Rocky, After BabyPublished August 13, 2010
I wanted a dog for months after my husband and I moved in together nine years ago, but it was not until after our wedding two years later that he finally agreed. To be sure, he did not agree. Exactly. He just stopped protesting. I explored online until I found Rocky, the rescue Chihuahua with sad brown eyes. He lived two hours away so we set off on a road trip, probably hungover from the night before since this was back when we had a life. No matter. Once we arrived at the split-level home on a cul-de-sac in Connecticut and we met the barking ball of fire that is Rocky, we were hooked. "We really can't live with his barking anymore," the dad in the family said when he came back in, still sweaty from mowing the lawn - Rocky at his heels, jumping, growling, barking... barking... barking... He must have been scared of the mower, I assumed. I was 25, a newlywed who was not quite ready for children, but needed someone on whom I could dote. Rob and I settled into a routine with Rocky, buying him little sweaters and hats and costumes for Halloween. He came everywhere with us. We took him on long walks and sobbed when an airline refused to let us put him in the main cabin of the plane due to his "unusually large Chihuahua size." As I sniffled and cajoled, the ticket agent - unswayed - asked me simply, "What will you do when you have kids and can't be with them all the time?" But he is my kid, I thought, as I watched my baby on the conveyor belt, destined to sit in the belly of the plane while I wrung my hands, 10 feet above him. My "kid" was "potty trained" but still managed to soak our new oriental rug in so much urine, it had to be discarded. He barked almost constantly, very rarely pooped without a half hour walk beforehand, and seemed to think he was doing us a favor by leaving daily turds on our kitchen floor. He ate tampons and every pair of underwear I owned. Yet, when I found out I was pregnant in 2006, my first concern was for Rocky. "What will he think?" I asked Rob as we curled on the couch in the basement, Rocky nuzzled between us. I cried the night I went into labor, not because I was scared of the pain, but because I was worried about Rocky and how his life would change. I was right. Because, from the day I came home with my precious newborn, Rocky was my nemesis. Suddenly, his pooping on the floor was not a mere nuisance, but a toxic hazard. His barks disturbed naptime and jabbered my new-mom mind. As my daughter started to walk, she sometimes slipped in a puddle of pee he left on the hardwood floor. His bum became one more I had to wipe, especially after my second child was born. Rocky's needs came in last. Alan needs to nurse. Sam needs crayons. Alan needs a diaper change. Sam needs a boo-boo kiss. There simply has not been enough of me to go around. I sometimes see glimmers of the dog he was. When we are alone and the kids are at the park, he looks at me with those eyes and I remember he is still my baby. And when my toddler son says, "I love my doggie!" and my daughter hugs "Rocky-boy," I remember that even though he lost our primary love, he gained so much more. And as demanding as he can be, he has a deep-seated place in all four of our hearts. Even if that place is sometimes soaked in urine.