The Neglected One

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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.

Mati jumping off cliff into Barton Creek (not photshopped!)

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.

Mati is unfazed by Abel's foot in her eye!
The boys think Mati is the most comfy reading chair.

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.

Playtime in the closet. Mati wedges herself in.

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.

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10 thoughts on “The Neglected One”

  1. oh, how you hit the nail on the head with this one. our mishka receives the brunt of a lot of my frustration and i find myself raising my voice at her to ‘get out of the playroom’ as her hair floats all over. i want to be better and i am glad you called me to do so. she gets so little in the way of direct attention and weathers it all, albeit, with some of the same behaviors and definitely the knocking overs….but, you are right. it was once her house, now it is theirs.

    thanks for the reminder to be the example and challenge myself to bring the love her way too.

  2. Thanks, Tracy, for this heartfelt post! I’m snuggling with our Stoli even as I type. Our furry love has endured the changing of her world for 20.5 months with sweetness, confusion and longing.

    I have a little tug of the ole heartstrings when I hear “Puppy. Lay Down. Puppy. All Done.” from a little voice at my house… especially during meals when the manna rains from the high chair, um, heavens.

    It’s a great reminder to parents of little people and pets! You are a super mom to Mati and your boys!

  3. Oh, so so true. My poor Winnie. She stayed with a friend (and fellow MOT) when we were on vacation last week. When I picked her up, they said how great she was, and if we were ever even considering giving her up, they’d take her in an instant. Horrible, horrible me actually thought about it for half a second… Poor dog, so neglected! But she really has been so good, great with the kids, doesn’t steal their toys. She’s a good dog.

  4. Wonderful post and touched on so many things I’ve been feeling lately. My sweet boy has definitely slid down the totem pole and after having an epiphany like the one in your post, I have been trying to make it a priority to let him know he’s still our baby too.

  5. Great post. We also have a big yellow lab, named Gus, and I worry almost daily about how he’ll do once the babies are here. I told him this morning he needed to stick around for another 5 years so the twins will have a chance to love him like we do. :(

  6. Hi Tracy. Thanks for this post. I too have (several) pets that have been demoted since the boys have joined our family. I guess I don’t feel the guilt of it yet, but rather feel the frustration of poor ‘family planning’. Since having the boys, the animals are more needy than ever, and both dogs and the cat always feel the need be in the same room as all of us… it gets rather crowded and all too often just feels like a zoo! They really got pushed out of almost everything when the babies were little and crawling (I thought the baby gates were more useful to keep the dogs out, then the babies in) But now that the boys are getting older they are finding fun games that they can play with the dogs (throw the ball for our lab, play tug-o-war with our pug) and I am watching them form strong friendships with their pets, and the pets with the twins.

  7. Hey, I’m an Austinite too! Well, I work in Austin. Anyhow, LOVE Barton Springs.

    We had to say goodbye to one of our two cats because his health problems were starting to cause an unacceptable hygiene situation for our girls. I still cry about it. I remember, though, once deciding to drop $1000-odd dollars on medical tests that very cat, and saying, “Well, we can do this now because we don’t have kids yet.” The kids have to come first. It’s finally paying off. After two years of indifference to our pets, my daughters have recently discovered that our remaining cat is a playmate and companion.

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