Delayed Onset Sibling Rivalry (a.k.a. when your dog wants the toddler O.U.T.)


When we first brought Avery home from the hospital, Riley (our adorably spoiled rotten English Bulldog) was amazing.  We had my parents bring her a hospital blanket every night.  She sniffed them, put them in her mouth and paraded around the house, eventually curling up with the blankets while she slept.  It was adorable.  When we finally came home, she was gentle and sweet.  It was like she instinctively knew how fragile the baby was.  She was even overly cautious around me, almost as if she sensed I had been through the wringer and was needing some rest and recovery.  Our often overwhelming, hyperactive, shin-licking bully was calm, gentle and incredibly sweet.  We were lucky.  We had heard horror stories of families having to give up their beloved family pets when they had children.  Dogs acting out, destroying homes, chewing up toys, peeing on baby blankets, and ultimately banished to garages, backyards, crates, or other solitary confinement.  We knew this was not an option we were willing to consider and were INCREDIBLY grateful that the transition from only ‘child’ to big sister was going so smoothly.

As time went by, Riley went through a fleeting – ‘why the F is this thing still here, and why does it keep waking me up’ phase.  She would saunter over, look me in the eye, and try to sit on my lap while I was nursing Avery.  She followed stalked me around the house, scratched at the door while I rocked Avery in the nursery, and parked her happy rear-end on Avery’s playmats and blankets with a grunt and a glare.  But, in general, they were besties, sweetly paling around the house together.  I think by a year she had even only eaten 3 toys.  And even those three casualties appeared to be her attempt at teaching Avery about acceptance.  She would casually nibble off a leg, arm, tail or ear and leave the rest of the animal intact.  It was her little way to promote diversity – you know, love zebras with three legs, giraffes with no tails are just as cute as the others, and not all dogs have to have two ears.  She is apparently very into accepting physical differences – perhaps it comes from her own insecurities about being an uncharacteristically dainty bulldog.

When Avery started moving around and getting a little sturdier, I would let them play together a little more and it was truly YouTube worthy.  The cuteness was almost nauseating.  They preferred each others’ toys and shared generously.  Avery chewed on deer antlers and Riley nibbled on Sophie the Giraffe. They would chase each other around. There were fits of giggles and bulldog snorts. It was an adorably symbiotic relationship.  Avery would intentionally drop food from his high chair to feed Riley despite our attempts to stop him.  We would say “no throwing food” and Avery would giggle, summon “RiRi”, and toss her down some cheese with a look on his face like ‘sis, I got your back’.  Everything was honkey-dory and then, somewhere around 18 months when Avery got MUCH MORE MOBILE (aka crazy town toddler status) things started to slowly shift.  Perhaps it was the crowd-pleasing, bulldog-tormenting game of chasing “RiRi” around flailing wildly, screaming and grabbing her tail.  Perhaps it was the early morning hello consisting of loudly squealing, grabbing a fistful of her face and pulling, followed by yanking on her legs and petting hitting her as he exclaimed “Avery pet RiRi, geeeeentle”.  I’m not quite sure what the impetus was, but somewhere between sweetly trading toys and Avery chasing Riley around like a rabid raccoon, something changed.  And now I’m pretty sure Riley is a little annoyed.  I know this, not because she has changed the way she interacts with Avery. She knows better.  She knows that anything other than an occasional sassy grunt to let him know play time is OVER is unacceptable.  No.  She has gone directly to the source: Micah and I.  And her giant F.U. has come in the form of her newly acquired ritual of shitting on our kitchen floor.  Yep.  That’s right.  Every day when I put Avery down for his nap, shut the door to his room, read him exactly three stories and then snuggle him up like a bug in a rug, Riley marches into the kitchen (through the locked gate that I can barely open, but apparently she can) and shits right under our kitchen table.  It’s fantastic.

Before you spout off with maybe she can’t hold it, maybe she has something wrong.  I want you to zip it.  We have gone to the vet. We have taken her out IMMEDIATELY before nap time.  We have exhausted any physical explanation.  There is no valid reason for this behavior other than her using bowel movements to say, “here’s what I think of this toddler situation…” Thankfully we have hardwood floors and an industrial grade air filter (remember when I mentioned Micah was a hippie afraid the environment is full of chemicals – score 1 for tin foil hat man), so clean up is a breeze.  Ok, well, as much of a breeze as spending my only sliver of alone time on my knees literally cleaning shit off the floor can be.  So, yeah.  That’s my new nap time routine.  Change diaper, read three books, rock, put kid down, clean shit off floor.  It’s fan-freaking-tastic.  We’ve recently instituted a doggie day out, where we pay more money than anyone should to drop Riley off at a doggy day care so she can get some more play time in.  So far it has seemed to help.  I only had to clean up shit three days last week.  We shall see what this week holds – so far Monday and Tuesday were dog doo free, I’m crossing my fingers for a three-peat.  If you have any suggestions they are very welcome!  And for those of you with little ones and furry ones…I hope you’re adjustment is going smoother than ours.  But if it’s going smooth and it’s early still, beware of the delayed onset sibling rivalry.  It is very real, and very messy.


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