Aditya Raheja and Sanjana Madappa are big-time dog lovers. Because of Sanjana's work in animal welfare, their home is filled with an assortment of sweet-faced dogs.
When the couple, who live in Bengaluru in the Indian state of Karnataka, decided to have a baby, they were advised by family, friends and their doctor to find new homes for their pets, Madappa writes in an online essay. These likely good-intentioned people insisted that the new baby would have to come first.
The pair had no such plans.
Instead, the four-legged family members became critical in helping Madappa get through what turned out to be a difficult pregnancy. For the first six months, she had morning sickness so extreme that at one point she was hospitalized because she was vomiting blood. Health issues resurfaced from a car accident she'd had years earlier. And when her pregnancy was declared high-risk, Madappa spent the last two months "practically on house arrest."
"I cannot even begin to describe all the thoughts which raced through my head in during those days. I was angry, resentful and close to sinking into depression," Madappa writes. "But one thing I can tell you is this: not once did I think, 'Hmm, my dogs have got to go.' Because I didn’t get through my pregnancy despite them, I got through because of them."
The dogs helped her through it all.
"The days I spent crying, I had the comforting weight of Diego’s head on my lap, reassuring me things would be okay. The nights I spent on the bathroom floor, Leo kept me company, gently pawing me now and then to see if I was okay. When I could finally fall asleep, I had Cujo resting at my feet," she writes.
"The dogs kept me going. They kept me motivated because I knew couldn’t afford to stay in bed feeling sorry for myself when I had these kids depending on me."
Before the couple's son Ayan was born, they had a gorgeous photo shoot with all their pups taking part.
Once the baby was born, they said they can't believe anything could have prepared them for parenting a human baby better than parenting all their furry kids first.
To the people who told her to give up her dogs, Madappa says, "I could never, in good conscience, give away an animal that loves me and trusts me with the same innocence and purity that my baby does. I couldn't abandon a family member to bring in another. I will not betray a life that depends on me as much as my son. To all those people I will always say, NOT WITHOUT MY DOGS."