Scott and I are the proud parents of two children. Our first baby was seven weeks old when we got him. He was cute, furry and fit in the palm of our hand. The second came into this world April 19 of this year. He was beautiful, bald and fit perfectly in our arms. Before Styles’ arrival, Butkus, our English bulldog was the ruler of the roost, the king of the castle. All baby talk was directed at him. Co-sleeping was defined as Butkus in the bed, between us, snoring upside down with his paws in the air. His toys – tennis balls tossed down the hallway. His formula – a special low-fat brand of dog food. He was a good dress rehearsal.
Funny though, when you’re pregnant and have a dog in the family, the first thing people ask is, “Are you worried about how the dog will be with the baby?” Or in our case, since we babied Butkus so incessantly, the question became, “How is Butkus going to deal with the lack of love and attention.?” Our answer was always, “We’ll find more love in our hearts to make him feel as he did before.”
It was a sunny, glorious spring day when we brought Styles home from the hospital. We had a plan in place for the first baby/dog introduction, and it went into action the second we got home. I went into the house by myself and greeted Butkus, who hadn’t seen me now for a few days and looked panic stricken. His excitement and relief that Mom didn’t vanish were apparent.
I reassured him that all was fine, and then I gave him Styles’ hospital blanket to smell. He seemed disappointed that it wasn’t some colorful, plush toy with tennis balls attached. He gave it a quick sniff and then lost interest. Moments later, Scott walked in with Styles in his infant carrier. I held onto Butkus as Scott slowly lowered the carrier, only far enough so Butkus could get a whiff of Styles’ feet. He didn’t know what to make of this and didn’t give it any further thought, until it began.
As I mentioned, Butkus was our first co-sleeper, and Scott and I debated whether we wanted the baby in bed with us. After careful consideration, we decided that our fear and paranoia of rolling over onto him would rob us of whatever precious shut-eye we were going to get. Butkus kept his spot between us, lengthwise of course! Styles was in the bassinet next to me, and it started not long after he was put down to sleep that first night.
His cry was like a crescendo, until the sound became piercing. Scott and I looked at each other, white as sheets, with the realization that we’re on our own now, and Butkus looked at us as if to say, “Aren’t you going to do something about it?” What happened next was so out of character for him. Butkus jumped off the bed, at warp speed, and left the room. Yes, Elvis had left the building. We were shocked! Where was the moral support after all those years of sleeping like a contortionist? Dog gone!
The days and weeks that followed produced a similar pattern. Butkus was ambivalent to this new creature, who seemed to dominate in the attention department, and he somehow felt responsible for it, even though we reassured him countless times that he was a good boy every time it started.
Then, at six weeks, we had a breakthrough. Butkus was sleeping on the rug in the baby’s room, and I was playing with Styles. I proceeded to sit on the floor holding the baby, and Butkus immediately sat up and walked over. I had him sit at a comfortable distance from the baby; and for the first time, these two brothers really gave each other the once over. Styles flashed a big grin, realizing that he had a new stuffed animal to enjoy, and Butkus was happy to have this discovery time. It ended with Styles trying to touch his fur and Butkus just sitting there and letting it happen.
As the days meshed, their relationship continued to grow. Their closeness was evident the other day when I caught Dad, baby and bulldog sitting on the floor together watching a Baby Einstein video. Where’s the camcorder when you need it?
Now when we’re in bed, and the baby starts to cry, Butkus immediately gets up and snuggles closer, as if he’s trying to comfort us. However, once you leave the bed to tend to the baby, Butkus manages to take over your spot, flip upside down and start snoring like a sailor. It’s nice to know that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Right, dawg? H
Dominique Sachse is a news anchor for KPRC-TV Channel 2 and an active supporter and fundraiser of the Houston Humane Society.