Friday, September 28, 2012

Big Brother Achilles

Today is Achilles' 9th birthday! Or, to be more precise, it is the 8th anniversary of the day we adopted him from a shelter in Gainesville. He was a year old at the time, sporting a black snout that has long since turned gray, and was even crazier than he is today (hard to believe that's possible, am I right?). Those were the days of chewing through doors, leading us on wild goose-chases around the neighborhood, and barking at every person that was not either Eric or me. He sure was cute, but man, he had some issues. I loved him to pieces, though.

Vintage Achilles, at two years old

Of course, his issues may have lessened over time, but some have been hard to break. These have been well-documented on the blog (see here and here for separation anxiety, or here for smoke detector get the picture). Needless to say, some of these issues, coupled with the fact that he is my "first baby," made me a little uncertain about how Achilles would handle the addition of his new little (human) sister to our family. My gut told me that he would be unsure or maybe even jealous at first, but in time would come around. Still, I couldn't help but be a little worried.

Achilles cuddling with my belly as his days as an only child near their end

As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Achilles is a wonderful big dog brother! I never should have doubted him.

When we first brought Ellie home from the hospital, Achilles was very curious. We had this whole big plan to introduce them: we would keep Ellie in her bassinet while Achilles said hello to me, and then when he settled, we would give him a (very closely supervised) first look at his baby sister. However, this plan was foiled when Achilles said hello to me on the couch and caught sight of Ellie's little arm waving in the air over the top of her bassinet. From then on, he just wanted a good look at this new little furless puppy we had brought home.

Achilles and Ellie on their first day together

Early days of sibling love

He would get really interested when Ellie would cry. For the first few nights, every time she made a peep, he would rush over to peek into her crib to see what the fuss was about.

Why so sad, little baby?

After the first couple of weeks, Achilles' interest turned to indifference. He mostly just steered clear and tried to pretend like she wasn't happening.

Achilles is desperately trying to stay in denial.

He did occasionally try to "reclaim" me. I would try to cuddle with him and show him some love when I could, but unfortunately, I often had to remind him that he had moved down a notch on the family totem pole. Luckily, for the most part, Achilles seemed to understand and was happy with what he could get. And, Eric has really filled in the role of Best Friend To The Dog since I have become a bit preoccupied.

Achilles taking any cuddles he can get from all members of his family

As a side note, I will admit that I have felt pretty terrible that my patience with Achilles often runs thin. It's as if I expected him to step up and do what he could to help make my life easier now that I have a baby - as if he would understand that his role as big dog brother is to help Mama out while she focuses on the new baby, as if he could magically cure himself of any and all previous issues just because I brought a baby into the house. Clearly, this is a stupid expectation and totally unfair to Achilles, because this is a big upheaval for him, too. And, you know, as smart as he is, he's still a dog. I'm trying to mellow out some, and I think we are all getting into a groove now so it's getting better. He has been so good so really, I can't complain. He's good with Ellie and he forgives me easily when I get short with him! What a sweet pup.

And lately, Achilles really has been a wonderful big brother. When we returned from our Florida/Cleveland trips, it was like something clicked and all of a sudden Ellie and Achilles really took notice of each other. Well, Ellie noticed him, at least! Our first day back at home from our travels, she only had eyes for Achilles and smiled and laughed when she saw him.

VIDEO: Ellie cracking up at Achilles!

Achilles took notice of her, too, although not by choice - her newly-grabby hands forced him to acknowledge her!

Yes, we're already working on the term "gentle" with Ellie. We'll get there soon, Achilles, don't worry!

Despite her tendency to pinch and yank, Achilles quickly learned that Ellie isn't all that bad. In fact, she is a whole new person to lick - and, even better, one who cannot yet tell him to stop!

If he thinks this is fun now, just wait until she starts eating real food!

VIDEO: Ellie on the receiving end of some Achilles kisses!

Plus, Ellie gets to go for a lot of walks. Achilles doesn't always get to come, but he definitely walks more now than he did in his only child days. I don't think he hates that.

Out and about with the kids

And, now he has a partner to dress up with for holidays and themed photo shoots. I'm sure he's not too torn up that some of the focus has been taken off him.

We're already thinking about plans for Halloween, so I hope these two are ready...

Achilles is always very patient and gentle with Ellie. She can kick, pull and tug at him with little to no reaction from a normally very reactive pooch. It's very sweet. Achilles is a very attentive big brother, too - always quick to come check on Ellie when she is upset.

Don't cry, sister!

And really, these two seem to just enjoy hanging out together.

Best buds!

It's just so sweet to watch my two "kids" interacting and becoming friends. I know they will only bond more and more as the years pass.

I'm so thankful to have such a sweet pup, one who is so loyal and loving, who has so seamlessly welcomed our new addition into our pack. Despite all the craziness he has put us through over the years, he really is a very good dog and we're lucky to have him.

Happy birthday to my "firstborn," my precious little Achilles!

Birthday boy!


Lauren said...

Happy Birthday Achilles! Can't believe he's 9, I always look forward to his cute little outfits :-)

Jessica Renee said...

Happy Birthday, to your "first baby"!! :) I'm right there with you on the patience wearing thin and expecting so much out of them, I've been the same way with our pets. It's an adjustment for sure but we love them just the same, right? :)