Katie McCarthy: One dog's reaction to a new baby

March 21, 2013 

For four years, she was our baby. And that role was quite suitable for Dutchess, our 60-pound boxer.

As much as my husband wanted a guard dog, or one he could hunt with, he got Dutch -- a dog who is scared of water, requires monthly allergy shots and would be more likely to lick than bark at, let alone attack, an intruder.

But we love her for all the things that she is and try not to dwell on all that she's not. As far as it goes, I think it was pretty good practice for having kids.

However, Dutchess loves attention (which is probably redundant to say of a boxer). She adores humans, thinks they were all put on this Earth to pet and play with her, and sees no reason why she can't squeeze her big self into that little space between any two people on the love seat.

We knew bringing a baby into the mix could cause some jealousy, so we researched and tried to ease her into it.

But she doesn't seem to care much about the baby. I'm not sure if she even realizes there's another human in the house because the baby can't pet her.

In fact, Dutchess mostly ignores the baby -- except for the occasional attempt to lick her hands or face. I don't know if this is because my husband and I pay our daughter so much attention that Dutch doesn't feel the need to participate, or if she thinks that without acknowledgment the baby might just go away and we'll be all hers again.

What I do know is that Dutch has been acting out.

For anyone who has met a boxer, you know that they are playful and goofy. At 4 years old, Dutchess hasn't slowed down much. We initially kennel-trained her, but have since taken to letting her have the run of the house when we're not home.

Lately she's proven that a bad idea.

Things that she hasn't done since she was a puppy -- like having accidents in the house -- have now occasionally resurfaced.

And the other day my husband came home to a living room floor covered with a couple pounds of bird seed. I'd like to add that the bird seed has been within Dutchess's reach for about two weeks. She knew she wasn't supposed to get into it; I must not have paid her enough attention before I left for work that day.

But I also know that as soon as our daughter is old enough to pet and play with her, Dutchess might just consider the husband and I chopped liver.

Boxers are notoriously good with kids, which is one of the reasons we got one. The American Kennel Club's website says they "are patient and spirited with children, but also protective, making them a popular choice for families."

So while she might feel jealous now when I'm cooing at the baby instead of throwing her toy, in a year or two Dutchess will get more attention from that child that she could ever hope for.

And maybe then we'll be done vacuuming birdseed off the living room floor.

Katie McCarthy, kmccarthy@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8515.

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