The Puppy, The ER, and The Mom Guilt

At the beginning of summer, my husband showed me a picture of an adorable puppy.  He said it’s the kind of dog he’s always wanted.  He found out the pup was still available, and for some reason, I agreed to go look at it.  BTW, going to “look” at a puppy probably means you’re getting a puppy.thePuppytheER

I wasn’t too concerned about how the boys would adjust to the new dog.  I was more worried about how Yoda, our 10-year-old pug, would feel about the situation. He was pretty bent out of shape and ignored us for awhile when we brought home our first baby. He is such a good dog. I didn’t want to upset him.

We took the boys shopping for new dog toys and treats and let our 4-year-old pick the puppy’s name. He decided on Rubble (like the dog from Paw Patrol.)

I was expecting a crazy summer with a puppy.  It was kind of like adding another toddler to the household. Rubble helped himself to some vegetables from our container garden and chewed up a few of the kids’ sandbox toys.  OH! And he chewed up the screen on the porch door…but for the most part, he’s been pretty good (for a puppy.) The kids love him, and Yoda doesn’t seem to mind his new friend.

Then one day, I was pushing the boys on their swings while the dogs were in the yard nearby chewing on bones.  My 4-year-old said, “Rubble move out of the way.”  I said, “He’s fine.  He’s far enough away. You aren’t going to kick him.”

My son didn’t listen.  He jumped off the swing and shoved Rubble.  And the next second he was screaming and crying.  His lower lip was bleeding.

I was standing right there pushing my youngest in the bucket swing.  I saw the shove.  I saw the puppy’s body pop up off the ground.  The puppy must have nipped him.  It all happened so fast.

I ran to the house for a wet paper towel. With shaky hands, I applied pressure to my son’s bleeding lip.

Then I called my husband, who was off work and out golfing. (Thank goodness he answered the phone.) The conversation went something like this:


Iowa City.  


My husband remained calm.  I obviously was NOT.  He said he’d meet us at the ER.  He was only 25 minutes from home.  (If he’d been working that day, he could have been 2 hours away.)

I got my injured boy buckled in the car with a wet paper towel to hold on his lip.  I ran back to the yard to get the little one (who was still buckled in the bucket swing.) Then I ran back again to put the dogs in the house and get my phone and diaper bag.

When your child is hurt, the drive to the ER seems like an eternity. (We only had to go 5.8 miles.) Thankfully, once we were in the car he stopped crying, and the pressure stopped the bleeding. I talked to him all the way to the ER about how a doctor was going to help his lip get better and how sorry I was that this happened.

When I got near the ER, there were signs that made it very clear where I needed to turn and park.  (Have I mention yet that I was an ER rookie?)  This was the very first time I was taking a child to the ER, which added to my stress in the situation.

My husband arrived just as it was our turn to be seen.  The ER doctor checked him out and said, “Well, he needs a few stitches.”  His lip was split.  It was not punctured.  And a chuck was not missing, like I first thought.  The doctor explained that there were two ways to do the stitches.  Either our son would have to hold extremely still…or he would need sedation.  It usually takes a couple assistants at the dentist, so I knew he’d need the sedation in this situation.

Meanwhile, I also had a barefoot toddler who was fussy and hungry and didn’t want to be held. There was no way he could wait at the ER for a couple hours.  My husband offered to stay at the ER, while I went home with the little one.

It broke my heart to leave my injured child at the ER.  He was with his daddy, so I had to trust and pray that he would be just fine.  But I was a mess.  I cried in the car on the way home.  I called my parents’ number and cried to my dad.  I sent messages to my in-laws.  I was a nervous wreck waiting at home.

A couple hours later, plus a quick stop at Toys”R”Us, they were home.  I expected he’d be tired and fall asleep that afternoon. Nope. He played with the new toy for the rest of the day. He was just fine, with a few stitches.

That day brought a whole bunch of thoughts and mom guilt over me.  Things like…

  • I should have been more concerned about how the puppy and the kids would interact.
  • I should have taught him that it is never OK to push or shove the dogs.
  • I should have taken the puppy to training classes.
  • Maybe I should not have agreed to get a puppy.
  • I’m a terrible mom for leaving the ER.
  • What if I had not gotten a hold of my husband?
  • What would I have done if I’d been alone at the ER for hours with both kids?
  • If only he would have listened to me when I said the dog was far enough away.
  • What if my child is terrified of dogs after this?
  • What if his injury had been worse?
  • I was right there and I wasn’t able to protect my child.

The worries and guilt drained me. That night I was physically exhausted. I beat myself up with “what-ifs.” Once both boys were asleep for the night, I climbed straight into bed, but I didn’t sleep. My mind replayed the day over and over.

The stitches were removed after a week. Thankfully, my son healed well and only a tiny scar remains by his lip.  And he has shown no signs of being afraid of dogs.  We were extremely lucky that our little boy had a fairly minor injury.


After all this, I insisted we do puppy training classes.  The boys also need to learn how to behave around dogs.  I regret not spending more time teaching them before we had an accident.

As parents, it is our responsibility to keep our children safe around pets.  I failed my son once, and I don’t want it to ever happen again.

Recently I’ve been searching for information that will help me teach my kids how to act around dogs.  I have found several helpful and interesting sites about kids and dogs.  If you have a dog(s) or if your children are ever around dogs, I encourage you to check out these links.

Moms: If you know of additional resources, please share in the comments.  


Shari is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband Mark, 2 boys and a pug named Yoda. Her toddler and preschool age boys keep her very busy. She loves warm Iowa days for playing outside with her family. In her "spare time" Shari enjoys quiet activities like crafting, browsing Pinterest, learning photography, creating family photo books and watching favorite shows with her husband. She also loves Iowa City Moms Blog and her MOPS group for the connections with other mommies!


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