Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 6, 2010

Think Ahead When Adding Dogs to Your Family

Posted at 12:34PM - Comments: (16)

Back in 1998, we were a happy one dog family, made complete by the light of my life dog, Axel, a grand Bouvier des Flandres. So why did I have to mention in passing to his groomer, a woman active in Bouvier rescue, that maybe we’d like to add another?

It wasn’t long before we got a call about Jolie, a sweet, pushy, two-year-old rescue Bouvier, ready for home number three. How could we say no? Axel, at the time, was two-and-a-half years old.

Could I not do the math? I really don’t recollect the notion ever popped into my head that these two dogs were virtually the same age. While that was fabulous at the time and for many years, my mind didn’t travel 10+ years into the future when not only would I be dealing with living with two large breed senior dogs, I would possibly be dealing with losing two senior dogs, not too far apart.

Axel made it to his 14th birthday and beyond this year, only to succumb to a swiftly moving hemangiosarcoma in July. Jolie is still with us, and hit the 14 mark in November. She’s hobbly due to arthritic knees, courtesy of double partial cruciate tears, and continues to receive the melanoma vaccine after a diagnosis a year and a half ago, but otherwise, is fairly vibrant.

Time is healing the intense pain we experienced after losing Axel, but when Jolie went through a horrific bout of vestibular syndrome in late September, I sobbed to a friend, “I’m not ready.”

I know that we can lose our dogs at any time, and there was always the chance that one would leave us far before the other. While we don’t regret bringing Jolie into our world, I doubt I will ever again have two dogs, particularly of the same size and breed, so close to each other in age.

Do you think about this issue when you add a dog to your family? Do you purposely “diversify your portfolio” with dogs of differing ages? Or do you graciously open your heart and your home to whoever comes your way, regardless of age?

Comments (16)

I just lost my wonderful almost 14 year old Bouvier in September. She had been slowly declining for the last year and then the Vestibular issues started. Like your dog, my Echo had 2 horrific bouts with the second one not resolving completely. Toward the end of it I found a very large mammary mass that was affecting her hind end. I made the painful decision to put her down but not after days/weeks of working it out in my head and my heart that it was coming. I luckily have 3 other dogs to comfort me, my 9 year old Papillon Voodoo is my now oldest dog with a 3 year old Papillon Luna and a 2 yr old Aussie Blue Heeler x, Argus. My attention has turned now to Voodoo as far as the stress related to how short a dogs lifespan really is, losing Echo was hard enough but little Voodoo is going to be another story. I have always been a multiple dog household and never thought about having dogs so close in age. I feel that when the right dog comes into my life, their age doesn't matter and I try not to think much about the end until it comes, it hurts just too much to torture yourself about it until then.

Posted by: 4marks | December 21, 2010 12:00 PM    Report this comment

After years of multiple dogs of varying ages and types, I raised two litter mates, lab/goldens. They were beyond wonderful. I had 12.5 good years with one and 13 good years with the other. I will never do litter mates again even though they were such joys. I had about 6 months between losses, but it was not enough. It was horrible to lose them both so close together. I knew the second one was dying before I lost the first. It was just so hard. Now I have 4 dogs, one 15 year old lab, an 8 year old standard poodle, a 3 year old std. poodle and another one that is 6 months old. I made conscious decisions about the spacing of the poodles and hope to avoid the trauma I had with my labs. Even with all I've said, if the situation presented itself I'm sure I wouldn't turn down two. I'm just trying to avoid it.

Posted by: Nancy L | December 12, 2010 6:04 PM    Report this comment

I started fostering dogs when i already had 2 herding breeds that are 10 weeks apart - an ACD and a PWC. I had been dogless for 10 years and i wanted dogs! I was living on a ranch and was influenced by the owner's belief that getting a puppy would be best as they would only know that home and stay and be watchful. A few years later i was fostering an older female (11 at the time) who decided this is her forever home, she is now 13 and energy-wise the leader of the pack up the trail. I also have several cats, all various ages. In the past, my dogs have all lived short lives, 8 years being the longest so i was less concerned with the ages of my dogs than with the stability of my life and being able to care for them. Even so, one of my long term fosters (2 years with me) succumbed to cancer at age 8 so there is no perfect plan. My previous cats were only 1 year apart in age but died more than a year apart from each other at the ripe old ages of 18 and 20. I can certainly understand the physical and financial issues of dealing with multiple senior dogs at once, esp large breeds, but i am not sure i would be able to pass on a dog just bec it was too close in age to another. I also have decided in the future i will focus on older dogs as they are the ones most ignored in shelter/rescue.

