The chef and restaurateur blogs about introducing the family dog to her new son

By peoplestaff225
August 16, 2016 06:00 PM

Courtesy Stephanie Izard

Please welcome our newest celebrity blogger, Stephanie Izard!

The Top Chef season 4 winner (and first female winner) married craft-beer consultant Gary Valentine in Chicago in 2013. On May 26, the couple welcomed their first child: son Ernie William.

The chef and restaurateur, 39, is the owner of  Mediterranean-influenced Chicago eatery Girl and the Goat, as well as a diner and bakery called Little Goat. Her new line of sauces, rubs and spices — aptly titled This Little Goat — hits supermarket shelves this fall.

You can find Izard on TwitterInstagram and her website.

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Lori Sapio

Yes we did. We named our new baby boy Ernie … and we have a 4-year-old dog named Burt.

To make us sound perhaps a tad less silly, Ernie’s name came from my husband‘s super fan-ness for the Cubs — Mr. Cub in particular, the late Ernie Banks. Ernie was not only a great baseball player, but was said to have been just an amazing human being — someone we would want our son to be like.

Of course the fact that our dog Burt would be his best friend ever just solidified it as the perfect name.

The “best friend ever” part is one that we envisioned while I was pregnant: joking about Ernie riding around on Burt’s back like a little horse (Burt is around 80 pounds), the two of them taking cute snuggly naps together, Burt walking Ernie to school, Ernie being Burt’s new tug o’ war partner. Best buds.

Lori Sapio

How would it really work, though? We did start to get a bit nervous as the big day arrived. We noticed that Burt actually seemed not to like little kids … or more so that he was extremely afraid of them or nervous around them. His hair stands up, and he starts sounding almost mean whenever a small child comes around.

Maybe just the height and size of these small strange beings makes him uneasy. He has managed to befriend some; it just took a little getting used to. One of our friend’s sons named Conner just loves Burt … and now thinks all dogs are named Burt. Their relationship just took a little time to get cozy.

So it was time to bring our 8 lbs., 1 oz., son Ernie home to meet his 80-pound big brother Burt. We did as the hospital suggested and my husband brought one of Ernie’s blankets home so Burt could get used to the scent, but he wanted nothing to do with it. Burt has had the same blankie for years (he sucks on it like he is sucking his thumb when he is nervous), and takes no interest in other blankets.

We figured we would approach the homecoming like we had learned to do with visiting puppies: bring Burt outside to meet Ernie first before just bringing the new younger brother into Burt’s house. Burt sniffed him curiously, and I think wondered when he would get to play with this new toy we had brought him. It was when Ernie started to move and make sounds that Burt got a bit freaked out: “It’s alive?!”

Lori Sapio

I think it took about 15 minutes before Burt decided he was going to be the ultimate protector. I felt bad for the construction guys coming in and out of our house (yes, we were mid-bedroom-makeover and have been living in the basement since Ernie was born). Burt had always run to see someone at the door … but now it was more of a, “Holy crap, there is an 80-pound dog charging at anyone coming to harm his little brother.”

Burt also decided that lots of kisses were a great idea. That’s a pretty big tongue kissing a pretty small baby. We now have moved to little feet kisses rather than huge, slobbering, face-swallowing ones.

It seemed like things were going to transition just perfectly and the best-friend snuggles were just around the corner … until the baby crying got louder and more frequent. A sound Burt is not a fan of — perhaps because he cannot do anything to help.

Burt also realized that if Mom or Dad is feeding his little brother, they don’t have enough hands to play fetch. Though we tried our best to make sure Burt was feeling just as loved as before, he realized he was no longer the one and only baby in the family.

Lori Sapio

So now he is on doggy Prozac, or something of the sort. When Ernie cries, he just wanders slowly down the hall and curls up in a ball. Knowing that his mom and dad need to give their focus for the time being to the much smaller and less hairy brother.

I think he knows that soon Ernie will be big enough to be his true best friend. Soon Burt and Ernie can skip down the street together, wearing little Sesame Street T-shirts.

As with all things baby, there are just some changes as our little family grows.

— Stephanie Izard