Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Babywearing Goes to the Dogs

Even dogs can benefit from babywearing!

No, that's not what I mean

Before I became pregnant with my daughter, my 2 little dogs - Corgan and Cash - were my life.  They were my children, really.  My husband and I would plan weekends around the dogs and take them with us on vacations.  They were a big part of our family dynamic.

Enter: baby. 
Once my daughter was born, the dogs got knocked way down the totem pole.  They just weren't getting the love and attention they were used to getting.  No longer did they enjoy the prime dog real estate of our laps.  They were lucky if one of us remembered to feed them regularly.  We started babywearing from the beginning, but I was still anxious about taking a baby and two sometimes not-so-well mannered, very excitable dogs out on a walk, all together.  So, sometimes my husband would take the dogs on a walk and I'd stay home with the baby.  Or the dogs just wouldn't get walks (don't worry - we have a fenced yard in which they can take care of "business").  But, for a while, when we thought of "going for a walk" as a whole family, we would pull out the stroller and strap the baby in.  Walking with two crazy dogs and a stroller is only possible with at least two, and preferably three, adults present.  As a stay-at-home mom, I often don't have 1-2 extra adults hanging around.  So, one day in early spring when the weather was gorgeous, the baby wasn't napping, and the dogs were going stir crazy, I decided to try it.  I put the baby in the carrier, and took both dogs on a walk - all at the same time.  And, you know what?  It worked great!  The dogs were (relatively) well behaved, the baby was totally content, and everyone was able to get out and soak up some much needed Vitamin D.  From then on, I vowed to never try to wrangle a stroller plus two crazy dogs ever again.  And we've had many successful, fun walks!  Hooray, the dogs are feeling the love again!

We also enjoy taking our dogs to dog parks.  Now that our daughter is 9 months old and loves to crawl around and inspect everything (often with her mouth), without a baby carrier, these trips would be nearly impossible.  However, thanks to the trusty SSC or MT (or any carrier, really), we can take the dogs for a romp with their buds and not have to hire a babysitter to do it.  And, bonus!  No doggie deposits on the stroller wheels!

Another task that fell by the wayside after my daughter arrived was cleaning up the back yard - both in terms of leaves and "doggie deposits".  We have a nifty poop scooper that you can use while standing up, but it still requires 2 hands - one for the scooper and one for the trash bag in which to put the debris.  There was no way I could either a.) leave baby somewhere on the ground outside while I cleaned up (for fear of her touching - or worse, eating - the offending substances) or b.) hold her while I did it.  That is, I couldn't do those things without a baby carrier.  Now that I've learned back carries with a Mei Tai and a Soft Structured Carrier, I am able to do the dreaded doodie duty without worrying about my daughter's exposure to the stuff.  And, our back yard is no longer a frightening mine field.

I mentioned that for a while, my dogs were lucky if they got fed.  And I also mentioned that they're a little...crazy.  My 30 lb black lab mix can jump straight up from the ground to the height of my shoulders.  And my 15 lb Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can barely contain his excitement when he knows it's dinner time.  They're very loving dogs, and they like the baby well enough, but when they get excited, they get unpredictable.  And they jump a lot.  This makes mommy very nervous when baby's playing on the floor, or even when I'm holding her and trying to bend down to pick up the dog bowl or fill it up, etc. 
This is another great time when I pop my daughter into a carrier - usually a ring sling - for the duration of the crazy excitement that exists around feeding time.  She is much safer to be up and away from the dogs; she is out of danger of me somehow dropping her while trying to react to the dogs' outlandish behavior; and it gives me two hands with which to wrangle the dogs and the bowls. 
Sometimes having 4-legged, furry family members makes life a little more complicated, but with baby carriers, they don't have to miss out on all of the fun!  So how does it work for you?  How have baby carriers improved your relationship with your dogs (or cats, or hamsters, or sugar gliders, or...)?
Posted by Jenni 
Thanks to Lily for the Dogwearing pic. :)

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