Many Dunbar families have dogs, which means most of those have had the Puppy Experience. Our now four month old puppy reminds me daily of how remarkably similar the experience of having a puppy is to the Toddler Experience. Sorry kids.
Both toddlers and puppies involve a general disruption of routine and constantly require surveillance and intervention. When puppy finally exhausts herself and konks out on the floor, we scurry about, having showers or putting things away while puppy sleeps. Try bringing in groceries or sweeping the floor or emptying the dishwasher with a puppy or a toddler ‘helping you.’ The ordinary can become a personal challenge: the other day I got crazy and decided to sneak the door mats back to their usual positions at the front and back doors. After 24 hours of their remaining in place I thought I had clinched a victory, until I entered the room to see our puppy whipping the mat in circles above her head like a cowboy swinging a lasso. The mats were collected once again.
Both puppies and toddlers regularly walk off with car keys and mail and shoes if not secured away. All possessions are at risk. A toddler in our family once hid a turned off pager inside a bread-maker, an extremely clever move given the frequency of that appliance’s use. Our counters and tables are strewn with a bizarre collection of random items retrieved from the puppy. Last month I was driving off almost late for a meeting when, with a sinking feeling, I noticed in my rear view mirror a Fed Ex truck pulling up to our house. Imagining perfectly the Christmas on-line shopping delivery scenario, I looped around and returned home again to find our puppy in the front hall, pleased to have her very own hand-delivered personal chew toy package in her mouth. Rescuing the home delivered “toy” and replacing it with an approved dog toy, pretty much identical to a baby toy, all ensured that I was definitely late for my meeting.
Toddlers and puppies both cause an inordinate amount of energy and conversation to be focussed on bodily functions. Those not involved in this world are surprisingly less enthusiastic about tales of successful potty use or, in the case of dogs, back yard visits. For proud participants in this endeavour, detailed reports provided at work or at dinner parties never quite bring about the thrilled response we are looking for.
Both puppies and toddlers provide constant reminders of the wonders of the world around us. We are amazed by a toddler crouched in that full-squat position young children rest in, staring intently at a beetle on the ground, tapping it gently with a tiny index finger. On a recent walk our puppy caught sight of someone vaping at a bus stop. She pulled over, sat directly in front of him and stared at the vision before her, glancing at me a few times to check whether this situation was alarming or not.
Nobody can deny that both are beyond adorable when asleep. How many times a parent finally has a toddler asleep on their chest, and, rather than carrying the child to bed, lingers there with the delicious weight and warmth of this small person upon them. Or having a puppy literally curled up upon one’s feet and not getting up, though needing to, for the sheer delight of the moment. We linger because the moment is beautiful and because we know all too well that the whirling dervish will soon return.