress. Another mouth to feed. Another little one to keep alive.
Quite frankly, Vinnie has become the family pet. Where he once was our baby, we now have real babies. Real demanding ones. That take up all our time. That have activities and events scheduled. Vinnie still has a pretty good life. Not as good as it once was I have to admit. His twice daily walks are now once and sometimes (terribly, rarely) none. But he still sleeps on our bed. He still has the full run of a massive garden and the whole house. At the end of each day I look at him and sometimes realise that it’s the first time I’ve looked at him properly all day. It breaks my heart.
But we do love this little mutt. He’s seen it all. Been there through first steps, first words, he’s played with them. Taught them how to be soft and caring and gentle. Taught us how to look after something other than ourselves- prepared us for children. Made them chuckle. Barked at other dogs if they’ve come too close to the pram. Protecting us. He’s eaten all the crap off the floor that the babies have thrown. He’s my pal for life for that.
And little Vincent (Vinnie) Hartridge- we forgive you for costing us £500 because we thought you were in agony and possibly dying – but it turned out to be trapped wind. Sorry for pushing you out little fluff head and thanks for being there no matter what, no matter how, despite the chaos and the kerfuffles. You are part of our family and we wouldn’t be the same without you. But you are now our dog- a role you have taken on and continued to idolise us no matter what. All of us.