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True Pet Owner Confessions

5.29.2007

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I am not in love with my cat. That’s no surprise to readers of this blog–or to those who have actually met her and, against all odds, lived to tell the tale.

I am biding time, waiting for Desdemona to cross that ninth feline life off her list and come back in the tenth as a cockroach. Or a Republican. Or whatever it is that one earns by sucking for the better part of 16 years.

Once, I adored her. Those were the days that she curled up in the crook of my neck at night and licked behind my ears, purring so loudly that I had to shoo her off the bed to get some sleep. The days that she was shitty to me only part of the time, even if she was shitty to everyone else in the world all of the time. Still, I was happy for whatever affection she doled out, especially when it was just Desi and I; the cliche twosome of single woman and single cat. So, she bit the occasional visiting relative or one-night stand–what can ya do.

And then Nate came. And Desi sank greatly in importance.

Soon after, the dog came.

And in very little time, I loved the dog more.

I know, I am terrible for saying as much. But Emily didn’t hiss at all my friends, she didn’t puke on the bedspread, and she was far more likely to play with a ball of string and far less likely to eat my visitors whole.

We could do things with the dog. Take her for drives in the country. Sit at sidewalk cafes slugging coffee while she panted at our feet. Walk her around our West Village block and determine which local celebrities were nice based on who took the time to pet her when she crossed in their paths and demanded it. (Answer: Steven Colbert yes, Maggie Gyllenahaal no. Amy Sedaris yes, Paul Rudd no.)

Desi was a pet but Emily became family.

She was my laptop screen saver and the home picture on my cell phone. Enough said.

Suddenly I understood what all those so-called dog people saw in their pets. Why they included them in their Christmas card photos. Why those with otherwise impeccable taste walked around with T-shirts and key rings proclaiming I [HEART] MY COCKAPOO-LABRADOODLE MIXED BREED.

(At this point I must be clear that while I did understand these things, I did not do any of them myself. The closest I came was emailing puppy photos of Emily to the relatives. In fact, if Nate called me “mommy” with her it made me squirm, with the image of Parker Posey’s character in Best in Show in mind.

Come to think of it, when my dad and stepmother got a dog– their “baby”–and then tried to figure out what my relation was to it, I had to cry uncle on the bizarre bi-species family stuff. I think they called me his sister–making my daughter the dog’s niece? Um…no. I’ll be having none of that.)

I loved Emily not just because she was Emily, but because she made me see that I was indeed capable of taking care of something without killing it. She no doubt paved the way for Thalia, and for that I will always be indebted to her.

But once Thalia arrived, to whatever degree Emily had been our baby, she wasn’t anymore.

Not really.

I just don’t feel it.

Am I horrible? Am I alone here? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one in the world.

Emily is still loved, to be sure. Especially by Nate, who amazes me in his ability to remember that the dog needs a cuddle or a treat or a belly rub or a bath, even when there are a million other things going on in our lives. The dog accompanies us on long trips, or weekend stays at my mother’s house. She sleeps on the bed with us, and she gets the expensive dog food. To say nothing of the table scraps that fall around the high chair, making her better fed than Thalia most days.

She is not a neglected pet in the least. But she does not occupy the same place in my heart that she did two years ago.

I’m so sorry Emily: I adore you, if not your flatulence.

But we have two children. And you’re not one of them.

67 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

Renée May 29, 2007 at 12:50 pm

gawd, I just *knew* that Maggie was a bitch irl. Whatevs, your dog is way cuter than her anyway.I’m sure your pooch is perfectly happy, whether or not you’re willing to breastfeed her. :)

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Kyran May 29, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Our animals were demoted to animals the minute the first child was born. Neglected and resigned pretty much sums it up.

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Marty, a.k.a. canape May 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm

I’m going to be watching here. Hoping that there is just one person who might chime in with an unchanged relationship between dog and mistress.We have two dogs and one baby on the way. I can see one of the two being demoted, but the other? I just can’t see it. Then again, I don’t view her as my baby, but as my dearest friend.

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slouchy May 29, 2007 at 1:37 pm

ooh, is that ever a good litmus test of celebrity character! send that dog across the paths of all the celebrities you can find in a year and then write a book about their reactions.you heard it here first.and do you live in the neighborhood where w 4th and w 12th intersect? i always laugh when i’m at that corner. cuz that just shouldn’t happen.

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Kirsten May 29, 2007 at 1:41 pm

We added on a room to our house (formerly a porch) and had a/c and heat put in along with a doggy door so our dogs would be comfy while we were at work. We made our own christmas cards and our dogs were ALWAYS on the cover. Sigh. Now? They still have the room, but it’s poorly kept, the kiddo is on the cover of the Christmas cards and they’ve become dogs. Just regular nice little dogs. I love them, but it’s just not the same. I swore this would never happen before I had kids. You just can’t help it.

