See part I of this post here, where we share our pre-baby preparation experience.
Our pups, Jack and CC, run this household. Period. Before we buy anything – pillows, rugs, throws, furniture – we first ask ourselves, will this hold up to Jack and Chunk? (We’ve taken a deep dive into that topic in the past, if you’re interested!) So in preparation of the newest bundle that we’d be bringing home, we worked with Rendy, a highly recommended trainer on child + pet adaptation. In the months leading up to sweet Lucy’s arrival, we committed ourselves to the homework that we were given, everything from long (and more frequent) family walks, creating ‘safe’ zones, blanket boundaries and greeting anyone that comes through our door. By the end of last year, we were feeling mentally prepared, and we noticed a difference in their behavior and overall moods. Lucy’s arrival was only a handful of weeks away, and we began slowly shifting our attention to finalizing the nursery, extra date nights (while it was just the two of us!) and enjoying the holiday season.
Fast forward to mid-January, and we welcomed Lucy into our world! Those first few days of her life while we recovered in the hospital are still some of my very favorite memories. We cradled and cuddled her teeny peanut body nonstop, we squeezed her little hands and we kissed her sleepy eyes. Thinking back to the day we left for home still feels surreal; we came back to a quiet house, and while I showed Lucy her nursery for the first time, Scott left to pick up our dogs from the sitter. Just as we’d been told to do by so many, he brought along her hospital cap so they could get a good sniff, and when Jack and CC came barreling into the house, I held Lucy.
I should preface the rest of our experience by saying that Jack has always been a bit of a special boy. To start, he has anxiety issues, which is why it was so important for us to work with Rendy in the first place. He also has a medical condition that is only stabilized by a low dose of steroids, which in turn creates more anxiety, and to top it all off – not that this is a bad thing – he loves everyone. So much! Too much. Scott always jokes that Jack loves too hard, which simply means that he doesn’t know his own strength. He’s a sweetheart that wants to greet you with his paws, a good sniff and endless hello! barks. When anyone walks through our front door, he’s saying, pay attention to me! His training with Rendy had us seeing phenomenal improvement in his greeting skills, but until we brought home the baby, we couldn’t predict how he might react to such a tiny nugget.
All this to say, that first night in our own home was hard. Really hard. Jack couldn’t understand who this new person was, and because we didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate, the tension levels in the house grew (and grew and grew!) in a matter of minutes. He whined and squealed, and he made high pitched noises that we’d never heard in our lives – and thank goodness, we haven’t heard since. While locking eyes with us, he would tremble and back away. He danced with his paws, and for the longest time, we felt we were at a stalemate. I refused to look Jack in the eye, and we later learned that this was his way of asking us, what should I do, what should I do?!
The night ended with me in tears, a confused Scott, a scared Jack and a sweet baby that slept through the entire experience. Meanwhile, CC had retreated to our bedroom, and I worried that she, too, was feeling overwhelmed. Side note: It’s important for me to say that we never once felt unsafe, but I want to share this honest conversation with you in case our story can prepare or help anyone else in a similar pet + baby situation.
Because it was so late in the evening at this point, we emailed Rendy an SOS. Unfortunately for us, she was out of town and unable to come over for a week. In my postnatal haze, this seemed like an eternity! For every day that went by, Jack’s reaction to the sudden change veeery slowly improved as his new normal began to sink in, but we were far from okay. We made sure to record the strange noises he made, and we took notes on his unusual behavior. Until we could meet with Rendy again, we allowed Jack to retreat when he needed his alone time (keep in mind that
our his home was also full of houseguests), and we never once tried to force a meeting between him and Lucy. In the meantime, we called our vet and asked if they could suggest an anti-anxiety medicine that would be safe for Jack, and hours later, our buddy was popping Trazodone, otherwise known as God’s gift to Jack (and in turn, our family). The Trazodone calmed him down, and for the first time since Lucy’s arrival, we started to see a glimmer of the Jack we’ve always known. Another side note: Jack’s vet also let us know that this prescription will need to build up in his body to work effectively, so together, we’ve come up with a maintenance dosage that works for him.
Fast forward to Rendy’s home visit. We explained all the behavior we’d seen unfolding, and because we purposely skipped a dose of his medicine, she also witnessed a mild amount of it from the comfort of our couch. My biggest concern was Jack’s use of Trazodone, although why, I’m not exactly sure. We prefer to try natural methods first (we tried these composure treats with little improvement), but Rendy assured us that not only was Trazodone perfectly safe, we needed to think of it like this: This vet prescribed pill would allow Jack to be a dog again. If he’s way up here, this is what’s going to help him come back to here. Without his special treat, he can’t think like a dog; he can’t be Jack. Rendy encouraged us to continue our training, and she assured us that we were already doing the right things. She told us to stop being so hard on ourselves – these things take time. We needed that reminder.
Every week since, Jack continues to amaze us. We’re mindful to tell him how well he’s doing, and he responds with a thump of his tail and a nudge against our legs. Today, he can come right up to Lucy, give her a soft lick and walk away. With his back turned, he’ll rest up against her, but he won’t disturb her. If one of us is holding her, he’ll let us know that he’s available to us by just being nearby. We can play with her on the floor, and Jack will lay down as close as possible – without touching. To think of his first reaction to Lucy compared to now is night and day, and even that’s a huge understatement. We’re so (so so so) proud of how far he’s come.
Throughout all of this, we’re continuing to do our best to keep the pups busy. We go on walks. We reward them for good behavior. We tone down the overall household energy if anyone gets visibly concerned. Both Libby (our kitty) and CC have responded to our expanding family with endless cuddles, and CC’s favorite spot in the house is where Lucy is.
We always knew that Chunk would be a great momma, and she continues to prove us right. Since the beginning, if Lucy cries (or coos or grunts), CC will stare at us expectantly until we soothe the baby. And if Lucy is in her crib and we’re in another room, Ceese will track us down until we follow her to the nursery. It’s adorable to see the relief wash over CC’s face once she feels that the baby has been taken care of!
Jack’s new favorite activity is the same as ours – bath time! Every day, we look forward to Lucy’s bath. Her joy for bath time is contagious, and the cuteness is overwhelming, but what’s better yet is watching Jack watch her. If it’s 7PM, you know where to find our family:
Thank you to everyone who has been asking us about Jack and CC! We hope that this update fills you in on their lives lately. If you have any other questions, please ask away! We want to have an open and friendly conversation, especially as we’ve learned so much in these first two months of Lucy’s life. And if you have tips and tricks that have kept the peace in your family, we’re all ears.
For our home’s sources, most items can be found on the Shop Our House page!