My attitude towards my toddler’s relationship to my dog Zeb will likely make some parents and concerned citizens of the internet cringe. However, the beauty of parenting is that I am not required to pay attention to what anyone [other than my parental counterpart] thinks as long as I am not hurting anyone. Which, despite what you may think after you read what follows, I’m not. Consider yourself disclaimed.
From the beginning of their friendship, dog and baby have been united by saliva. We brought our newborn home from the hospital, and Zeb gingerly licked him on the head with the very tip of his tongue. He then proceeded to ignore his existence for a good while until the bald puppy started to do things.
Zeb sniffed the baby and kept tabs on where he was, but generally he stayed away. Every new thing my boy learned, my dog observed. One day, my boy noticed my dog and began observing him as well. Then came the big change.
When Noah began crawling, Zeb wasn’t sure what to do. He gave him a wide berth for a while before accepting that the tiny human was now a force to be reckoned with. He licked him, tolerated the invasion of his space and got up to move when his paws had been touched too many times.
Things really didn’t start to get slobbery until the toddler started walking. Noah likes to give Zeb kisses. These kisses involve opening his mouth wide and letting the dog lick his tonsils. It’s very gross. Noah also chases Zeb around the yard to give him sticks, through the house terrorizing him with his ball popper, and into his formerly solo spaces to pet him “gently.” Noah likes to throw him tennis balls. The good dog, however, won’t play with toys that belong to the kid and refuses to pick up balls (even when they are dog toys) if Noah is playing with them. This standoff leads to tension that is normally resolved by tears and parental distraction.
I never thought that I would refer to my neurotic dog as patient. Zeb is, after all, afraid of trash cans, cameras and a variety of children’s toys. However, he also lets Noah “pet” him, which is really just slowed down hitting. He also accepts it when his tail and paws get stepped on by simply moving locations. He even lets Noah manipulate his jowls without complaint.
From the toddler’s point of view, his puh-puh is his beloved friend, and Noah shows his love by giving kisses. So while I may inwardly cringe at the amount of dog drool covering my boy, I’m glad to see them love each other.