Saturday, March 20, 2010

Being Part of a Pack

I love my dogs. They are my children, and siblings to my human baby. One of my dogs loves my human baby, the other does not- or so I thought. My younger dog, Clover, has been stuck to the baby like glue since she was born. In fact, while I was giving birth at home in a rented birthing tub, the dog was leaning over the edge just waiting for her new pack-member to arrive. For every picture of my daughter in her first month of life the dog was in the frame. She wouldn't leave the baby's side for more than a quick trip to the food bowl or outside to relieve herself.

I remember the shaming looks Clover would give me as Violet would cry and my husband and I would flounder in those early days trying to figure out what to do. Clover's eyes seemed to say, "What did you do to my baby!" or "Why aren't you helping her?"

As Violet has grown, Clover has allowed herself some distance, but still shows love and affection for the baby on a regular basis. The best example of Clover's devotion was a few weeks ago when Violet was petting Clover and pinched her. Clover got mad, growled, and jumped up onto the couch to get away from Violet. Of course the baby did not realize she was being snubbed, but the dog came into Violet's room and found us a few minutes later as we were sitting on the floor reading a book. I wondered what would happen as I had seen how upset Clover was. She walking in holding one of her favorite toys (the rope ear of a stuffed bear dog toy she received as a puppy) in her mouth. I leaned back and watched for signs of aggression as the dog dropped the toy in front of the baby and then nosed it forward. That's right. She was giving up her most prized possession as a peace offering. Clover doesn't treat the rest of us like a member of a dog pack, but like a very loving person.

Ein, our older dog, is much more of a dog and a pack member. While I was giving birth he sat across the room acting disinterested but keeping an eye on me. When the baby came, he was often in the room, but again kept his distance. He does not lick the baby or play with her, and will move away from her if she tries to play with him (of course since he's not interested in playing, he is her greatest love and most sought after companion). There are subtle ways, though, that Ein shows that he recognizes Violet as a member of his pack. When we have been gone for an hour or so and come home, Ein always sniffs Violet to make sure she's the same baby (or to say hello, or for whatever reason he does this). He does not steal her food or toys unless they are abandoned, and would never take anything from her hands.

But today I saw him really acknowledge his baby sister. I got Violet one of those sleds that you pull behind you, and at the dog park she got to ride in it. There were dogs all around, and I kept looking back to make sure she wasn't getting trampled. What I saw each time I turned around was Ein. He stayed either directly behind her or next to her- never close enough for her to touch him- for the whole walk. He is usually the adventurous one up ahead playing with the other dogs, but this time his baby was on the ground and subject to other dogs, and just as he protects Clover when other dogs scare her, he protected Violet.

We are a pack, and just like any family that means we might not always like each other and we will surely get on each other's nerves, but we look out for each other.


  1. I love how some animals take in baby like the child is their own pup. Our dachshund treats LO like he is her puppy, and NOT our baby. When we go out and get back, she jumps up to look in his carrier to make sure we brought him back home to her. If he cries, she's right there making sure we're not hurting HER baby.


  2. Oh this is too sweet! I love my "pack" and hope the dogs are as attached to kids when we have them!