How My FurKid Taught Me to Be a Great Parent

Editor’s Note: Ashley’s daughter (Ellis) was born this morning at 6:10 a.m. weighing in at 7lbs 4oz and 21in long. Everybody is happy and healthy, and we couldn’t be happier for her and husband Jeffrey Barker. Can’t wait to meet our newest addition to GOTG!

By Ashley Robinson

Ashley and Barker's first child - Miss Dharma
Ashley and Barker’s first child – Miss Dharma

I’m about a week away from my scheduled due date and while I wallow in discomfort and misery waiting that important day, I am comforted by the presence and warmth of my sweet dog, Dharma at my side.

Dharma, who weighs about only 35 pounds but somehow manages to take up more than half the bed space as I write this, is not only my guard dog and my entertainment, she is the creature that showed me what it is to be a parent.

I used to worry that perhaps I wasn’t nurturing enough to be a parent. I’m not completely unselfish and am prone to losing my temper. I was always worried that perhaps I would be like that as a parent, that I would couldn’t stand up to the job.

And while most parents of human children would say raising a child is not the same as raising a dog, I would argue that without Dharma, I wouldn’t feel as prepared as I do now.

I know what it’s like to wake up every two hours to the sound of crying. When Dharma was new to our family and as young as eight weeks old, her pitiful little cries to be released from her crate would wake me up. I would take her outside; “Go potty, Dharma, go potty,” I would chant while she slowly sniffed around the backyard in the dark. Most likely she did not have to go potty; she wanted to play and would bring over a stick that was three times longer than her body.

In this, she also taught me patience.

I know what it’s like to have a sick or injured child and feel worse than they possibly could. Dharma hates, HATES going to the vet. The smells freak her out and she shakes and cries and tucks her tail under and crawls under my legs. I know she’s being overly dramatic, but I can’t but be heartbroken to see my normally happy, exuberant pup look so miserable. If I could trade places with her, I would.

Dharma also taught me how to prioritize. She taught me time-management. She taught me to enjoy simple things. She taught me that chasing sea gulls on the beach is the best thing on the planet. She taught me that play time is the best time.

She showed me what parental and filial love is. Whether she’s jumping up and down when I get home after a long day and covering me with kisses, or resting her head on my leg while I sleep through a cold, Dharma showed me that hearts can expand. She showed me her nurturing side so I could strengthen mine.

I get very upset when people tell me that when their first child came, the dog was forgotten. To me, that would be like pushing your oldest child out the door and ignoring them. At least with a human child, they make tantrums and get loud. With a dog, they will sit and wait for you to open the door, unconditional love being the cross they bear.

And although I know everything will change when the baby comes, I am comforted by the fact that when I do have to wake up in the middle of the night, I will have a dog who will keep me company. When I will get worried about the baby, Dharma will be there by my side, protecting her pack.

Most importantly, I know I will be a better parent because of Dharma.

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