Editorial: Puppies and children: Some similarities

March 1, 2008

A personal essay about the similarities of raising puppies and children.

Many of the principles that are important in caring for a toddler also apply to puppy-raising. You have to watch them every minute to make sure they don't run into the road. You have to keep anything that is dangerous or precious out of their reach-and sometimes you underestimate their reach. (Otis has already eaten an entire year's supply of heartworm medication that he managed to pull off the kitchen table when we were at work.)

I haven't yet mentioned the challenges of "sibling" rivalry. We also have a 12-year old male standard poodle. We wanted the puppy in hopes that the older dog, Zeke, would be rejuvenated by having the younger energy in the house (and because we wanted to have a replacement dog when Zeke, inevitably, dies). Well, I'm not sure you would call what's happened to Zeke so far "rejuvenation." Otis really likes having Zeke around, but the way he demonstrates affection is to bite Zeke's tail and hindquarters, and bark at him when Zeke doesn't want to play. We're hoping, of course, that when Otis gets a little older they'll be great pals. But right now, like any younger brother, Otis is pretty much a pest.

Otis is the sixth puppy we've "raised," but I don't remember noticing the similarities between puppies and children when the previous dogs were young. It is said that no child is born into the same family, because the make-up and dynamics of the family is inevitably altered by the new member. I guess the same must be true of puppies. Without children at home to care for and discuss and guide, those energies are sucked up by a 29-pound (and still growing) puppy, who wakes us in the middle of the night and demands attention. Fortunately, those children who distracted us from concentrating our attention on previous puppies are as enchanted with Otis as we are. He's another reason why they are happy to come to visit.