Bay Area Moms Home

A Newborn and a Puppy
with links to dog-training resources

by A.V. Wallace

My husband, Art and I moved to Marin County from San Francisco when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child. We were newlyweds then, barely back from our honeymoon and all beamy about starting our grand new life together. Family pets had been a part of both our childhoods, but as a medical resident it had been hard Art to take care of any animals at home. Residency was finally over and I was caring for my 12 year-old diabetic cat (Art's allergic to cats) and so Art must have felt a degree of impunity in doing what he did the very week I delivered our first son.

I was 9 months pregnant. Through an unnatural gluttony for taramasalata (Greek caviar spread) I had gained over 50 pounds and was wobbling in the 200-lb range. Poor Art, he must have needed some consolation (although I was awfully cuddly.) Pregnancy does strange things to both the body and brain. So one day, when Art called from work to let me know that his officemate had just adopted a local puppy in Larkspur, I , in my hormone-blasted gravity replied "How nice!" Little did I know that Art had interpreted this to mean "Why of course you can have a puppy, dear!"

That very evening we drove into deepest, darkest Larkspur to visit the home of "Dinette", an allegedly reknowned local bitch-about-town who had recently given birth to a large litter of "mastador" pups. What is a "mastador", you might ask? Ah, the Mastador - an ancient and most dignified breed of Spain, traditionally belonging to matadors. Actually it's a mastiff-labrador mix, in this case with a dollop of Rottweiler thrown in for good measure. We were intrigued by the name, impressionable thrill-seekers.

The house was at the end of a long, winding road and perched along a precipice. This required me to hobble my voluptuous corpus up several extremely (or so it seemed) steep and rickety staircases to the top. Once ascended into the Persian-carpet-bedecked redwood loft, we were very cordially greeted by a most groovy bearded representative of Marindom. I barely had time to inquire where he got that fabulous incense when a he emitted a high-piched whistle and 6 black and brindle puppies came zoooming in from outside. My eyes immediately focused on her - how could they not? She was jet black and slower than the rest, scampering towards us almost demurely, her juvenile jowls wiggling unsurely as she skidded to a stop and into a puddle of her own over-excited pee. Sigh. Those baleful eyes, that silky puppy sheen. Art wanted a girl. She came home that night. Art promised to take her to obedience school.

Pregnant broad and pupThose first two days must have been nice. I look happy in the pictures. They're a complete and total blank in my memory, further confirming my later notion that the pregnancy hormones had rendered me near-incompetent for making any serious decisions at the time. Not that I regret getting Jennie. In retrospect, no, not at all.

And so two days after welcoming Jennie into our family, we welcomed our first son, Alfred. Nature can be kind and I honestly don't remember much of Jennie being a nuisance. Art wants me to write that I was in some sort of domestic hell, swimming in both baby and dog poop. I only remember her being the sweet, jowly, demurely dignified creature she is, in miniature. It must be said that Art did take his new Daddy duties very seriously, both to the baby and the puppy. Jennie did attend obedience school every week for a full year and a half and Art took the time to practice with her in the yard.

Would I recommend any newly expectant mother to get a puppy? You may want to ask Samantha Regan, a member of the Spring Marin Moms currently experiencing the "zoo" of both a new puppy and new baby. As I said before, Nature has been kind enough to erase any negative memories I had, much as it mitigates the visceral memories of natural childbirth (Sure it was the greatest pain I've ever experienced! Would I do it again? Sure!) I wouldn't recommend the baby/puppy twinset to anyone whose partner is not truly committed to training the dog.

Jennie and mePart of properly caring for a dog is training it so that it knows what behavior is and is not appropriate. That way, much as a human, the dog can can be positively conditioned, knowing to expect rewards for "good" behavior, and punishment for "bad." Left to their own devices, dogs will be dogs, which means stealing food from tables, jumping up on people, humping legs, sniffing crotches and generally being arbitrarily responsive to any human request. Growing up my father always trained our dogs, and I have seen how untrained dogs behave. If you don't mind a zoo atmosphere at home, fine. If you do, make sure your partner contacts a local obedience school. Links are at the bottom of this article.

Lastly I just want to say that Jennie is a wonderful, darling, special and irreplaceable member of our family. She's seen me through two new babies and has been a lady all the way. I can trust her to be gentle with my family and to growl menacingly at people through the window until I indicate that they are friends. She let the babies "ride" her and swat her ears and never growled at them. Rarely does she steal rogue leftover chicken nuggets from off the table. She is truly our "jowly gem." In closing I would like to share this ditty I wrote for Jennifer Juniper Wallace, to be sung to the tune of "Oh, La Paloma Blanca." Ahem.

Oh, my jowlina negra!
I'm just a dog in the yard.
Oh, my jowlina negra!
You eat everything we discard -
No one ever can take
your filthy dog bone away.

Dog Training Links:

* Marin Humane Society's Behavior & Training Notebook: You can train a dog by yourself, but you need to be committed and consistent. MHS also offers a wide range of classes for dogs of all ages at their offices in Novato. Visit the website or call 883-0116 for details.

* Marin Dog Parks: Listings of dog-friendly parks in Marin, including local DogPark groups, and dog park etiquette. Gives a good idea of what sort of behavior is expected of a civilized dog in public.

* Marin County Dog Training Club: These folks referred us to where Jennie went for a year and a half. 461-6559

A.V. Wallace is the mother of two young boys in San Rafael, a former member of the San Rafael Mother's Club and a current member of the Dixie Home and School Club. She is also wife to Art , mom to Jennie the Mastador, Hoppity the Holland Lop rabbit, and a tankful of platys and tetras. Her homepage is

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