Who out there is an animal lover? *raises hand enthusiastically*
Before having my son and falling madly in love with all things baby, I was living and breathing animals. Particularly, horses, cats, and of course.... dogs.
My husband and I had 2 dogs when our son was born. Our first was Ruby. She was a pit mix we had adopted from the Stillwater animal shelter while we were in college. She was perfect. Calm, sweet, patient, and trustworthy. She was our baby.
Our second dog was Willow. And while very sweet and overall still a great dog, she wasn't as "perfect" as Ruby. She loves everyone! But maybe a little TOO much. I always say that if you give Willow an inch, she'll love you the whole mile. If you pet her even a little bit, she's crawling into your lap. And considering she's a Rottweiler/Airdale mix, that's a lot of dog to have in your face.
I liked to think that having dogs gave me an understanding of how to care for another living thing, and it did! I learned routine. It's important to always keep in your mind where your dog is and if it's needs are met. Now, with a dog it's a lot simpler than with a baby. For one big thing, you can leave a dog home alone (or at least most dogs you can). But you can't make a spare of the moment plan to go on a trip without considering where your dog is and if you need to hire a dog sitter. For some dogs that's really easy. With all our animals (2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses), it isn't. There aren't many people that can meet those needs and that I trust with my home and beloved pets.
Another way that it helped is how important their health is. Dogs are hearty animals. They can live on a diet of dry dog kibble their whole life and see a vet only a few times for checkups and be good. But if something happens, they can't tell you what's wrong. Our sweet Ruby was sick and we had no idea. We went on a trip and left her in the care of our good friends (who treated her wonderfully). They called to say she was a little slower than normal, but still was eating, so we weren't too concerned. The next day they said she wasn't getting up. They took her to our vet immediately there they found a huge mass in her chest and her lungs were filling with fluid. It was already too late. There was no way she would even live long enough for us to come say goodbye.
I promise I'm not telling you this story to make you cry. I am telling you so you know that their lives are precious. And they can't tell you when they are hurt, you just have to read whatever signals they provide. Same goes for babies! When our daughter took a tumble a few days ago, we knew she was banged up and achy, and we had her checked out. At that time it was impossible for the doctor to tell exactly what was wrong. If she was seriously hurt or if she was sore and scared. A few days later we had her checked out again when we realized that she was being careful with one of her legs. Turns out she has a small fracture in her tibia, a very common break in these little bones. She'll be fine and just has to wear a splint for a few weeks, but I am so glad we didn't brush off her fussiness! She needed our help!
Now, there are many ways in which dogs cannot prepare you for a baby. While I thought I was loving and protective of my dogs, those feeling were multiplied by a thousand when I met my babies. If you haven't had children yet I can try to explain the feelings that will come over you, but there's no point. You just have to experience it for yourself.
And while I love my dogs to the moon.....I love my babies to the moon and back. And if my dogs ever thought to hurt my babies, I will kick them to the curb faster than you can say "wasn't that your furbaby?"