Béla, after baby.

You sit no lower on the totem pole. Not one peg.

I have never woken for him — not even once — without finding you, too, in the night, and placing a kiss upon your head, before returning myself to bed.

Recently, during a routine appointment for our baby, the nurse said something about how [our] dogs just drop in importance, following the birth of a human child. My body went stiff, my mouth went dry. I wanted to look at her with the wild, red eyes of my heart and tell her what love was to me. I wanted to explain to her that an obligation to animals weighs no less than that twelve pound baby on the scale. If we’re being honest, I kind of wanted to slap her.

But as life tacks more time onto my back, small amounts of grace keep seeping out of my skin. I looked up at her and simply said, “Actually, it’s been pretty great. We’ve made sure our dog hasn’t suffered much at Oliver’s hand. We do a ton of activities with the both of them. Oliver’s been to the dog park a lot.” And then I smiled; and my smile was genuine.

Béla is the reason my baby exists. She was my first true love. She showed me that love could feel like safety, that love could feel like good.

Many mornings, when the clock is sitting just a little past 5:00 a.m., and Oliver is stirring, and Béla is too, I quietly tell him to wait…while I pat her head, let her out, and prepare her raw food breakfast. I pour it in her bowl, as he begins to cry. Then I step back, and tip my hat to the little brown dog who cracked me open, who made all this possible.

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