You can return a puppy, but you can’t return a baby

Why getting a puppy is the best and the worst thing you can do before having a baby

Golden Retriever Puppy

Photo by Terricks Noah

I wanted her dead. My new puppy, Bea, was going back and forth in search of the perfect spot to poop when I felt an imminent urge to push her. There was a precipice in front of us and before I could understand what I was doing, I watched her fly down the hill. She didn’t make a sound, not a single whine, and it was so unlike her that I thought that it was it, it was finally over. After two of the longest and hardest months of my life, I can finally breathe again. Then I felt something tugging at the leash I was still holding in my hand, and when I looked down I realized it was her. She wanted me to move, so she pulled me forward with the ferocity of a bull, and it was only then I realized I had just imagined the whole thing.

My husband and I wanted a puppy before trying to have a baby. We thought a little try-out was just what we needed to decide. We had moved into our very own home when we adopted the cutest Border Collie puppy we named Bea. She was softer than a cotton ball, and she came running into my arms at our first encounter. I cried when I picked her up and she licked the tear off my cheek. It was just like in a movie.

As the average age of first-time parents keeps on rising, a surprising new trend has emerged — couples raising a dog together before a baby. ‘Mutternity’ has even been embraced by royalty (Wills and Kate got cocker spaniel Lupo before Prince George came along) and celebrities (David Walliams and Lara Stone’s dog Bert was the center of their lives before their son Alfred).

— Laura Topham, (Source)

The first night with our new puppy was a dream. I couldn’t believe she had slept the entire night without a single bathroom break. I rushed out of bed as soon as I woke up and ran into the living room where we set up a playpen for her, but surprisingly, I didn’t find her there. I called out for her, then felt silly as she didn’t even know her name. I went looking for her from room to room, but she was nowhere to be seen. I woke my husband up in panic, when, out of the blue, the little black-and-white cotton ball appeared from behind me, with her tail happily wiggling.

I noticed she held something in her mouth, toilet paper, and more of it was on the floor. There was a trail guiding me toward the place where Bea must’ve slept during the night. I stepped into the bathroom and shrieked. I’ve never seen so much pee and poop in my life. In the middle of it, there were bottles of shampoo and body wash, soap bars, towels, clothes, and countless toilet paper rolls. All shredded.

Then the second day came, and the second night. It turned out that Bea’s first full night of sleep was just a coincidence because we didn’t get another one for months. My husband kept saying it was just a stage, just like with babies, and even though I couldn’t think straight from the lack of sleep, I believed him. Bea’s wake-up call consisted of her incessant barking and digging through her crate until everyone was up. In the same way, she demanded the longest walks, and hours-long play sessions, or else she would angrily chew her way through anything she came across. To be able to follow her around all day, I started eating when she ate and had to take a nap when she napped. I didn’t have the energy, or time, to do anything else.

Soon enough, I started dreading getting out of bed, because that meant starting a never-ending errand — a nippy, needy, never-tired errand that ultimately didn’t give a shit about anything but herself. I was miserable and weirdly exhausted, but what surprised me most about all of it, was how distressed I was. Out of nowhere, my legs started trembling, and my heart raced.

Why are my legs shaking if I’m standing still?

Tears would pour out of me, regardless of where I was, or who I was with, and I could do absolutely nothing to stop them.

I had no idea what was happening to me, and neither did my husband.
“Isn’t it what you always wanted?” he asked.
“I didn’t know it would be this hard!”
“You think it’ll be easier with kids? It’s supposed to be even harder!”
I shrugged and looked down, noticing the new wood floors we had installed were already full of Bea’s dents and nail lines, and it made me feel even worse. I couldn’t imagine adding a baby on top of it all. At that moment I would honestly rather disappear.
“What if we give her back?” I asked.
My husband gave me a long stare, probably trying to figure out if I was serious.
“It was you who insisted we should get her!” I felt my chin twitch.
“I know! But I thought it would be different!”
“We can’t take her back, I’m sorry.”
“Because we can’t!”
“But why?” I increased the volume of my voice. I was desperate.
“Because I like her!”
His words came as a complete shock. I didn’t understand what exactly it was to like in Bea. And the fact that my husband did, made me want to hate her even more.

I couldn’t imagine adding a baby on top of it all. At that moment I would honestly rather disappear.

Things spiraled even more. I wanted Bea gone, forever. My intrusive thoughts wanted me to push her off a precipice, under a bus, a car, or even a bike. I wanted her to get bitten by a snake, a lizard, or even a bee, it didn’t matter as long as she was gone. I even thought of feeding her dark chocolate, knowing how poisonous they are to dogs. I had a piece in my hand and I remember wondering how much it would need. As if aware of what I was thinking, Bea jumped on me to sniff it, which startled me so much I dropped the piece of chocolate on the floor. I jumped at the dark chocolate before Bea could eat it and tossed it in the bin, only then realizing how hard my hands were shaking. I couldn’t believe how close I was to poisoning her.

What kind of a monster would poison their dog?

What Bea loved more than chewing things, was to pee on things. She especially liked peeing on my husband’s sneakers, and knowing that, I took one of his newest pair out of the box and placed them in Bea’s plain sight. It took her less than a minute to get the clue. I watched her pee all over them and did absolutely nothing about it.
“Isn’t this the third pair she ruined?” I asked my husband in an angry voice.
“The fourth!” he yelled.
“I’m so done with her!”
His silence offered me no clue. I watched him scrub pee off his new sneakers and wondered what else to say.
“I told you to keep them in the box!”
“I did! She must’ve dug them out!” I lied.
My husband stopped scrubbing. He just realized the stain will never come off. He then looked up at me, let out a breath, and after a short pause asked,
“Were you serious about returning her?” I opened my mouth to shout a resounding “Yes!” But I couldn’t utter a single syllable. My throat felt blocked, my chest ached, and more tears were on the verge of spilling. This was anything but what I was expecting. Instead of relief, I felt completely overwhelmed with guilt. Because I was living a nightmare, and Bea couldn’t be further from that family dog I always dreamed of having, but I still loved her.

Bea is now 3 years old. She is still unrelenting and unapologetically needy, and there are still days when I wish I could stay in bed all day and not deal with her. It would be a lie to say otherwise. Just as it would be a lie for a parent to say he’s excited to deal with his kid every single day. As I imagine it is with children, I sometimes enjoy spending time with Bea, just as I sometimes don’t.

I now know that what I had after Bea’s arrival is called puppy blues.

The term ‘puppy blues’ refers to a range of emotions including feeling overwhelmed, sad, helpless, guilty, trapped, anxious and sometimes regretful after bringing a new puppy home.

— Caroline Bologna, (Source)

The term “puppy blues” sounded like a joke at the time. For the longest two months of my life, I couldn’t eat or sleep, my legs and hands were constantly shaking, and my intrusive thoughts almost convinced me to end it all. If not Bea’s life, then mine.

Nobody understood how I was feeling, because how hard can raising a puppy be?

What was supposed to be a funny baby-trial adventure took a completely unexpected turn. If before all this I knew I wanted to have a baby, now I have my doubts. Because if that was my reaction to a new puppy, then I can’t imagine what it would be like with a new baby.

I only know that I don’t want to go through anything like that ever again. While you can always return a puppy, you can’t possibly return a baby.

This article was originally published in Human Parts.