Dog vs Sprog: A Maltese Parent's Perspective
We come to it at last... The great battle of our time
So I’ve recently become a proper grown-up, and one of the perks of being an adult is that you get to do whatever you want. Eat a whole tub of ice-cream? Just try to stop me; I scoff in the face of Type 2 Diabetes! Watch Pawn Stars and Storage Wars on the History Channel for 48 hours straight? Screw you, intellectuals, I’ll let my brain turn to pink quivering mush if I want to!
But alongside these (admittedly important) achievements, with adulthood comes the desire, and the possibility, of fulfilling certain childhood dreams. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog. And for most of my life, I’ve assumed that my genes were far too pleasant to terminate their progression at this generation. So I’d eventually have a child.
Now I have both. And as they grow up and engulf more and more of my waking hours, I’ve come to realise that both of these creatures bring an enormous amount of baggage into my life and heart. Funnily enough, a lot of this baggage is similar, although some is unique. I’d like to analyse the similarities and differences between the effects that they have had on me, in a little study I call Sprog vs Dog.
1. Love at first sight?
Definitely. When I saw him the first time, I was instantly enthralled. I knew that I would protect and cuddle this being and do my utmost to make his life the best it could be. I’m talking about my dog. As I watched him poop on his original human’s television cables, I felt a rush of emotion that, to be honest, I knew would be there, since I’d been waiting for this moment for many many years.
When my daughter was born, things were different. Her first hours were a confused blur, which finally culminated in me getting myself a New York Best pizza and hoping to chill (which didn’t happen). The love grew gradually, but it wasn’t until a few months later, whilst I was playing Xemx to her on my guitar and she gave me a beautiful smile, that I realized that I was completely besotted with the pink fat larva propped up on my cushions.
2. Shit happens.
As I’ve mentioned, the first time I met Dog, he was taking a dump. This particular hobby of his continues to this very day, and I can always tell when he needs to poop (sniff, crouch, squat, bingo). Strangely enough, I find similarities in my daughter’s habits. At eleven months, she goes red in the face, makes a sound like a spoon in a blender and turns the air into a miasma of aggressive pungency.
In fact, Dog’s habits made Sprog’s arrival and my subsequent constant faecal servitude seem like a walk in the park. When you’ve scooped up a warm damp turd in a pink plastic bag which you’ve knotted using 3 fingers of one hand, as your other hand stops 25 kilos of muscle, fur and teeth from consuming a passing toddler, changing a nappy is a pushover. So overall, full marks to Dog for preparing me for the shit-scooping chores ahead.
3. I can’t get no sleep.
Most new parents can be identified by their propensity to look like moderately decayed corpses which have been zapped temporarily, just enough to get them through whatever task they’re plodding through at the time. I (with the invaluable help of the better half) found the nights to be relatively ok when The Pink One came along. And yes, it was partly because of our previous experience with The Brown One.
Puppies don’t come with continence, and they look bloody ridiculous with nappies. So the first few nights at home were spent waking at 3am, taking the canine out into the yard and making happy sounds when he drained his bladder. Babies are simpler. She’d wake, yell, have a source of nutrition pushed into her mouth, and she’d sleep again. Whether she drained her bladder or not was slightly inconsequential, since that was dealt with by the kind folk over at Pampers.
Both pups settled relatively quickly, and nights are now a time for that glorious sensual pastime that I find myself craving more and more as time goes by. Sleep.
4. Make some noise!
In the aural battle between Canis lupus familiaris and Homo sapiens sapiens, I must say that both have their strong points. With the hound, sounds are few. But when they present themselves, they make a grand entrance. Someone trespassing in our general neighbourhood at 3 in the morning is a good enough excuse to awaken Cthulhu. Or at least that’s what it sounds like. Neighbours don’t like this, and have left notes on doors explaining this to us.
The child has different communicative qualities. Basically she never shuts up. Babbling is something that happens at all times of day, but it is thankfully of a pleasantly moderate volume. On the rare occasions that she’s decided to sound her grievances at the top of her voice in the middle of the night, she may have equalled Dog in volume and definitely trumped him in persistence. But the beauty of babies is this: nobody complains. Your dog howls at night, neighbours’ suggestion: get rid of him. Your child shakes the foundations of the Earth in the small hours of the morning, what are you going to do? Zilch.
I got a dog. I’m quite obsessed with him, so I called my veterinary friend who came over to check that he was okay. He was. He then stuck a needle under his skin and injected a chip that made him forever mine. A few days later I received a paper in the post, and the pooch was legal.
When the heir to my kingdom squirmed her way into the world, things were a bit more complex. We had to sign some papers somewhere in Valletta and take her to clinics and stuff to show the world that we knew how to grow a human. Also, a couple of times, people came to our house to check that everything was going well. To be honest, I wish that people had come over when we got the dog as well. Overall, breaking the babe in into our routine seemed easier than inserting the beast into our lives.
We, as humans, tend to favour our own species when it comes to acceptance. I’ve been to cafes with Baby, blocked the main passageway with her buggy, changed a smelly nappy in full view of diners as she tried to lift the ceiling with her cries. People smile and offer support. One time, Dog barked at a cat as I waited outside Sofra for a kebab to be prepared for me. I got told off sharply by a woman for not keeping my dog quiet.
Dogs don’t get many breaks from the public. However, as I waited outside Insinua, with both baby and dog in tow (and with both of them being, in my humble opinion, pretty fine specimens of their respective species) while my wife registered our daughter, I was spoken to by a number of young attractive ladies. They all, without exception, wanted to cuddle, take pictures of, and generally fuss over…the dog. The offspring was completely ignored. Moral of the story: chicks dig dogs.
Everyone wants to babysit. Precious few want to doggysit. The sad reality is, dogs are so much easier to care for. Upon entering the home of the one aunt I have who accepts (and loves) my doggy, he will make a beeline for the carpet and fall asleep.
The child must be fed, washed, changed, put to sleep, checked to ensure continuing survival etc. Yet, kunjata accepts overnight baby stays, but not dog stays.
So we’ve now got to the point where the smooth one and the furry one are both firmly entrenched in every aspect of our lives. And, as is always the case, things don’t always go in a textbook fashion.
My dog has an Instagram account, whereas my daughter doesn’t even have a second name. My daughter isn’t a fan of hugs, whereas my dog will cover my face in slobbery kisses at any time. Both of them hate to be locked in the kennel (I’m joking! Stand down, social services!).
Whenever I see the look of joy that crosses my daughter’s face when her fluffy brother from another mother licks her face, I realise that there isn’t anything I’d change about our situation. I am grateful to be the recipient and the giver of two such different, yet such immensely satisfying, types of love.