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Bea May 29, 2007 at 1:56 pm

I was always so appalled at people who treated their cats like furniture once their preshus baby arrived. I swore I would never be like that with my kitties.Then I was breastfeeding, and basically ANYONE who wanted to touch me got growled at. So, yes, the cat who was crawling all over me looking for a cuddle was not merely a piece of furniture – she was Satan in feline form. (I’ve thawed out a little now that both my kids are weaned. But still – the cats will never again ascend to their formerly occupied throne.)

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Amy Jo May 29, 2007 at 1:57 pm

You are not alone. I love my cat, and before Sam was born, I doubted that anything would come along that I would love more. We’ve had him for a decade, and he was the first pet my husband and I got together.We used to have two kitties, and when our other cat died, I cried for a week and missed a day of work (That was mostly because I didn’t want her poor little corpse hanging around the house all day, since I found her just as I was about to leave for work.) Our other cat is still around, but where I used to find his undying desire to sit in my lap sweet, now I find it annoying. I already have another living breathing creature hanging off of me every minute of every day. Once the son is in bed, my lap is my own again, and the cat has a 5 minute limit!

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Auntie Fred May 29, 2007 at 2:04 pm

My heart has been broken……Auntie Fred

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LK May 29, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Our dogs definitely moved down the totem pole when our son was born. Although I still love them, it just isn’t the same. We have a chihuahua that was the apple of my husband’s eye. I did not think he would ever be demoted. Sadly, he was. After five years, the chihuahua STILL holds a grudge. P.S. Maggie and Paul must be insane! Your dog is adorable!

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Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog May 29, 2007 at 2:19 pm

I forsee getting a dog when we are TRULY done with baby stuff. No potty training of a child AND a pet. No way. And when you have a child, you realize that the animal is just that: An animal. Lovable and in need of attention, true. But an ANIMAL. Not a baby to be dressed in funny shirts and doted on. HOWEVER. I understand the need for the young adult to prime their nurturing skills on an animal. I think it’s a great way to realize that caring for someone/thing is a big responsibility.

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Loukia May 29, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Thank you. I think far too many people put their animals on the same level as their dogs and other pets, and it really infuriates me. I remember once, this lady left her toddler at home with her two pitbulls and the dogs attacked the child, killing it. The mom, after finding out, was defending her dogs. People like that need to be left alone in a room with angry pitbulls. Anyway I’m going on here for no reason at all… just wanted to say pets and children are not comparable. Having a dog does not mean you have a baby! It is nowhere near the love you feel when you have a child, nor the hard work. It’s just a pet. Sorry, don’t mean to offend, but a child is a child.

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Loukia May 29, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Oops, meant to say: I think far too many people put thir children on the same level as their dogs and other pets, and it really infuriates me.

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Candace April May 29, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I adore my cats (they are quite sweet with strangers) every bit as much…but then again I never quite crossed over into the treating them as “babies” territory (I think that is easier to do with dogs as they appreciate it/sit still for it more).I really always find it quite silly when people without children claim they love their pets like children. I keep my mouth shut when they say it (and hopefully none of them are reading my comment right now), but I’ve even said to my husband that there is no way anyone sane could love an animal as much as they could love their own human baby.Be attentive? Sure. Take excellent care of the animal? Absolutely. Love the pet as much as a human baby… I just don’t buy it.Maybe I’m wrong though…and someone will say that even after having a baby they would be hard pressed to choose if they had to.I would save my cats before any object in the house–but if it came down to the cats or Baby Diva, I would not hesitate for a second and I really hope that other parents feel the same way!

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Anonymous May 29, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Ahh yes, pets do move down the ladder once kids enter the picture. I will say however that Helen is now 11 months and we just adopted 4 baby bunnies (really what happened was Charley dug them up in the flower bed and I couldn’t part with them after that). So now I am back to bottle feeding, changing bedding, buying new toys, you name it I am doing it. Very strange to feel maternal about some bunnies but there it is. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have felt this way if Helen was smaller but somthing inside is wanting a little dependent something to completely depend on me again. None of this liking Daddy better than me stuff ;) Oh well. Such is life I guess. You will find more time for Emily once little Sage is a bit older. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

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Lisa V May 29, 2007 at 2:42 pm

The animals become animals once children arrive. Hopefully the children love the animals which makes up for some of it. My guess is when all my children are grown I will go back to fretting about some little four legged creature. For now, I just wish my house didn’t smell like animal, and that they would quit warning me of the impending doom (like people walking by) outside our house by barking like psychopaths. I’m always disappointed that they aren’t older than they really are. Sad. And mean.

