I Loved Fur First: Lessons in Parenting Learned from My Dogs

family picture of husband and wife with two dogsWhen our first foster placement entered our home, we had zero—zilch, nada—parenting experience. Sure, we took the courses, earned our certificates, and I chewed up every blog and podcast I could get my hands on that remotely related to foster care and adoption. But then, calls are made, paperwork is signed, inspectors leave, and all that’s left is us sizing each other up, wondering what the other is thinking.

We had our moments—good and bad—and I’ll acknowledge that while kiddos were in our home they hit major milestones and made incredible strides, but we definitely slammed into some rocks, too. As I hid in the far corner of our master closet and cried exhausted tears or went over the events of the day trying to figure out how to do things differently {or let’s face it, just get through}, a small brindle-colored bundle would always find me. Curling into my lap and licking at salty tears, she’d remind me that we had a base family in place…and she and I could pack a bag and run away. Not really. {Well, maybe. She never really dug in the yard until the kids came.}

dog rests head on owner's hand

The four of us were a family before the kids came and we would be after they left. And even if all four of my children have walked on all fours and occasionally eat trash, they taught me an awful lot about being a parent—I loved fur first.

Lessons in Love & Fur

  1. Have a Variety of Snacks
    I wish I had a record of the small fortune we’ve spent on treats, chews, and bones, but I’m guessing it could fund a small start-up company. Maybe one that produces non-GMO, organic blueberry, infused with lilac dog treats—because my husband thinks our dogs are budding foodies and don’t eat rocks.dog surrounded by treats and toys
  2. Watch Where You Step
    If you are a dog owner and you have never cursed in a made-up language because you nearly killed yourself on a stray tennis ball or stepped on a half-eaten rawhide in the middle of the night… Well, you should write a survival guide.
  1. You’ll Never Pee Alone
    I’m not sure if it’s because I go with them when they go to the bathroom and they view it as a mutual support type of situation, but if I go—they come, too. And heaven forbid my husband has the audacity to lock them out. They will whine outside the door asking for him to assure them for the entirety of his ill attempt at solace.
    two dogs sit outside bathroom door
  1. Your House Will Never Be Clean
    Like ever. Never again. It doesn’t matter if I just spent half a Saturday moving furniture, using all of my best cleaning products, and crawling on my knees scrubbing baseboards. Before night comes, you’ll turn and a small pinch of fur will come tumbling out of nowhere just to taunt you. And even if you zap him up with a dust buster, you know he has friends.
  1. Personal Space Doesn’t Exist
    Whether it’s a knee to the kidney {it’s why God gave us two} or having exactly one square foot of space in your king-size bed, kids and dogs are the same when it comes to personal space. Our pups only give us so much “work time” before they’re ready for some attention. And when you get one with some vocal demands…well then.
    dog sleeps next to owner on bed
  1. Your Food is Not Your Own
    Just gave them a gourmet duck foot? Doesn’t matter. Whatever you have is 10x better and they will invariably stare at you like you are the worst parent on planet Earth until you either give them a taste or let them try it. {Apparently, they don’t care if they are deathly allergic to garlic. Also similar to telling a 6-year-old that she won’t in fact enjoy chewing on a raw onion or frozen French fry.} When a dog ninjas you and tries to actually take the ice cream from the spoon going into your mouth, maybe you’re ready for that 3-year-old straight up snatching your $10 truffle. {But, maybe not.}
  1. Love Comes with Loss
    My first furlove came into my life brown-eyed and fluffy as anything I’d ever seen. My mother warned me, “You shouldn’t do this, you aren’t ready.” But we were soulmates she and I. She was my first baby and I hung the moon. And before I was ready, she was gone. And so goes the life of a foster parent. You lease out your heart for a little while and love as hard as you can—but goodbye is often inevitable.two dogs pose in holiday clothes
  1. Give Me All the Snuggles
    When they are ready for snuggles—they’re ready—and there’s no wait time. Our Sadie Sundae has gone as far as punching buttons or closing my laptop {mild prep for an angry toddler that would one day kick my laptop to the ground}. Be it a furry head or a chubby toddler hand, I’ll take it all day—don’t fight the snuggle struggle. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.woman smiling cuddling her dog

 

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Kirsten C. was born and raised in Texas Hill Country. After becoming a hopelessly devoted Bobcat and earning a degree in Mass Communications-Public Relations at Texas State University, she was wooed by the never-ending culinary options and vibrant street art of Houston and became a transplant. By day she is a marketing enthusiast for a downtown engineering firm, and by night, an over-the-top {and unashamed} dog mom. She and her husband William are licensed foster parents—advocating for children and families—who hope to one day grow their family through adoption. You can follow their unruly journey on their blog, Cornell Chaos. When she’s not trying a new restaurant, playing behind the lens of a Cannon, piddling in the yard, or scouring markets for hidden gems, Kirsten is often found teaching student ministry through Kingsland Baptist Church or escaping at a local coffee spot.

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