We are dog people. We have always been this way, brought up in our separate childhood homes with family pet dogs, and then adopting a rescue dog of our own after we moved in together and got married. Our scruffy little beagle cross, Bella, is our best pal, and a part of our family. Unless you are a dog person, you don’t really understand this.
Introducing a new baby into our dog family was always going to be a little awkward. Having to move the dog out of her own room to decorate the nursery for the new arrival, for example, could have been a catalyst for jealousy, but the dog has adapted really well. I hear so many sad stories about dogs having to be rehomed after a new baby, that I was anxious to make the transition from childless to child as smooth as possible for the dog.
Bella has always been a gentle dog, and has shown a wonderful maternal and caring instinct over our newborn, coming to alert us in the middle of the night whenever Allegra stirs (I admit this CAN get a little annoying at times), and guarding the pushchair whenever Allegra sleeps in it.
Bringing up a baby with a dog in the house can divide opinion, particularly given recent events with dog attacks on small children, but handled correctly it can be a wonderful situation for a child to grow up in. Now Allegra is on the move, and delighted with Bella, I am teaching her respect for animals from a young age. Giving Bella space when she needs it, not invading her doggy spaces, being gentle with her. One of Allegra’s favourite games for the past few weeks has been stealing Bella’s bones and having a chew herself, and I admit I was a bit worried for a moment about raising Mowgli from the Jungle Book, seeing as babies learn a lot through mimicry, but with time Allegra is learning that the dog’s toys are not for playing with. I am not one of those parents who will encourage my child to ride the doggy like a horse. I believe that to raise a daughter with respect for animals is very important, and that this in turn will teach her respect for a lot of other things too.
Having a dog, I believe, fosters kindness in a person. It can teach you about unconditional love and loyalty. Sharing her food with Bella is an entertaining part of mealtimes for Allegra, and I’m sure she will not grow up to be selfish. As she grows, she will also learn about responsibility, through our commitment to keeping Bella well exercised at least twice a day (sometimes more while food is still being proffered from the high chair). Most importantly, if she absorbs even a fraction of the sheer joy that exudes from Bella anytime a ball is thrown or a walk mentioned, Allegra will learn the true meaning of happiness and carpe diem.