Dan has long maintained that I prefer Spotty to him, that I treat my dog better than I treat my son. For instance, the other day he was searching my pantry and refrigerator for something to eat. “Look at this!” he fussed. “You don’t have anything for me to snack on. What, am I supposed to eat Kosher salt, peanut butter and teriyaki rice?”
“Spotty has treats,” I said.
“Of course,” he answered, slamming the refrigerator door closed.
I can’t help it if I love my puppy boy. He’s getting older and he needs me to take care of him. He couldn’t survive on his own, but Dan could. Spotty has that cute take-care-of-me act down pat, what with his honest, trusting eyes and the way he tilts his head when he looks at me and the way he cuddles close to me when it’s bedtime and the way he … OK, you get the idea. I do consider myself Spotty's mama. There’s something in puppies and babies, that floppy helplessness they both possess, that makes people, especially women, intrinsically want to take care of them. I don’t dress Spotty up (he hates that) or anything too extreme, but I admit to thinking of him and treating him as my puppy boy, another baby to take care of. Dan’s too big to cuddle with and too independent. I guess I need something to satisfy my lingering maternal instinct. So perhaps I do favor Spotty over Dan in some ways.
But if Dan were smaller and Spotty ever hurt him, I would know what I would have to do. I would know my real boy would have to take precedence over the puppy boy. If Spotty (or any other dog) ever snatched Dan (or any other child) out of his crib and carried it into the woods, it’s a no-brainer for me: The dog would have to go. The helpless child’s welfare would be my priority. My first obligation would be to make sure the child is kept safe and well. I wouldn’t be able to trust the dog again.
So when the father of little Alexander Smith says he might want the dog that grabbed the child and ran off with it to come home again, I can only shake my head. Will the family ever be able to trust that dog again? Do they think the dog has spent the past few weeks in the shelter thinking, “I shouldn’t have taken the baby and I won’t do it again”? The dog acted on instinct (or perhaps even jealousy), and unless the family is ready to be super-vigilant – never letting the child out of their sight and keeping the dog out of the house or in a kennel – they risk putting their child’s life on the line again. Because the odds are likely that if the dog gets the chance, it will take the child again. And this time, the outcome might not be so positive.
Of course I understand about loving an animal. But it is still an animal. Yes, I would say in this case the baby’s needs far outweigh the dog’s. It is irresponsible to put a helpless child’s life on the line again. Let someone else adopt Dakota. Your first priority is always to take care of your real boy.