• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Maternal instincts?

Adding a dog to the family.

October 8, 2013

Big brown eyes stared up at me, and then came the gentle kiss. I fell in love in an instant, against my better judgment, with a little dog. Maybe I was smitten so suddenly because of maternal yearnings. I’m not getting any younger and my kids become more independent by the day. Perhaps I have a strong need to look after a little life again. The houseplants aren’t interesting enough and suffer from my neglect. But the rescue dog brought to our home for a visit tugged at my heart. My husband and I looked at each other, and then told the dog’s foster caregiver that this was the dog we wanted. It was the first dog we’d met since deciding we were ready to bring a dog into our family.

For years my husband and kids have talked about getting a dog. I’m a confirmed cat person, but I consented to search for a dog that would meet a long list of criteria: independent, calm but playful at times, short hair, not “barky”, friendly with children, snuggly. Basically I’d described our last two cats. It would take a long time to find the ideal dog, I told my kids, but it was important to find the best match for our family. I was certain I was buying time before I’d have to give in. The kids were therefore very surprised to come home from school and find out that we were getting our dog in four days.

As I write this piece, our little Kit (she reminded us of a kit fox) is lying beside me, curled in a small ball, her pointy nose nestled in her front paws. The rescue agency told us that she was on death row at a shelter in California and brought to Canada where there are lots of suckers like me who will fall in love in an instant with the first adoption candidate they meet. Coming from the southern sunshine she’s not particularly fond of our cold, rainy Vancouver weather and has to wear a sweater, which my children had a wonderful time choosing. My daughter is now inspired to take on her first big knitting project to make the dog a new outfit.

Just as when our children were babies, our lives have been turned upside down. Our sweet little pup does not like to do her business in the cold outdoors — the warm house and soft carpet are much nicer, thank you — so we watch her constantly trying to catch those teaching moments when we can quickly get her outside. With treats in our pockets, we all take turns walking her around and around the neighborhood waiting to praise any sign of excretions. I’d never believe a dog could pass a fire hydrant without lifting a leg, but this one can. It’s been many years since I lived with a dog, and I forgot how much it takes to settle a dog into the family. Maternal instincts or not, our little dog may not be my baby; however in the short time she’s been with us she’s become a much-loved member of the family. And we’re all learning a lot together from looking after her.


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