hen I walk around Rome with my dog Bella and Baby, the most popular question I get (next to maschio o femina?) is “è gelosa, vero?” (“She’s jealous of the baby, right?”) And my answer is never “Yes” or “No.” It’s a much longer story, worthy of a cappuccino.
Before bringing home baby, I practiced everything I wrote about in a previous article to prepare Bella for Baby Makes Four. I swaddled Bella in baby blankets; I introduced her to babies of varying ages. I played baby sounds and gave her squeaky toys.
By the time, I walked through our front door, Bella was so used baby things that she gave Baby X a routine sniff. In common with most new baby routines, ours was to eat and sleep in three-hour cycles. When I would breastfeed, Bella tried to push in between us, and when we would nap, Bella would sleep on my shoulder. Bella seemed to like the baby’s company.
When Baby X was 10 days old and my husband and I were staring at her in our bed, Bella came leaping out of nowhere in the most fabulous arc. Just as she was directly above Baby X, she bared her teeth and hissed. The Professor (my husband) pushed her away and banished Bella from the bed forever.
From that day forward, Bella was extraordinarily jealous. Whenever I woke up, walked around, came home or basically made my presence known, Bella would try, by any means necessary, to get as close to me as possible and kiss me, regardless of what was in the way.
When I had the baby in my arms, Bella would hide under the bed to sulk. On some occasions, she would growl at X. The moment after I put the baby down or gave her to someone else, Bella would jump on my lap, obviously fantasizing about Life Before Baby.
It wasn’t until Baby X was five months old that Bella began to accept X as a possible ally and cohort. Five months is usually when Italian babies begin nibbling on bread and Parmesan. But Baby X was a sloppy glutton who dropped many large crumbs or else dangled her full hand out for Bella to unexpectedly snatch the food.
The first time this happened, X was surprised, the second time she was amused and thus began the quasi-friendship between the two via the game Dropsy. At 7 1/2 months old, X began to crawl and Dropsy evolved into a reverse Fetch where Bella would place a baby toy near X, who would try to grab it only for Bella to take it and run away. X crawled so fast that her knees developed permanent calluses.
At 10 months, Baby X began to walk and Fetch became Pull and Chase, a real dog sport. I would place a toy in the middle of the room for Bella and X to grab. Each pulled an end until Bella won, and X chased her.
Now, at 11 months, my baby is fearless. She has learned to run and eagerly shows her face to Bella after every meal for the clean-up kiss. Each morning, I find Bella asleep on the floor in front of X’s crib. Has Bella gotten over her jealousy?
Of course not, but unlike the adage, my old dog has learned some new tricks.