There’s a scene from “Scrubs” where two of the characters, Turk and his partner Carla, are talking about having a baby, but Turk is a little bit more than nervous so Carla tries to ease his fears about life as a father.
“It’s like having a dog that slowly learns how to talk,” Carla says, to which Turk responds, as most dudes would, by saying, “Awesome!”
As the parent of both a 1-month-old daughter named Samantha and a 3-year-old brindle and white pup named James, I found the exchange particularly funny, but perhaps a little misleading.
Through my vast experience — all 32 days of being a parent — puppies are more like a rambunctious toddler after a breakfast of Pixie Sticks and Mountain Dew. They are a bundle of energy in need of constant supervision, so they don’t, you know, chew up a $60 video game disc when you turn away. Not that that happened or anything.
Babies are a little more relaxed. Their movements are limited, but they need more attention and nurturing (along with feeding and changing) — it’s more of a 24-hour vigil of constant care as opposed to the dog that needed a brisk walk and a pre-approved item to chew on before passing out for the night.
With that said, though, having James taught me lessons I’m finding valuable now with Samantha as he was the first creature I took onto myself to be responsible for — my parenting training wheels, if you will, along with my best furry friend.
Here are some things having a dog prepared me for:
As someone who gets his paycheck from writing, most of my day is actually dealing with nonverbal communication, something James got me used to as the only words I think he knows are “walk,” “dog park” and “cheese.”
When he wants a drink, he paws at his bowl. When he wants to go outside, he paws at the door. When he wants a toy, he nudges his nose against his toy chest. It’s amazing how he’s learned to tell me what he wants, and I’m able to respond.
Samantha is not that quite advanced yet, as her communication is basically crying until I figure out exactly what she wants, similar to how it took awhile to figure out James’ needs. Does she need to be changed? Does she want a snack? How about a diaper change? All things I have to figure out on the fly.
I love my children, both dog and human, but there is a patience aspect I’ve had to — and continue to — learn about. For example, when James was a puppy he chewed up my $80 laptop cord. I was mad, but dealt with it and ran to Best Buy to get a new one.
Upon getting home, I plugged in the new cord until a few minutes later when I saw my battery light go on. It took only a moment, but James chewed the new cord, destroying it before I threw away the box. Despite my pleas, Best Buy wouldn’t let me trade it in, so I blew $160 bucks in about an hour because of my little buddy.
Honestly, though, it was hard to be too mad because he was just doing what nature instructed him. Instead of getting mad at him, I learned to be smarter with my stuff and watch him more closely. Thinking about it calmly made me realize it was probably more my fault than his.
I think about that in the middle of Samantha’s crying fits when nothing in the world will subdue her, even if they come at 3 a.m. She’s crying because she needs or wants something and has no other way to communicate. There is no use getting mad or stressed, but instead dealing with the situation and trying to keep a cool head.
It may sound strange, but James helped teach me about love. When you’re growing up, of course you love your family and your friends. As you grow older, perhaps you love another person as I do with my wife, but those are things that come naturally.
When you become a parent, you love your children, but there is also an aspect of responsibility not tied into the other aspects. For the love you give them, both children and pets return it as well (except cats, they are evil, selfish creatures), which makes the whole experience worthwhile.
One of my favorite parts each day is when I come home from work and open the door and James runs down the stairs to meet me, his tail wagging frantically. He lets me know I was missed and I’m sure if Samantha could walk, she would join him too. Some day soon she will be, standing next to James ready to welcome her dad home with a hug.
I can already see it now, and I’m sure it will be — as Turk said — “Awesome!”