Pets: Our Babies Before Babies

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Fun fact: I have a fear of dogs. 

Unexpected twist: I also live with a dog. 

I don’t know how, when, or where my fear originated. I do know when I was somewhere around 5 years old there was a dog in the neighborhood named Zeke. Every day, Zeke would find me the second I got off the school bus and chase me home. My dad says he always knew I was coming when he could hear my screaming down the street. Zeke was a brown, feisty dog. He was also probably no more than 12 pounds. 

From then on, I avoided dogs. I had friends who had dogs, but I would stay as far away as possible. I actually grew up with a cat we rescued from the neighborhood we named Cinnamon. I still had my reservations about Cinnamon, but I appreciated his preference to be left alone and ability to take care of himself. He lived a good life and, even in his later years when he was diagnosed with feline diabetes, my mom dutifully gave Cinnamon his insulin twice a day. He was a trooper. A tough, independent, but sweet creature. 

Fast forward to today. I’m sitting on the couch with my husband, daughter in bed, and trusty canine keeping us company as we unwind from the day. Never in a million years would I have willingly chosen the life of dog parent. Before I met my husband, he had a puppy. That puppy has grown up and is now a 9-year-old white ball of fur. He’s been in my life for almost as long as he’s been with my husband. I think he brought Cotton home a month or two before he met me, so while I can’t say I’ve been there for it all, it’s pretty close. 

Cotton was our only baby for over 7 years. We celebrated his birthday every year, went on car rides regularly, and played in the backyard. He was our world. I hate to admit that Cotton has now fallen in the ranks, but once a tiny human joined the family, Cotton has taken a back seat. 

More often than not, I feel guilty that we’re not giving Cotton the attention he deserves. Cotton is very picky about the people and dogs he hangs around (I can relate), so we try to give him extra rubs when we can, but taking him to a dog park, or even a simple walk, can be challenging. I can tell he feels neglected, and it’s heartbreaking to see. Cotton was our world, and we were his for 7 years. 

Even a year and a half after our daughter was born, we’re still adjusting with Cotton and the little human. Cotton is extremely patient with her – he tolerates her pulling his fur, quick hits, and even her attempts to climb him. Cotton waits below her high chair during meals because he knows he’ll benefit from the food she rejects (which is more than I’d like to admit).

I can only hope we have several more years to see how Cotton and our daughter build their relationship. It’s definitely not the picture-perfect image we had in our minds where Cotton would immediately love a new family member (and, yes, we tried bringing home things from the hospital with her scent, among other things), but I guess we can’t blame him. Cotton’s world changed just as much as ours did with a baby, but we’ll always know we had the early years.  

Our human babies are amazing, but there’s something distinctively amazing about our fur babies – and our family wouldn’t be complete without either!

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A St. Louis area transplant of 12 years, Kelly now considers herself at home with her husband and daughter. Having spent time in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and even Orange County, California, throughout her childhood and adolescence, Kelly and her husband are committed to putting down roots in St. Charles, Missouri to raise their (hopefully growing) family. As a full-time working mom, Kelly is focused on navigating the twists and turns of motherhood while still building her career in corporate America. When Kelly finds a spare hour of time to herself, she’s likely doing something active – running, walking, or sweating through a class at Orangetheory Fitness. Or just enjoying a glass of wine!