Posted by: Rachel S | December 10, 2010 9:28 AM    Report this comment

As a veterinarian, I have always encouraged my clients, especially older ones, to have more than one dog, at least when the one they have is getting older. I understand it may be financially impossible to have multiple dogs and care for them properly, but as the one you have gets older a new puppy or young dog will do one of 2 things for the older dog - either give them fun and companionship OR make them so mad that they HAVE to stay active and eat well out of self-defense! Seriously, dogs are pack animals and, unless you can stay home with them and be part of their pack (as leader, of course), they need a companion. I had one dog in college and the first year after graduation while living in an apartment, but once I got my own place it was no holds barred. I discovered after two dogs, you run out of hands anyway so it doesn't matter how many you have. At one point, with 5 dogs of varying ages, I still wound up losing 3 within an 18-month period and it nearly destroyed me. I try to plan the ages somewhat, but leave myself open to the right dog at the right time. I too can't imagine coming home to an empty house and truly feel my pets are happier, healthier, and much better behaved when they have friends around.

Posted by: sharon Reamer | December 9, 2010 2:35 PM    Report this comment

I still grieve for my golden, she died 3 years ago of cancer, and just lost my boy 2 weeks ago. Maybe they are sent to us to love fully and be fully loved for a short time and learn to let go also with love. I usually have 2 or 3 at a time and all are rescues. I would have more but I only feed the best and they see the vet yearly and as needed. I don't plan ages, I just take them as they come. My dogs always have a job, my 4 year old golden is starting agility and she gets the paper every morning, the lab mix is the fetcher. I'll teach her to carry a basket and she can get donations for our local rescue group. Just love them and spread the Spay and Neuter message!!!!

Posted by: LynnL | December 8, 2010 9:22 AM    Report this comment

I'm going back to 1987-1995 when I still bought dogs from breeders (pre "rescue
revolution). I got my second Rottie because my first one was almost nine and I
knew that I was going to be a basket case when I lost her. Despite being on a raw diet,(I was priviledged to work for the Volhards who were light years ahead in canine nutrition and holistic medicine), Mariah had been on an
accelerated vaccine program for immune deficient beeds developed by Penn
State, per contract with her breeder. Even though I was clueless at the time,
I asked my vet if the additional Parvo vaccines were potentially dangerous.
He said "Absolutely not, you are just throwing your money away." Bottom line,
Mariah died suddenly at three years of age and Ram was with me until she
succumbed to bone cancer at eleven and a half. So by all means folks, open
your homes and your hearts to dogs of any age. A favorite line from Irving
Townsend comes to mind: "We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
never fully understanding the necessary plan."

Posted by: Deborah T | December 7, 2010 9:08 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I lost our first Lab 3 years ago this month at the age of 13. We grieved for her for 1.5 years and then suddenly decided it was time to buy a new Lab puppy. We waited until our"little girl" was 18 months old and we now bought a 2nd new Lab puppy (male)last month. This is the first time we have owned 2 dogs. At 19 months and 9.5 weeks, we have our hands full of playful puppyhood, but we are looking forward to the day that they will settle down and we can enjoy walks, hikes and swimming together. It has definitely been a learning experience for us, but a good one!

Posted by: PAM G | December 7, 2010 6:18 PM    Report this comment

I have experienced the passing of a number of pets. The loss is much less difficult if you have another furry friend at home. While I have never intentionally "planned" my 2 dogs ages it has just somehow worked out that they all had 2 or 3 years difference in their ages.
For me it is much more heart breaking to go home to an empty (petless)house.

Posted by: NOLAhounds | December 7, 2010 5:59 PM    Report this comment

I have had three dogs at a time for the past 14 years or so. After my first dog died, my husband and I rescued two shortly thereafter, as it was difficult being dogless for long. Two was much better than one, as we could leave them alone without the guilt we always felt going to work, etc. and leaving one alone. Dog #3 came by accident, really, I took him in for a neighbor to possibly adopt (his home could not keep him) and they thought he was "ugly" so they rejected him. (which they always regretted). We did not intend to keep him as he was a small dog (a rat terrier) but he was so well behaved and adorable that we could not give him up. Our female airdale mix and the rattie fell "in love" and became inseperable. I felt bad for our third dog, but he never played much anyway and was happier just hanging out with us. But he had company so he was never alone. And they were all so good and so easy! We now have 3 other dogs, ages 8.5, 5.5 and 3. The baby boy keeps the two females young, and while they are very lovable, they are very poorly behaved as the oldest (alpha) dog is reactive with most other dogs and with men, and she taught all of her bad behaviors to her "siblings". It is VERY difficult having these three, the pack from hell, walking them together is awful, having company over is impossible but I adore them. But after they go over the rainbow bridge, it will be cats only. Or else I will spend a lot more time picking out the perfect dog(s) before deciding to adopt.