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metro mama May 29, 2007 at 4:25 pm

I used to love my cats. Now, honestly, I’m just waiting for them to die.Lucky for them, Cakes adores them.

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Run ANC May 29, 2007 at 4:28 pm

I hope I don’t offend when I say I am little weirded out by people who treat their pets like their babies. I can see why they do, but children and pets are just plain different.I was much more affectionate with the cat before the arrival of the Boy. Now, two years later, she still hasn’t accepted him and goes out of her way to avoid him. It colours the way I feel about her, because I just can’t forgive that. I expected her to be cranky at first, and then get over it.

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Redneck Mommy May 29, 2007 at 4:45 pm

I’m with Metro Mama. I loved my cats. But they can’t kick it fast enough. Luckily for me, they have been banished to the great outdoors so if time doesn’t do them in, the neighbourhood coyotes and foxes should.Ahem.Emily is cute. But she can’t be considered your child unless you squeezed her through your birth canal and out your vajayjay.Enough said.

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Sarah May 29, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Oh boy have I been there. I have a cat and although I LOVED him when we got him as a kitty, he annoyed the crap out of me when we brought Sacha home from the hospital and in the few months thereafter. Now, Sacha is able to play with him, and they amuse each other, so I’ve made my peace with the feline devil. But a cat will never again hold as high esteem as it once did.

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Kendra May 29, 2007 at 5:47 pm

You’re not alone! I grew up thinking that my dog would be the most important thing in my life. Once I had my little girl, the dog took a LONG 3rd place. When he died, I felt bad, but didn’t really grieve. Dogs have a place, but it is not the same place as children.

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Phoenix May 29, 2007 at 5:48 pm

I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Especially when you have two kids under two. You still feed her and I’m sure she still gets played with. That’s the most any dog really needs. She is really cute, I’d pet her.I think all that’s true anyway. I recently decided I’m more of a whale person. Just basically because I’ll never be forced to own one.

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dana May 29, 2007 at 5:51 pm

I still consider Murphy my “first-born” in the sense that he was the first living thing I practiced parenting on. A dog is far easier to take care of then a screaming baby, but I got Murphy a few weeks before I realized I was pregnant. I suppose he was my practice run — feeding, watering, potty training.I felt so guilty when I was in labor because Murph had to stay with my in-laws. But the day Dawson arrived, Murphy took the backseat and while I love him to pieces, I put Dawson first. It’d be very wrong if I didn’t, don’t you think?But I still think of Murphy like a child. He laid on my belly while Dawson was kicking. He protected me from burglars one night. (Okay, I only thought they were burglars, Doug locked himself out of the house when taking out the trash.)He’s part of the family, “child” or not.

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binkytown May 29, 2007 at 6:12 pm

Ouch! I feel you. I used to call our dog “Our dog son” now I call him “get out of my way” or “Go lay down.”

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Wendy May 29, 2007 at 6:30 pm

I love my cat more than the dog I recieved as a wedding gift from my husband. The cat has enough smarts to be quiet and stay out of my way. The dog (a Beagle) is too noisy and usually wakes up a sleeping kid, so that puts him number one on my, well, you know list.And yes, as soon as my first child was born the pets got knocked down a few pegs. There was just not enough energy to take care of everyone’s emotional needs. It has gotten better as the kids get older and they give the pets more attention, whether they want it or not.

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Chicky Chicky Baby May 29, 2007 at 6:31 pm

You’re not horrible and your dog still has it better than most out there. My dogs, once my life (Christ, they were the inspiration for my job), have been shuffled down the pack order even more. It happens. Frankly, I’d be more worried about you if you tried to keep Emily at the same level she was before you had kids. I’d have to stage an intervention! ;)

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Mom101 May 29, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Mrs Chicky – hearing that from you, above all , means a lot. Thank you!

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Keri May 29, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Don’t worry, you are not alone. The moment my son was born, my dogs were not the same to me as before. I felt bad but kept in mind that the dogs are being well cared for which was the important thing. They also are great playmates for my son. Enjoy your (human) girls! ;)

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Susan Getgood May 29, 2007 at 8:46 pm

I’m probably a bit of an anomaly here, because I don’t just have dogs, I show and breed them as well. In other words, fairly regular supply of puppies :-) My dogs did replace the cats to a large degree — I also have both. I never however considered them my children, even before I had my son. Who is far and away the most important. But yes, we did put Doug and one of the dogs on an early Xmas card! However, as he gets older, and requires less hands-on care, I have more time for the dogs than I did when he was younger. Which I think is also pretty normal. Your animals will always be dependent, but your kids, man, do they become independent fast. Enjoy this time with them.

