There's a baby in our house again, but this one has four feet and lots more hair.
For some reason we thought it would be great to have a second dog, to entertain the kids and to keep our 4-year-old golden retriever company. We sometimes keep friends' dogs at our house when they go on vacation, and on those occasions our dog Izzy plays hard, sleeps well and seems happier.
My husband sealed the deal a few months ago when our daughter was begging for a guinea pig.
"No rodents," Randy said. Then, almost under his breath, "I'd rather just get another dog."
"OK!" Hannah beamed. Within minutes she was browsing PetFinder.com.
I established some strict guidelines: No puppies. No barky breeds. Nothing that's going to dig or jump or shed like crazy or get into too much trouble. Izzy was housebroken and blessedly free of bad habits when we adopted her, so I knew we were pushing our luck. Still, a mom can try.
Then during one of our volunteer stints at the Kansas Humane Society, the kids and I saw a puppy cowering in a corner, and we pretty much adopted her on the spot.
A puppy. A terrier mutt, possibly Jack Russell or fox terrier with some barky, diggy, doe-eyed beagle mixed in. Not yet house-trained. Teething.
So I've spent the past couple of weeks recalling how to parent a toddler. Like most, Abby wanders the house, gets into plants, sleeps on our bed, eats off the floor, ignores directives and gets what she wants by looking adorable.
Fortunately, the kids are old enough to help. They follow the puppy from room to room, snuggle her liberally, take her for walks and escort her outside whenever they think she needs to go, which is about every seven minutes.
Even so, as with previous parenting gigs, the bulk of the responsibility has fallen to me. And I've adopted the same approach I took when the kids were little: Find what works, stick with it, and don't worry about what anyone thinks.
I discovered that the puppy was more likely to do her business in the yard if I walked in little circles in the grass, pretending I was there on business too.
So there I was one recent morning, circling the yard, sniffing toward the ground like a mama beagle, prodding, "C'mon, Abby! Let's find a good place! Here we go!! Find a good spot!"
I looked up to see our neighbor's daughter staring blankly through the fence.
I'm officially nuts. But it's not really different from pacing the floor with a colicky Hannah or camping out with a book and a pocketful of M&M's beside Jack's potty chair. You do what it takes to get through the night, to make the crying stop, to avoid another puddle on the floor.
You beg and plead, you teach, you praise, you throw up your hands when it happens again. Another accident? You sigh, breathe, mumble expletives, laugh at your ridiculous life. You forgive, forget, start over:
"C'mon, Abby! Let's find a good place!! ..."
I think she already has.