Pets with a baby

Bella was 8 years old when I found out I was pregnant. She was my only baby. She’d been with us for her whole life (besides her first 3 months).

In my first trimester she wanted to be by me all the time. We had an incident with another dog being aggressive towards and me & my not protective Bella got between us and stood her ground. I was so shocked! She is not protective EVER. I’ve always joked that she’d let the burglars come right in & take our stuff. It was really sweet to see how close she wanted to be with me.

Mike & I have wanted to get a German Shepherd for a very long time, but it was never the right time. One of Mike’s friends had a chocolate lab & German Shepherd mate (by complete accident – they didn’t realize the Shepherd was old enough to make babies & left him with their lab!). This momma lab had a full litter (I think 12 puppies!) & needed to find them all homes. That’s how we got our sweet giant, Echo.

I was 24 weeks pregnant when Echo came home. Everyone told us we were so dumb for getting a dog 3 months before having a baby. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I couldn’t bend down to clean up his accidents very easily. I got so winded just walking up the stairs. He was 12 pounds when we got him. Fast forward 3 months later (when baby girl was born) & he weighed 75 pounds. I knew he’d be big, I just didn’t realize he’d get so big so quickly.

While I was in the hospital having Avery, Mike’s friend stayed at our house with the dogs. We had a family friend check on them during the day & Mike ran home a couple of times too (the hospital was only 10 minutes from our house). We didn’t bring hospital blankets that smelled like Avery to the dogs before coming home. I didn’t think it would matter.

For the months leading up to Avery’s arrival, I would talk to the dogs and say things like “let’s go to the baby’s room” & then we’d sit in her nursery together. We set up the pack n plays and swings early. We’d play YouTube videos of babies crying (only a couple times – we didn’t go crazy here!) I wanted them to get used to her stuff, even if she wasn’t with it yet.

When we came home from the hospital with Avery, Mike went in the house alone & put the dogs outside. Then he came back to the truck to help Avery & me inside. We kept Avery in her car seat in a separate room (with the doors closed) and I got to sit down. Mike let the dogs inside and they got to sniff me and love on me for a few minutes. Then, he brought the car seat out and let them sniff her and love on her.

In nearly 4 months, we’ve really figured out how the dogs feel about Avery. Bella really couldn’t care less about her. Every once in a blue moon, she’ll sniff her. Bella is not a kisser. She’s always wanting scratched and rubbed down. I’m predicting that once Avery can do more, she’ll like Avery more because she can get scratched and rubbed by someone else.

Echo, on the other hand, can’t get enough of Avery. This 100 pound giant thinks she needs all the kisses in the world. If I say “let’s go wake your baby up”, he’ll go into her nursery with me. Her head is almost always pushed towards the crib rails (because we don’t have a bumper up currently – I got too nervous!) & start kissing her head and hands. She just smiles! If Avery starts crying, he walks up, pushes her legs around with his snout, and starts licking her. He’ll also come get me and get my attention. “Hey mom, sister is sad!” This weekend I was vacuuming (Bella hates it & Echo isn’t a huge fan but tolerates it). Avery was outside of the doorway in her play seat. When I turned the vacuum on, Echo immediately did a double take between the vacuum & Avery. Then he walked over in front of her & kept backing up closer to her, as if protecting her from the vacuum.

Anyone who comes to our house gets nervous about giant Echo & doesn’t worry at all about lazy Bella. Here’s how we look at it:

We get it. He’s HUGE! We wanted a big dog for a few reasons – because he’s awesome, for protection, and to teach Avery to not be afraid of animals. Think about it, if she starts life with a 100 pound dog, she’ll never be afraid of them.

Has he gotten too close to her for our comfort a time or two? Yes. Has he been punished for it & not done that exact thing again? Yes. Is he careful around her? Yes. Is he a huge dog that doesn’t realize how big he is because he’s still a baby himself? YES. Do I know in my heart that he would never purposefully hurt my baby? YES.

Babies & toddlers will eventually have an incident with any pet. The only reason we know it won’t happen with Bella is that she would actually have to get off the couch for that to occur (she’s old, fat, & lazy). We know there’s going to be a time when Echo knocks her over or scratches her arm. Not that we want that to happen at all, but we’re being realistic. If & when anything happens, we’ll handle it!

I think it’s important for kids to have pets. It teaches them compassion & responsibility in a way that nothing else can quite accomplish. It also gives them a natural best friend.

Dogs are great. Babies are great. I can’t wait to watch both of my newest babies grow up together while my first baby hangs out on the couch.

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