Lately I have been feeling pretty guilty. I was always a little worried about how my attention would be divided between the boys. Thoughts would swirl in my head as the boys floated in utero. Would I have a preference? Would I treat one differently than the other? Sure, there have been moments along the past 19 months where I’ve wondered if I do give preferential treatment, but honestly, those moments have been fleeting. On the whole, I feel pretty solid about the attention my boys get. It’s my dog that I’m worried about.
Oh Matilda, where do I start? How about with this picture.
Free spirit. Up for any adventure. Fearless. Snuggle bunny. Best friend. Totally compassionate. Unconditional love. Never wavering. Protector. By my side. Always. Before the boys were born, J and I would say, “how could we possibly love anything more than we love Matilda?” She was, and still is, our daughter.
But something has changed.
At first it was neglect via exhaustion. How could I take care of our dog when I had two infants to constantly care for? Heck, I could barely take care of myself. Walks were fewer and farther between. Attention whittled down to the bare minimum. Then it was all about the shedding. I would swiffer and mop almost daily, getting more and more frustrated that I had to spend my precious rest-time picking up dog hair. Ugh! Next it was her need to always be in the mix, laying down in the middle of where the boys were playing. Just getting in the way. Now it’s her carelessness, barreling down the boys as she runs to the door to go outside. She’s knocked them down more times than I can even count. Today was a doosey, as she thought a ball was being thrown for her and she ran, full speed, into Abel. We were all on the driveway and Abie flew a good two feet and head planted into the concrete. We all heard the thud. At the same time as my protective concern for my son flooded my body, crazy anger at Matilda coursed through my veins.
I have to keep reminding myself (over and over again) that Mati is just a dog. She doesn’t know any better and she doesn’t know any worse. She obviously doesn’t mean to do the things that make me frustrated or angry, let alone hurt these precious boys. It’s apparent that she loves these boys like they are her own and she endures anything and everything from them on a daily basis. Hair pulling, smacks, eye probing, teeth inspections, tail pulling, using her as a chair or stool, lots of hugs, lots of kisses, lots of treats, lots of smiling and lots of laughter at her antics. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a give and take on both sides of the coin.
I’m trying hard to manage my feelings, because I truly do love this dog with all of my heart. I hate that I harbor any feelings of resentment or anger towards her. It also makes me sad that I can’t (or don’t) give her the attention that she wants and deserves. She is nothing but goodness. And so I’m trying, consciously, every day to show her how much I love and appreciate her. Aside from our cat (who doesn’t care anyways), Matilda has been demoted to low-dog-on-the-totem-pole. Her world has been turned upside down. And she has weathered it like a trooper. No lashing out. No destructive behavior. No jealousy. Just patiently, albeit closely, waiting for her turn for some love.
And so I try to be a better parent – not to my kids, but rather to my dog. More kisses, more hugs, more snuggles, more “I love yous.” More patience, more understanding, more keeping my frustration and anger in check. And I guess in so doing I do become a better parent to my boys. Because I want to be a good example for managing frustrating/challenging situations. I want to demonstrate, every day, how to treat Mati (and all animals) with compassion and respect. But more than anything else, I want them to grow up loving this dog more than I do.