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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baby + Pets

Before we had Mira, I worried about how the pets would interact with her. We have 2 dogs (Anna and Kronk), 2 cats (Mimic and Poofball), and a tank full of fish. (For the record, I wasn't worried about how the fish would get along with Mira. Just the mammals.) We got sort of lucky because once Mira came home, both of the cats and Kronk all pretty much just kept their distance. Anna, on the other hand... Anyone who's met Anna knows: she LOVES everything. In a "OMG I love you so much I can't even control my body spasms" kind of way. And she's 8 years old. You'd think she'd have gotten over the LOVE by now, but no.

By a small miracle, we had taught Anna to respond very reliably to two very important commands: Go and Outside. Go means get away from me now and Outside means specifically go outside. (They have a dog door to the backyard so they can let themselves out.) As we began laying Mira on the floor within spasm distance of Anna, I started by always laying Mira on a blanket and I made Anna respect the blanket as a boundary. If she set one foot on the blanket, I would immediately correct her with Go. If she got too pushy, I would respond with Outside. So over the months, Anna has learned that the baby's personal space is to be respected. We don't even need the physical boundary created by the blanket anymore.

Remarkably, Anna has become the one animal that I trust most around Mira. With the cats, Mira likes to pull their hair. I've tried telling her to be gentle, but you just try and get a 7mo to do anything you say and then you'll see how well that is working out. Never the less, I keep trying to teach her how to pet the cats with an open hand. It'll come eventually, if she doesn't torment them so much in the mean time that they just run in terror at the sight of her. Kronk is actually the one that I see as the loose cannon. He has been known to get defensive over food and treats and he has bad knees so the pain of that makes him tender in places that a baby could easily reach. So far he has kept a good distance from Mira, jumping up and moving away if she even comes within 3 feet of him. He does this of his own volition and not because we tell him to. But that in itself kind of makes me worried. Like if he's scared of her then he might react strongly to her if she pushes his buttons. Anyway, I just keep a close eye on him when he's in the room with Mira on the floor.

So since Anna is the one that I'm most trusting of, we have occasionally invited Anna into Mira's personal space and Anna has always responded very well, sniffing gently at Mira's head, sitting next to her without disturbing her, allowing Mira to lean on her and holding somewhat still for it. It's quite sweet.

Anna's a pit bull/lab mix, and she has that pit bull head. So to look at her, she looks a little intimidating and could even be scary if it weren't for all that love spazzing that she does. But having Anna so close to Mira reminds me of when my little sister was a baby and she used to play with my pure-bred lab by putting her hands into the dog's mouth and as my sister was learning to walk she used to lean on my lab's back for support and the dog would stand SO STILL until my sister was done using her for balance. So it's clear that, while Anna may have the look of a pit bull, she has the temperament of a lab. Like a sheep in wolf's clothing.

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