Posted by: kimfatty | December 7, 2010 5:53 PM    Report this comment

I have always been a 2 dog person. It not only gives them a doggy companion,but it also never leaves me in a dogless situation when I do lose one. I don't plan the age difference,I just add one after some time for grieving.

Posted by: Deborah S | December 7, 2010 5:09 PM    Report this comment

I have had multiple dogs for years. And I have deliberately separated them by about 3 years in age. It works in to the training schedule, and lengthens the odds of losing more than one in such a short time. It has worked for me for many years. Currently I have a 6 year old, 4 year old and 1 year old. I lost my 10 year old a year ago to Lymphoma, sooner than I thought. But when their time to go comes around, it's always sooner than I think it should be.

Posted by: Kathleen W | December 7, 2010 1:13 PM    Report this comment

Five years ago, we added a second dog to our one dog family. I wanted my Shih Tzu to have a companion and playmate while I worked all day. The boys got along fine, though they were not inseparable like so many dogs sometimes are and their personalities were very different. I think my first little guy was always a wee bit jealous that mommy brought home another. My second little guy is very carefree, laid back, just wanting to play and have fun. Back on September 17th, I lost my first little boy, only 9 yrs. old, to a sudden and unexpected illness. He had been diagnosed with SARD (sudden aquired retinal degeneration) and an infection then had attacked his immune system putting him in severe pain. I was very sad and very worried about how Danny (2nd) would be by himself. He amazed me with how well he adjusted, for which I am very happy. He has also helped me tremendously with my grief and the shock of it all.
I have always had only one dog in years past. I did love and enjoy the experience of having two little ones. I have thought about adding another, but after weighing in many factors these past 3 months, I have decided against it. Having one dog is just fine.

Posted by: Unknown | December 7, 2010 11:56 AM    Report this comment

I am a big fan of the two dog household. I adopted a puppy for my lab mix Eddie when he was 3 years old to keep him company while I worked all day. They were inseparable. When he died 2 years later of kidney failure, I was going to be content with a single dog. Josie had other plans. After 6 months of mourning she still wasn't the happy playful dog she had once been. So, I adopted a 4 month old black lab mix from our local shelter for Josie, and life couldn't be better. 5 yrs later and I can't tell you the joy I get watching them play together, sleep together, walk and run through the park together. They are truly best friends. I was thankful to have my 2nd dog to lean on when Eddie died. Somehow it made the pain tolerable. And I know Josie is thankful to have a little brother to share her life with. My brother told me when I was grieving the loss of Eddie, "Don't grieve too long sis...there is another dog out there that needs you"!

Posted by: KELLI B | December 7, 2010 11:33 AM    Report this comment

I'm on my second pair of rescued Borzois and in both cases they were litter mates. My first two (sister and brother) died one year apart. The two I have now (brothers) are five years old. I know I will be as devastated with these two as I was when I lost the first pair but I keep telling myself that it's more important that I give them a good home and lots of love and, most important, each other to be with when I'm not there. When I see them playing and running and using each other as pillows when they sleep, I know that I have made the right decision. Yes, it will be incredibly painful for me, but it's their happiness that I try to think about.

Posted by: Judy M | December 7, 2010 11:03 AM    Report this comment

We have thrown around the idea of adding another dog to our one dog family, but have decided against it for a number of reasons. The pain of losing one will be more than I will be able to handle, let alone more than that. One one dog family is just fine, and I think that we will keep it there. Plus, we can focus solely on her!

Posted by: Therapy Dog Mom | December 7, 2010 10:51 AM    Report this comment

We currently have a very timid small dog adopted 9 years ago. There are very few other dogs she is comfortable with, so we have reluctantly kept her as a singleton. I have one friend that adopted young dogs every 3 years ... so, for example, she'd have a 6 year old, a 3 year old and a pup. Once the pup turned 3 then they consider adopting another but preferred to keep their pack to 3, spaced about 3 years apart. This seems to make good sense and works for them.

Posted by: Carolyn M | December 7, 2010 10:50 AM    Report this comment

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