Is there room in your heart for a new baby and an old dog? Hayley DeRoche was doubtful.
Photo by: evocateur
1 Month into Parenting
My rage is furry and warm. It is a mess of tangled fur, sharp teeth, cold thoughts. Inside me there’s a mantra beating against my ribcage. I have a baby and now I hate my dog. I hate my dog. I hate my dog.
The worst part is, I have two dogs. I don’t hate them both. Just the one.
Like it’s a small thing, to hate this creature I chose to have in my life. It is so small and simple, yet so complicated.
There are days I want to scream and scream and scream at this dog. I want to tell him to SHUT THE FUCK UP OH MY GOD. I do not actually scream and scream and scream at my dog. I just think about it idly in my head. “I really want to scream and scream and scream at my dog,” I think to myself. I think it would feel really good, in the moment, but then it would feel really awful, and it would also be mean. This is not a pleasant thought process to have. It makes me feel bad–bad about what I want to do, bad about the human being I am, bad about my soul. This kind of thinking is a soul python–it squeezes the heart out of you.
But my heart is so squeezed already. I have a baby, and I am so full of love–how can I be both full of love and full of loathing at the same time? My heart is squeezed and mashed and torn asunder between these two warring factions. We may war for years. We may never see peace. This idea haunts me. I walk the streets of my heart cowering, afraid of the ugly truth raining down like bombs. I hate my dog, I hate my dog. I love my daughter, I love my daughter, but I hate my dog, but I love my daughter, how can I hate my dog so much?
Who hates their dog this way? Am I a crazy person?
I took to Googling, as one does. Maybe this was some strange subset of postpartum depression, something very niche and specific. Results were inconclusive. Comments were cold and made me feel worse about myself. I am a garbage person to feel this way, the Internet told me. So much for comfort, but who turns to the comments for comfort anyway? Only idiots. So, I am a cold garbage person idiot. Great.
3 Months into Parenting
“He barks and I daydream about him just running away sometimes,” I confide in my husband. He is comforting, but does not feel the same way about this dog. He is not postpartum. He and his body and mind simply are. He is on Team Dog. I am a jerk.
“You have a Corgi!” people say. I smile, nod enthusiastically. You would never know my hatred, the way it’s kindled in my heart like a fire, stoked daily with his neediness, his barking when the baby has just gone to sleep, his fat butt that he can’t seem to clean himself because he is lazy and needs to get a job or something. I tell him to go get a job, and he does not. He is a drain on my personal society, this dog. He barks, and the sound ignites my furry fury. He barks and it’s hard to tell if he’s wagging his nubby tail, or if he’s just barking to be a jerk, or maybe he’s doing both because he thinks being a jerk is fun. It’s hard to tell with him.
I know he wants my attention and love. Craves it. He’s had it all these years. I gave it freely, and he took it freely. We worked well together that way. I know intellectually that his needs didn’t disappear with the birth of my daughter, but my needs and her needs skyrocketed, and suddenly, his needs are met, but not coddled. Think of the tales of prep school kids, spoiled and prissy, suddenly getting dropped into public school in the movies–they are needy and bratty because before, everything went their way, and now they have to live with the regular old attention everyone else gets. Silver platters and hors d’oeuvres are suddenly paper plates with hot dogs. That’s the situation here. It’s my own fault for loving him and attending to his needs and taking him to the dog park all the time when there wasn’t a baby carseat taking up the back of my car, the back seat of my heart.
I have to be patient. This will pass. It has to…right?
6 Months into Parenting
The dog I don’t hate is getting better by the day! Mostly because this dog does not stress-vomit all over my house at 2:00 AM when we have houseguests. Or maybe it’s because this dog is happy to just be petted. I like that. A dog who just wants a pat on the head and some nice words is the dog for tired, tired me. This wonderful beautiful good dog can curl right into my mean cold heart and stay. But the needy barky vomming dog–my rage still burns hot when he barks and barks as soon as my daughter falls asleep. I see his barks register on the baby monitor, red stripes of rising light.
He is fed and watered, and he gets walks when I can. He gets doggie treats with the other dog, side-by-side. It’s not like I’m banishing him to the basement here. At least not physically. Maybe he’s living in the basement of my cold cold heart. Is that worse?
Of course not. Of course disliking a creature and being cognizant of that and caring for them anyway is not the same as mistreating them.
We are in a long relationship, me and this dog. Right now, we are in a fake-it phase. I must fake my love for him, because I signed up to take care of him. If I act out love long enough, perhaps it will become real again. I cry sometimes because I hate this dog, but I will keep on pretending to love him when I need to, which is pretty much all the time except when I am somewhere away from him. I will walk him around the neighborhood and feed him treats. I feel this overwhelming rage not at the dog, but at myself for feeling anything other than man’s best friend love. How could you tense up like that when he barks? I scold myself. He’s a dog. He’s going to bark.
Sometimes when I get home and he wags his nubby tail, I feel ashamed. I know I should. This little guy is happy to see me, the most horrible person alive who sometimes wishes she’d never gotten him ever. He wags his tail for me. He forgives me every time he sees me, even though I am terrible. I reach down to scratch him between the ears, and for a minute, we are both happy. The bombs stop falling for a moment. Maybe the heater turns on in the basement of my heart.
There will be a time tomorrow when I hate him again, for sure. But these moments of peace I will try to accept with grace. If they come with shame, so be it. The war rages on, but someday, perhaps the time of peace will grow longer and longer, until the war is behind us, and we two are older and greyer in the faces. I have to hold onto hope that this war will pass and that peace is just around the bend, if only I can hold on. He’s a good dog. He is just a very doggy-dog. I need to be good, too. I need to be the better animal. I need to move him up from the basement of my heart to the couch near my ribcage where he used to sleep. It used to be soft and squishy. I think it could be once more, with time.
I hope the couch in my heart is covered in dog hair again soon. I just have to hang on and hope things change, that this is the phase my husband insists it is.
1 Year into Parenting
I hate to say my husband was right but here we go. He was right. It was a phase. A long, hard phase. I do not hate my Corgi. I get home now, and his fat butt waddles with the rest of him to greet me at the door, the same way he did every day when I got home an exhausted, drained new parent. I do not tense up when he barks. I might roll my eyes, but I’m not instantly on edge, instantly tired, instantly despairing.
And as you’ve probably already surmised–guess what my daughter loves most in this world? Doggies. She reaches out to them giggling, wanting to pet their ears, and they are patient–patient with her, and ever so patient sitting beneath her high chair for the treats she drops down to them, one by one, then fistful by fistful.
If her first word were “doggie,” that would probably be the neatest, nicest way to wrap up this saga. But, no first words yet. And while I’m glad that this has a happy ending, I’m still going to be drilling “mama, mama, MAMA” with her and not “doggie, doggie, doggie.” Throw me a bone here, kid.