Family dynamics

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Jane Yee: Dog versus baby

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Jane Yee
FURRY FRIENDS: Little babies can hugely disrupt a pet's life, but hopefully in time they'll become mates.

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Before there was a baby, there was a dog, Stella. For a long time she was the closest thing to my own child that I could imagine - albeit a four-legged child with bad breath and a nervous disposition.

This week Stella turned eight years old, and I just wanted to do a bit of an online shout out to my dog, because she doesn't get quite as much loving these days as she used to. Happy Birthday Stella!

For seven years Stella was my favourite little creature in the whole world. She followed me everywhere and always seemed to sense when I was feeling down. You know how it is with dogs, they're clever like that.

We weren't sure how she'd cope when the time came to bring the actual baby home. While she's not an aggressive dog in any way, over the years she's become a bit nervy. She loves to jump up on the couch and snuggle in to next to whoever's there, but isn't really a fan of being picked up and handled. She doesn't bite, but gets excited and can be mouthy when she meets new people. Not in a dangerous way of course, just in a friendly 'I'm a dog and I would like to gently size you up with my mouth' kind of way.

Throughout my pregnancy Stella knew something was up. She's a smart cookie my dog. She became quite clingy and was up in my grill even more than usual. Whenever I was lying down (which was quite often) she'd snuggle up next to my big old belly, and I hoped this was a sign of her somehow bonding with the baby - though I suspect it was just her way of reminding me she was there first.

We shook her world up big time when we brought that little bundle of Victor home. When we first introduced the pair she was naturally curious and gave him a good sniff and a bit of a lick, and then carried on as usual. I don't think she realised he was here to stay, and I definitely don't think she knew how much of my time and attention he would be sucking up.

Seven months on and I think Stella has gotten used to the idea that Victor isn't going anywhere. I can tell she's totally bummed about playing second fiddle to the baby, but thankfully she doesn't seem to be taking that out on him. In fact, she's quite gentle with him, which is cute. That doesn't mean she's not cranky with me though - she does a lot of sitting in the corner sulking like a moody teenager while glaring at me with big sad eyes. I try to remind her that while I understand it's annoying that there's a baby kicking around, it also means that I'm home during the day to hang out with her - but she doesn't speak English so my words are wasted.

And what does the baby make of the dog? Oh my goodnesss, he loves her! Every morning a huge smile breaks across his face when he sees her. He shrieks with delight when she runs past him, and can stare at her for ages if she's doing something super exciting like scratching behind her ear, sniffing around the floor, or sleeping in her bed.

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I'm hoping in time Victor and Stella will become friends, and seeing as she's doing such a bang up job of resisting the urge to bite him in the face I'll be doing my best to teach the baby to be as gentle with her as she is with him.

Do you have pets? How did they cope with the arrival of a new little person in your household? If you have a baby on the way, are you nervous about how your pets will react when bubs arrives?

- © Fairfax NZ News

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