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Barbara May 29, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Redneck Mommy: Your comment implies that adoptive parents couldn’t love their children as much as a birthparent, and as I’m sure you weren’t trying to offend, you may want to rephrase in the future.

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Mandy May 29, 2007 at 9:39 pm

I expected to feel differently about our dogs (2 French Bulldogs) after having our son, now 2.5, but I don’t. They feel just as much like family as they did before, and I’m just as crazy about them. They don’t accompany us out of the house as much because it’s more difficult wrangling them plus my son, and I’ve heard the authorities frown on leaving children at home alone while you go out with your dogs–even if the dogs are better behaved! So they have definitely had to adjust their status in the household, but they do occupy the same place in my heart…awwww…

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Jen May 30, 2007 at 12:09 am

Well, this struck a chord. Mr. Blue “found” me back in my early 20’s. He was the most lovable loving cat I have ever known. He was with me through four different residences and eight years in another city. He was with me through my years in college. He became Sleeper-B and Sneezer-B and B-der be Handsome. I only called him by his full name to the vet. He was with me in spirit, in presence, in sleep, in the bathroom… ?! Just everywhere. His M.O. was my lap, case closed. And I loved him dearly. He was also with me through a marriage and subsequent divorce, through a pregnancy and subsequent birth. I watched his decline from 22 pounds to 9 in a matter of months, and I am beyond convinced that he waited those 14 years until this child was safely born and safely in my arms before he decided to close up shop. Were it not for M. this would have crushed me deeply. Instead, I was able to see his time at hand, and wish him well on his next journey. And hey – don’t blame those without kids for treating their pets as such. That’s like blaming a baby for loving its blanket, or a sixth grader for “loving” their crush. We give what we know with what we have…

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Jaelithe May 30, 2007 at 12:12 am

Stephen Colbert petted your dog?I am so jealous. I would never have washed my dog again.Seriously, though, I so understand this feeling. My cat, who had been my cat for over a decade, got knocked a fair space down on my priority list the minute I brought my son home from the hospital. And she knew it, and she showed it, which of course made me annoyed with her, which made me spend less time with her . . . *sigh* She passed away a few months after my son was born, of old age and other problems, and I still feel guilty that I didn’t show her more love in her final days, even though she was well taken care of. (And even thought she was a lot like Desi in her later years.)

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Mom101 May 30, 2007 at 1:36 am

zaya – redneck mommy is in the process of adopting as we speak. That said, I think she was just employing a humorous euphemism for motherhood.

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Motherhood Uncensored May 30, 2007 at 1:47 am

My dogs are soooo low on the totem pole these days. I try not to feel guilty — but I bet if they had been in my room, chances are we would have had some warning before FIL decided to pay us a visit.

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Fairly Odd Mother May 30, 2007 at 2:13 am

Totally understand. Gosh, my cats WERE my babies—I told people that if I had kids and they were allergic to cats, I’d have to find them a new home (the kids, that is). Now that I do have kids, my poor cats are lucky if I notice they’ve lost 50% of their body weight (which happened)BTW, did you ever hear of the great Christmas card concept for a client at my former shop? This client was a NUT about her dogs—they were absolutely her children (understandable b/c she did not have kids or a S.O.). Anyway, she always ‘made’ the agency design her Christmas cards, so they did a mock one of a male dog mounting a female dog on the front of the card. When you opened it, it said, “Merry Christmas from xxxx and her two fucking dogs”.

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Her Bad Mother May 30, 2007 at 2:16 am

Our cats are pretty certain that I must have pushed them out of my vajayjay. Or they me. Whatev. They’re pretty possessive and possessed of infant/god-complexes, but end of the day, they are CATS. Love ‘em, but they’re not going to care for me in my old age. So there.

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Christine May 30, 2007 at 2:30 am

When I was pregnant with my son, I <>truly<> worried that I wouldn’t love him as much as I loved my cats ~ in much the same way we all worry that we won’t love our second as much as our first. Pathetic and naive in retrospect, but that’s where I was at the time.The cats get on my nerves now, and while I do still love them…they are pets, not my kids.And we recently got a puppy. I think it was because we were done having kids. Will we never learn?

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Upside Up May 30, 2007 at 3:52 am

i’ve heard it spoken that before you have kids, your pets are your kids. after you have kids, your pets are your pets (definitely true in our house).but i’m not sure where that leaves desi.

