I’d appreciate if you are a parent of a human being, try to have some understanding of where I’m coming from here and not judge me too much on my naivety. This entry is, in actuality, a confession of my ignorance. As an educator I devote my life to learning and benefiting children’s needs. I would never claim to know or lecture anyone on the best way to raise children, but I’ll admit I’ve expressed my opinions and ideas in case I’m ever given the opportunity to use them. In my years of study and experience, I’d grown confident in my ability to prove my capabilities as a parent. Now, I can honestly bow down and kiss the feet of anyone giving their best effort at keeping sanity while claiming the title of “mother”.

My recent self-reflection revelation came when I brought home my first, brand new, baby.  . .puppy. I mentally prepared myself for months before we brought her home, knowing how difficult and stressful raising and training a puppy can be. We purchased our baby girl before she was even born, signing a contract and entering an agreement to care for a pure-bred, miniature Australian Shepherd. You could call it practice for the inevitable day when we enter an adoption agreement for a human baby. I don’t want anyone after me with comments about, “You should have looked for a companion in a shelter or rescue for a dog with dire need of a home.” I’ve seen the super-sad puppy dog commercials with the  Sarah McLaughlin songs, so I get it. Well, we tried that first. In searching the local shelters we concluded we would never be good parents to a chihuahua or pit-bull mix, which is all there is available. The Australian Shepherd breed is high on the intelligence chart and we know that can be both an advantage and a challenge.

In the months since deciding to be puppy parents and then waiting for her to be born, weened, and pass her 8 week check-up, I prepared. I purchased the necessary puppy-proofing equipment and all the accessories. I researched puppy training tools, sought the best deals, and read many books. I did all the planning steps and milestones you might see in an expectant mother, short of Lamaze classes. I realize that I could have appeared . . .well, crazy to anyone who didn’t know me. During this time, we were in the process of buying a house (nesting) and the distractions were exactly what I needed. To anyone who DOES know me, I hope they understood how much I needed this happiness in my life and clung to it religiously.

I was busy planning physically, but I also ran scenarios through my mind to prepare myself for the certain stress I would experience in the first year. Puppies are a handful, anyone can tell you. I’ve often heard my mom say that the first 2 years with our dog, Louie, was worse than having a toddler. The messes, the chewing, the digging, the barking and the never-ending energy! It was a constant training frenzy. I had to have a plan for everything: What I would do if she barks all night, chews furniture, potty training. . .etc. I thought I was ready.

Then, it was time to bring the little precious home. We had been to visit her several times at the breeder’s house. We had an updated picture for every week of her short infancy in an album. We had the car decked out in puppy-tarp and carrying case. We thought of everything. I had even spent the morning cleaning our new (yes, new!) house, because I thought I wouldn’t have enough time once the baby/puppy was home. From day 1, she tested my every expectation. Like being a parent, huh? She slept all day!

From the day we brought her home, I had no way of preparing myself for the sheer frustration and lack of confidence I would feel. The first 2 weeks I spent every free moment cleaning the floors obsessively. It wasn’t that she had that many accidents on the floor, because she was actually  well trained for an 8 week puppy. It was just the all-tile floors, and they just NEVER seemed to stay clean! I was trying every cleaning product known to man, and I couldn’t keep the little specks of dirt or marks from appearing only seconds later. And because I was taking the little pup out every hour, she would track in more with each trip to the backyard. Aaaah! Then, there’s the constant need for attention and teaching and validation. The job never ends, and no activity is sacred. Even now, I have not typed this entry without quick pauses to get her head out of the garbage, taking away her bag of treats that she pulled from her own toy box, seeing where she went hiding and why it just got soooo quiet. . .all of a sudden. There have been days, and moments, where I thought I might completely lose my sanity.

All the mental preparation wasn’t sufficient to allow myself true knowledge of the sheer frustration that raising a puppy could be. The whole experience had me feeling very inadequate. I began to doubt whether I could ever handle being a mother (of a human baby) or if I had been stricken barren by the Lord for a very good reason: I was never meant to raise children. All these years believing that I could actually do this, and better than some others! The nerve I had to even think it. Although my complaints and experiences have been for a meer animal in my care, I do understand that the responsibility of caring for a child is 10 times this. I was shaken, to say the least.

To make matters worse, I have the responsibility of caring for, teaching, and devoting my life to the education of other people’s children. How could a mother of a student ever trust me to give educational advise about their child when I don’t have a clue what it is to actually raise one myself? I can mentally prepare myself and make decisions about how I’d handle being a mother, but I will NEVER, EVER, truly know what it means.

To be fair, she is a very easy-going and mellow little gal compared to other dogs her age and breed. I am grateful for that. Every tear-jerking, hair-pulling experience has been building blocks of moments that can only bring our bond closer and I love her dearly. It has shown me that my efforts and being consistent, however exhausting, are well worth it. Every day is easier, happier, and filled with the joy that only a furry companion can bring to our lives. And so:

* Lucy has taught me that preparation is still important, but the actual experience of being a mother is something no one can predict.

* Lucy has taught me that cleanliness, order, and perfection is solved simply by a change in perspective.

*Lucy has  taught me that devotion and love can be expressed by the willingness to never give up on the teaching moments that matter.

* Lucy has taught me that I am never going to be ready to be a mother, but I that doesn’t mean I’m not qualified.