“OH NO, AMICA!!!!!!”
It’s usually the first phrase out of my mouth each morning. Amica, my 16-year-old mutt, is constantly peeing on the floor, knocking her food and water bowls over, getting under my feet, waking me in the middle of the night, and doing other helpless things that push me into a near constant state of frustration.
It hasn’t always been like this with Amica. I adopted her in college, when she was six years old. A few months after she came to live with me, my husband (then boyfriend) and I moved in together and adopted Midas, an adorable mixed breed puppy who people said looked just like a “miniature golden retriever.” We were the people who celebrated the dogs’ birthdays, cuddled them in bed on weekend mornings, and went on outings to places the dogs would enjoy. We were purely devoted to the pair.
My son was born when Amica was thirteen and Midas was six. As was to be expected, the baby’s arrival marked a huge change for everyone—especially the dogs. My husband was in residency at the time, working 60-80 hour weeks, and I was caring for a newborn as a first-time mom in an unfamiliar city with very little social support. We had almost zero energy left for the dogs. Walks around the neighborhood became less frequent and trips to the dog park ceased completely.
Nevertheless, Amica remained the most wonderful companion. She followed me around the house during the day. At night, she would wake up with me, tag along to the nursery, and sit at my feet while I breastfed. She was a friend to me during one of the loneliest times in my life.
Sadly, Midas became increasing anxious and irritable, and was constantly tormented by my son as he grew into a rambunctious toddler. Eventually, it became clear that our house was no longer somewhere Midas felt safe and we sent him to live with my husband’s retired parents, who have one dog of their own. We were heartbroken to lose Midas, but we were also very fortunate to have family members who would happily give him a new home. Now he goes on daily walks, visits the lake on weekends, and has a much better life in general.
Amica continues to decline. She sleeps most of the time and rarely wants to snuggle or play. She takes multiple medications for arthritis and has started showing signs of doggy dementia.
I’ve read articles in the last few years written by people who claim to hate their pets after the baby arrives—just search “hate pets after baby” for a long list, and if that series of downers gets you too depressed, here’s a more light-hearted take.
While I relate to some of the complaints listed in the articles, I do not hate Amica. I’m just running out of the emotional, physical, and mental energy needed to care for her, while also caring for my family and myself. This leaves me feeling not only irritated, but also very sad. As I’m driving home from work each day, I often find myself wondering if I’ll arrive home and find that she’s died peacefully in her sleep. That would be a relief in many ways, because the alternative is to watch her quality of life decline until we eventually have to make a hard decision.
I miss Midas and I’m sad for Amica. We have Rudyard Kipling’s The Power of the Dog poem on our fridge and he sums the feeling up beautifully:
There is sorrow enough in the natural way, From men and women to fill our day; And when we are certain of sorrow in store, Why do we always arrange for more? Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware, Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
I know many other parents whose relationships with their pets changed after a baby arrived. I also have childless friends who struggle to comprehend why I’ve become so distant and cold when I talk about my dogs. I’m sure my son would love to have a puppy to play with someday, but I just can’t see myself getting another dog anytime soon… mothers and sisters, I bid you beware, of giving your heart to a dog to tear.