Before I had Emmalee, I had dogs. Lanie, a daschund, was my first. She was a gift I bought myself on my 20th birthday. In many ways, she was my first baby. I loved her so much more than I ever thought I would. When she was a puppy I used to wake up in the night and check to make sure she was still breathing. I threw her birthday parties with presents and expensive treats from a doggie bakery. I pampered her with regular baths and grooming, new collars and matching leashes every couple of months. She slept in my bed, curled against my side every night. I doted and coddled in ways that had to be unhealthy. Eventually, I decided Lanie was in need of a companion and I got Bi Jou, a male Pekingese. That was a decision that I still question to this day. Either way, I ended up with two dogs. Which was fine. And then I got pregnant.
Well, getting pregnant wasn’t really when everything changed. It was when I had the baby. What I had to learn the hard way was that dogs and babies are not a fun mix. A baby is so tiny, and fragile, and clean. Dogs, by their very nature, are so smelly, and germy, and hairy. I found that taking proper care of the dogs and the baby was too difficult. What resulted was a strict separation. The dogs were banned from all parts of the house where the baby might be.
That only lasted for so long though, because while the dogs are still contained to a certain portion of the house, the baby is everywhere. Luckily, now she’s not so much of a baby and I am less concerned about her being contaminated by yucky dog germs. Even if I were concerned, short of getting rid of the dogs, there wouldn’t be much I could do. Because Emma is pretty much infatuated with them.
It started out as a relationship of curiosity. The dogs were interested in Emma, and Emma was intrigued by them, but the interactions were standoffish at best. Things progressed though as Emma started eating table food and the dogs realized that she provided a source of nourishment for them. And not just the boring, crunchy dog kibble that I could provide, but the good stuff. Goldfish. Teddy Grahams. Peas and peanut butter and cheese. Lanie and Bij were instantly in love.
Emma still needed some time, but as she has gotten increasingly mobile and involved with the world, she has gotten increasingly attached to the dogs as well. Lanie, in particular, as Bij has antisocial growly moments that make Emma wail in despair. When we enter the kitchen each morning, Emma’s first priority is to greet Lanie by yelling her name, “Yane-EEEE!” and giving her a big smile. Throughout the day she is constantly monitoring Lanie’s whereabouts. And, a trend that I am finding to be a bit disturbing, she now wants to mimic much of Lanie’s behavior. If Lanie sits under the barstool by the wall, Emma wants to sit there too. If Lanie wants to go outside, so does Emma. If Lanie licks her paws, Emma licks her hands. If Lanie eats food off the floor, Emma would also like to give it a try. Emma is endlessly interested in the dog’s food and water bowls, but unfortunately I’ve got to draw a line somewhere. She will crawl around on her hands and knees, and if I ask her if she’s being a doggy I get a delighted laugh in appreciation of my recognition of her efforts. She enjoys chasing Lanie around with push toys that Lanie finds intimidating, laughing hysterically when Lanie runs from her. She likes to set things, such as crayons and small toys and napkins, on Lanie’s back. She pets her and pats her and lays her head on her with exclamations of, “Oh, Yanie!” In many ways it’s pretty adorable. Lanie is Emma’s BFF.
In other ways, it’s a disturbing reminder that Emma is quite alone in the world. She does not have much interaction with other children, since she does not go to daycare and is not involved in any play groups or anything like that. Other than her parents and Grammy and Poppa, her only constant companions are the dogs. It is clear that Emma is in desperate need of a playmate. Perhaps in the form of a sibling? Mommy is working on it, Emma.