baby

From fur babies to the actual thing, Dr Lisa Chimes talks us through the transition.

Nelson is my first-born child. He has golden hair, long legs, big eyes and is as loyal as they come. Nelson would come with me everywhere – to university, hairdressers, nail salons, cafes, road trips, flights – he naturally became very well socialised.

Lucas entered the mix about four years later –of short stature, brown hair, endearing eyes and rather highly strung. He is my needy child.

The park and beach were definitely two of our favourite family outings – they were always exhausted afterwards but luckily were great sleepers. Thank goodness for that, because we all sleep together and our weekend 10am sleep-ins were very important. Motherhood was so easy back then – life seemed so simple. But these kids had 4 legs

I then thought, “I’m so good at looking after two dogs, surely a human can’t be that hard…” Ha!

The difficulty started before our first human was even conceived. My partner and I had to go through a couple of rounds of IVF, which is really not that much in the scheme of things, but was still a challenge. The dogs were by my side through it all. I remember Nelson resting his head on my tummy every time I jabbed myself with hormones. 

Luckily, I had a very easy pregnancy and felt quite good through most of it (aside from some pretty awful migraines initially). I made sure that I gradually exposed the dogs to sounds of babies crying on YouTube, as well as ensuring they spent some time around our friend’s babies and small children. The boys definitely sensed something was up! They followed me around more than usual and loved to use my big belly as a pillow.

Dr Lisa Chimes pets
(Half of) a family portrait. Vet Dr Lisa Chimes with fur babies Nelson and Lucas. Image supplied.
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We chose the baby’s name months before my due date. I felt totally organised, focused and ready for the challenge. That was until the day before my scheduled caesarean. I had been feeling growingly anxious throughout the pregnancy about how I could possibly love a human as much as I love my dogs. I wanted to take them both for a special outing so that we could enjoy our last moments together before a tiny human joined the family.

The dogs were happily frolicking in the park and Lucas spotted a large black dog bounding towards him. He has anxiety around dogs that are larger than him, so instead of retreating, Lucas decided to show the big dog who’s boss. But it wasn’t Lucas! Luckily my mum was with me, she picked Lucas up and the large dog was having a tug-of-war with Lucas’ rear in his mouth. 

Even though I am an emergency veterinarian, when you are 39 weeks pregnant, having your first caesarean the next day and your dog is being attacked, no amount of professional training could have calmed me down!

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The owner of the other dog came running over, calling ‘Hudson, Hudson!’. That happened to be the name we had chosen for our unborn child. We had carefully chosen the name, which wasn’t a common one back then. I even made sure I had no animal patients with the same name. How could my dog be attacked by a random dog with the same name as my unborn child the day before he was to be born! I was a nervous wreck. 

I rushed Lucas to work and tended to his wounds. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I remember being wheeled into theatre telling my husband that I want to reschedule the caesarean until Lucas’ wounds had healed. How could we call our baby Hudson after that incident- was it a bad sign? Nothing felt right. I felt unprepared and unexcited. 

That was all until our human was born. I was completely in love and I even remember shouting out in the operating room, “I love him as much as the dogs!”. The hospital staff probably thought I was mad, but my husband knew that those were BIG words coming from me. 

We ended up calling him Hudson, and Lucas healed up well (thank goodness!). While I was still in hospital, I sent home items of Hudson’s clothing each day to familiarise the dogs with his smell. 

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When we arrived home with the baby, I made sure the dogs were on a walk. I wanted to be settled and have everything in place before they got home, so that I could give them the undivided attention and the greeting they were used to. 

Hudson had been fed and was sleeping in his room when the dogs came home. They were so happy to see me that they didn’t even notice there was another member in our family. When Hudson woke up, I held him on the couch and the dogs jumped up next to me. Their little noses were captivated by the baby smell. They were fascinated, before they curled up next to me while I fed him. 

I was so worried that the dogs would get less attention, but in some ways, they actually got more! It was a happy change for them to have me around 24-7 instead of working full-time. After all, one of the things a dog truly wants in life is company. They were there for bath-time, they sat with me for night-time feeds and especially loved my naps during the day.

I tried my best to include them, and made a consistent effort to walk them every day. Initially I found it much easier to put Hudson in the carrier on my chest while I walked two dogs - it was much less cumbersome than the pram. It did take a bit of getting used to for the dogs to learn where to walk next to a bulky pram.

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I often felt guilty that the dogs weren’t getting out as much as normal. Hudson had reflux, he wasn't a great sleeper and was definitely my high-maintenance child. But the dogs didn't mind - they really seemed happy.

They loved Hudson. When he lay on the play mat, Lucas would often drop a ball next to him thinking that an 8-week-old baby would throw it to him. When Hudson started solid food, the dogs loved the fact that he was a shocking eater and half the meal ended up on the floor. I made sure never to cook with anything that is toxic to dogs and this ensured that my floor was always spotless!

Things got a little hairy when Hudson started crawling. Lucas became a bit apprehensive of a small human creature crawling around at his level. I ensured that Lucas always had an escape path if he felt threatened, as a common cause of children being bitten by dogs is that the dog does not have a way out of a ‘stressful’ situation.

I rewarded Lucas when he was calm around Hudson to reinforce that having his human friend around was actually something positive. Once Hudson was walking, Lucas definitely became less fretful. Hudson loved to throw balls and toys to the dogs, which was a favourite activity for all of them.

Just over two years later, we had our baby girl, Darcie. She was a much easier transition for the dogs (a harder transition for us!).

At ages 2 and 4, the kids are both involved in the daily care of the dogs - they love helping with feeding and training, which is a way of teaching the dogs to respect the children. I never leave the kids and dogs together unsupervised, but the children are finally learning to respect their dog-brothers’ personal space. Thank goodness we are past the stage of them trying to pull their fur!

There is never a dull moment in this household - it is complete chaos. But there is so much love. I don’t think the dogs wouldn't want it any other way!

You can find more of Dr Lisa Chimes (and Lucas, Nelson, Hudson and Darcie) on her Instagram and Twitter.

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