Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Toddlers and Puppies

Alain and I are currently mama and papa to two energenic labrador retrievers, Kelly (black) and Penny (brown).
Kelly is 5 years old and incredibly mellow. She is self sufficient and only requires snuggles, pets and silliness occasionally. She is an ambassador for our younger pup, Penny, however and can be quite vocal when Penny requires attention.
Penny is a year and a half old and full of energy. She is always snuggling with us, full of silliness and a good mama to her sister Kelly (cleaning her, etc.). She requires a lot more attention, but is settling down more and more every day.

They are both a joy to be around, for very different reasons, and to us, they are our family. We rearrange schedules to make sure someone is home to feed them, let them out and give them a good play. We cover the couches because that is where they prefer to relax, we snuggle with them for many hours of any given day.

This weekend we had company come to visit, bringing their 2 1/2 year old daughter. Visits like this can go either way - One of our nephews is terrified of dogs, behaviour we feel is encouraged by his parents. Their last visit to our house brought on immediate screams of terror from the boy and we were told the dogs needed to be locked up. Penny was only 6 months old at the time, and both dogs were visibly upset to be sent upstairs to our bedroom when all the fun was happening downstairs. They love people and just wanted to be part of the action.

This year, when it came time for the annual birthday party at our house, we told the parents in no uncertain terms that we would be thrilled to have them visit and that we could spend time getting their sons acquainted with our dogs, but that our dogs would not be locked up for the duration of the visit. Penny has long since outgrown the crate she was locked in last year and although she is good, she will get into trouble if we lock her up since she is just not accustomed to that sort of treatment.

They declined to visit and we had the party somewhere else.

This weekends visitors were happy to have their daughter socialize with our dogs and cats. They encouraged supervised interaction between their daughter and both the dogs and cats. We feel that this is for everyones protection - of course, their daughter is more important than our pets, but, as parents to our pets it is our job to protect them too.

Evelyna got a little rough with one of our cats, pulling his tail a little too hard. The cat reacted, swatting at her, but the interaction was quickly neutralized by my husband and everyone left happy. Evelyna even learned to be a little more gentle with animals.

I was worried about how Penny would behave around such a young and active child, since she just doesn't get much practice with this sort of interaction. I shouldn't have been. She was curious and gave a lot of kisses, but rarely needed to be pulled back for being too pushy. She settled down on the floor a few times and was up again interested, when Evelyna made a silly noise or darted into another room.

I realised that by the time we have a toddler, we will need to stop playing a chase game we often play in the house. Both dogs tore off after Evelyna several times thinking she was playing the same game, and obviously, a toddler is not a quick on her feet as an adult. Overall though, I was happy with the visit and feel better bringing a baby into our house with the dogs.

I think the benefits of growing up with pets far outweighs the negative aspects and I know that both Kelly and Penny will be great fun for our baby to play with. By the time a baby comes around, both Kelly and Penny will be several years older and wiser too.

Silly Puppy Faces!

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