When we started trying for a baby, one of thousands of things that weighed on my mind was our french bulldog, Marble. In the two years she’d been with us she’d chewed up countless pens and lighters, locked onto our other dog’s neck, been kicked out of doggy daycare, and grew a mysterious mass (it was benign) on her throat that made me question if she was part mutant. Walking her was like wrestling a bear, and she had many triggers, including other dogs, garbage trucks, vacuum cleaners, and of course, babies.
The thought of rehoming her filled me with anxiety. While someone would easily adopt this purebred french bulldog with a beautiful brindle coat (like we did), they’d might just as easily give up on her. So we enrolled her in a six-week obedience course and a one-on-one session with a trainer. She improved slowly, but still screamed bloody murder at any infant in a Baby Björn, including our own nephew.
I got pregnant, then miscarried shortly after. As I lay on the floor that day in unimaginable pain, she curled into a tight ball against my abdomen, like a hot water bottle with a heartbeat.
Three months later I got pregnant again. My belly grew bigger and rounder, and every day I hoped to live happily ever after with my husband, our baby, and our bat-eared monster.
For months, we went back and forth planning and bracing ourselves for Marble and Baby’s first meeting.
“Okay, I’ll walk in with the baby, then you’ll come in after me.”
“No, wait, I’ll take the baby to the back deck, then you’ll bring Marble out there.”
“Sure, but first someone needs to bring his blanket over from the hospital so she can get his scent.”
“Great. Should we practice with a baby doll?”
But the day I finally crossed the threshold with our newborn son, looking like I’d been hit by a train (laboring for three days and pushing for five hours will do that to a person), we were stunned when our wild hurricane of a dog greeted us calmly and curiously, then posted up on the couch like a well-trained collie.
When I broke down sobbing in the throes of postpartum, she glued herself to my knee nook.
When I nursed my son, she cozied up next to us, sighing as he pushed his tiny potato feet into her scruff.
My son recently burst out laughing for the first time while watching her rip the stuffing out of a toy.
There’s something incredible about growing up with dogs. They’re like furry siblings who live alongside you, full of love and free of judgment.
They awaken your imagination by taking on different forms — like loaves of bread, donuts or in Marble’s case, a Demogorgon from Stranger Things. They shadow you from toddlerhood to your teen years, even when they’ve taken a back seat to video games, sports or dating. They teach you kindness, patience and responsibility, and eventually, about the cycle of life.
A handful of new moms told me that having a baby changes your love for your dogs. In my case, it deepened it. Marble is still a work in progress, and while I’ll never leave her unsupervised around my child, I’m forever moved by the way she’s welcomed him to the pack.
To the dog siblings like Marble who stepped up to the plate, and the ones who are still adjusting. To the ones who are naturals, like Nana from Peter Pan (shout out to our pug, Junebug), and to the service dogs who help differently abled kids grow up confident and safe. To the dogs who tried, but just can’t coexist with children — thank you.
Thank you for making life brighter and funnier, a little hairier and a lot stinkier. Thank you for protecting us from danger and comforting us in sadness. Thank you for your corn chip-scented paws and velvet-soft ears. And most of all, thank you for spending your short and precious lives with us humans, both big and small.