Yesterday I started deconstructing the all-too-common “reassurance” that caring for a puppy is just like taking care of a baby!
In case it wasn’t obvious, my goal was to prove this assertion largely FALSE. Those first two months of taking care of my first daughter were some of the most challenging of my life, made worse by the fact that she was born in Arizona in the mid-summer, rendering us essentially housebound. That and the added bonus of postpartum depression kind of spoiled whatever magical experience I was supposed to have. If this new puppy’s early days are going to mimic baby’s early days, I really need to restock the wine rack ASAP.
Please note that my baby observations are based on my experience with two relatively easy infants that are now almost 11 and 7 respectively. The fogs of time may have dulled some of the more painful edges a bit. The puppy observations are based on my now four-day stint as a puppy owner.
Sleep Quality: Now sleeplessness is a topic on which I could expound for hours. I was fortunate enough to complete my intern year as a pediatric resident in the “pre-80 hour workweek era.” Like an old-timer waxing sentimental on hikes to school uphill both ways, my classmates and I can go on at length about how it used to be. There were “days” that started at 5:00 a.m. and ended at 7:00 p.m.–the next day. This could potentially happen every 4th day. And WE LIKED IT, you young whippersnapper. Post call days were an exercise in thwarting nature. Every cell in your body screamed out for a nap. I was generally freezing regardless of the temperature, because at about 24 hours no-sleep, I seemed to stop regulating my temperature. I was generally mildly nauseated at all times, a condition made worse by the need for a steady drip of coffee. I don’t remember hardly anything about the house we were living in during that intern year, I was generally only there to sleep. I recall that it had excellent blackout shades in the bedroom. All this is to say: I know a thing or two about exhaustion.
BABY: It’s the same, but you’re post-call every day. I really don’t want to say anything more. I don’t want to scare anyone too much.
Baby Sleep Quality Score: 0
PUPPY: The first night that puppy was home, I slept poorly. The breeder had reassured me that he and his littermates were only getting up once per night to “go potty,” and he’d let me know. (Aside–having never used the phrase “go potty” with either of my children, I now find myself saying it repeatedly in the backyard to the puppy).
I didn’t believe this, and therefore slept very lightly, if at all, and set an alarm for 1:00 to take him out in case he didn’t wake up himself. That next day I was feeling pretty post-call. True, I’d gotten some sleep, but I’m no spring chicken any more. Could everyone have been right? Would I go through the next 2-3 months in a stupor? The next few nights have proven very different. I’ve allowed myself to sleep more soundly. A puppy’s cry is just as effective as dragging me out of REM sleep as a human infant’s. No need for hypervigilance and alarms. For any concerned/hopeful readers, Jimmy does not awaken for a puppy’s cry either. So, I’ve been getting up once a night to take the puppy out, and allowing a little bit of crate-crying as he goes back to sleep. Not once have I needed to spend hours rhythmically bouncing the puppy on one of those giant exercise balls, while QVC drones on about collectible presidential coins in the background for him to fall asleep. So, is my sleep fabulous? No, but I’m pretty sure that it never will be again regardless.
Puppy Sleep Quality Score: 7
Feelings of Accomplishment: To me so far, it’s pretty obvious that caring for a puppy, while comparable in many ways to infant care, pales in comparison. The monopoly on my actual time, my sleep time, and my mental time just isn’t there like it was with my girls. Maybe the balance is different for other people. Maybe some new mothers aren’t as high stress as I was. Maybe some puppies are a lot more difficult that this one has proven to be. But some facts are immutable:
- Babies are well and truly helpless for a long time
- There’s so much societal pressure on how one “should” be doing motherhood
- Babies don’t even so much as give you a smile until two months of age
All of this being said, I can’t imagine that I’ll ever feel the sense of pride and accomplishment around raising this puppy as I did around raising my girls. I’m glad I had the babies, I’m glad I’m done with infancy, and I’m glad that puppy-rearing isn’t REALLY just like raising an infant at all.
And Jimmy’s pretty glad too.