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Tracy May 30, 2007 at 4:46 am

Canape…I’m with you girl!I raised my two dogs for nearly ten years before I gave birth to my daughter last year. When I was pregnant, they became ridiculously protective and one even insisted on sleeping ON my belly. Now that the baby is here they hover around her, cleaning messes off the floor so I don’t have to, keeping a watchful eye on her, and coming to me whining when she cries. How could I reward such loyalty by “demoting” them? I certainly wouldn’t get a new dog with a baby, but my dogs give me just as much love as my infant, and demand much less. That is NOT to say that I love them more, or anything twisted like that, but only to say that they ARE a part of the family, and my feelings for them are as strong as before I gave birthThey are old, and won’t be around much longer, and it makes me sad to know that my daughter will not remember her two loving “brothers.”

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modmom May 30, 2007 at 5:09 am

our 11-year old toilet-trained cat “baby” moved into the bathroom when our real baby came home. all of a sudden he annoyed me. itchy, hair everywhere. then when our daughter was 10 months old, she was pulling at the cat + trying to squeeze onto his flower pillow bed with him + he nipped at her, bad move mr.kitty. we miss you.

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BOSSY May 30, 2007 at 12:43 pm

But in a couple of years when your children are completely on your nerves, you just may want to run away with the dog. Everything is cyclical.

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Mom101 May 30, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Traceysan – WOW maybe we just need new pets. Besides eating messes off the floor, we’re not seeing so much of the things in Emily thatyou’re describing. Humiliated expressions when Thalia tries to ride her, yes. Watchful eye? Not so much.

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andi May 30, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Ha ha. I so identified with this. I remember bursting into tears when pregnant with #1 because I was actually worried I wouldn’t love the stupid cat as much. I even brought his picture with me as a “focus object” (what a load of shit that idea is) during labor. After kiddo showed up, we gave the cat away when she was about two. His once endearing quirks were now hugely inconvenient and annoying. And now we don’t have giant balls of shed fur in the house threatening to conquer every corner. I never thought I would love having no pets – but there it is.

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PunditMom May 30, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Nope. Don’t see you as the Parker/Posey/Best in Show type!Of course you’re not horrible. And I think Emily will understand. As a cat, Desi has a biological duty not to! But I bet she’s still nice to pet.

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Gurukarm May 30, 2007 at 5:21 pm

My two cats and one dog were all long-ensconced in our household and hearts before DD came along, and yet, as with Mom-101 and so many of you, their status really fell once she was born.As kiddos grow however, their hearts make lots and lots of room for the animals. Funny story: our one cat was very very put out by DD’s birth and didn’t like her attentions at all as she grew. Lots of cat-scratching with ensuing tears. But for her fourth b’day we got her a kitten. The moment that new kitten arrived, first cat (the other had died by then) took one look, decided he must be out the door if he didn’t shape up, and immediately started letting DD pick him up, cuddle, hug, and drag him around the house with nary a peep. :-) The whole thing is an evolving relationship. Same cat was totally adored by DS, and when cat died after a long and beloved life at age 19, DS was (and remains) devastated. Cat holds a very special place in that one’s heart.

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motherbumper May 30, 2007 at 6:09 pm

While I still refer to E&D as my first born twins, that hasn’t stopped me from wishing I could shave them and have them de-meowed. I love them, I really do but enough with the hairballs and litter box treats. I get what you’re saying Mom-101.

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gingajoy May 30, 2007 at 8:26 pm

oh GOD my pets irritate the shit out of me now. I tolerate them, and that is all. I don;t feel too bad about it, although I realize that when I’ve gone about week without even giving the dog a bit of a perfunctory pet, I *do* feel a little guilt pang.Plusside for her–gravy train around the bottom of the high chair. she’s living it large.

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Lawyer Mama May 31, 2007 at 2:34 am

I love my kitties and I don’t want to think about how short their lives will be but, yes, they aren’t my babies the way they once were.Once you have a child you gain a little pet perspective.

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liz May 31, 2007 at 3:04 am

oh, i feel for emily. i am awaiting the birth of my first (human) child, and my heart is already breaking when i think about how my “first born” (canine child) will become “a dog” and not my baby.

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Kathy May 31, 2007 at 6:35 am

Guess I am in the minority here. I had a wonderful dog when my first was born. She was never demoted in any way and still a huge “baby” to me. She’d curl right up against us when I held the new baby. She died while I was pregnant with my twins. I got another dog when the kids were 4 and almost 3. I thought they might bond with the dog but NO, he’s a huge baby, too. And I love it, wouldn’t have it any other way! He’s a great dog, part of our family. Heck, even our cat is spoiled. And our standing joke is that I let the dog get by with stuff I wouldn’t dare let the kids do!

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