A Temporarily Large Pack of Dogs


I own two dogs. One is Otto, my heart dog. He’s a largish mutt, about 7 years old, well-trained, well-behaved, and well-socialized. He serves very effectively as a watchdog, letting us know when anyone enters our front gate – and when UPS has a package for us. Or anyone else on our street. Barring his suspicion of UPS, he’s a joy to live with.

The second dog I own is Tito, also about 7 years old. He’s a probable Chihuahua-mix, having been purchased (by a relative) as a purported purebred puppy from a likely puppy mill. His start in life was a little rough, and he bounced from one relative’s home to another, picking up “issues” along the way. But he’s an astute observer of behavior, and once he landed here he just started going along with the program, more or less. Aside from his barking when friends arrive, he stirs up no trouble in the house, in the car, or on the trail. He follows Otto cheerfully, and though they don’t cuddle or sleep together ever, they get along with perfect understanding.

I’d be perfectly happy with just one dog again, but two works out fine, especially when number two is so easy. But this summer, I’ve got a few extras.

The first is my daughter-in-law’s dog, Sadie, a little scrap of a puppy-mill air-quotes Miniature Schnauzer – there is probably a little Miniature Schnauzer in there somewhere. My daughter-in-law is away, helping with a seriously ill relative, so 5-year-old Sadie is staying with me. She’s sweet, playful, and a funny little character. If she wasn’t so shrill, she’d be a lot less annoying to have around, but her bark is high-pitched, piercing, and frequent.

The next “extra” dog is my son’s coonhound, Cole. My son is on the road with various sports teams this summer for more than three weeks, so I get time with my granddog. Cole is 2 years old now, and growing up into a lovely young man of a dog. He’s affectionate and biddable, well-socialized, and friendly to everyone he meets. But his restless habit of trying to agitate the other dogs into playing – “C’mon, everyone, this is boring! Let’s play! I’ve got your toy! Try to catch me! – makes my adult dogs grumpy. Cole will nudge and nudge and nudge, sometimes dropping toys on top of my sleeping dogs, until one of them snaps and launches after him. In delight, and not the least bit afraid, Cole will spin and fly out of the room, thrilled that he’s finally gotten a reaction out of someone. It’s a tad disruptive of our quiet days.

One blessing (and curse) of having Cole here: we HAVE to get out for a long off-leash run every day. It makes me get all the dogs (and myself) out for more exercise than we would ordinarily make time for. If I don’t manage to make time for this, I lose sleep at night, when the clicking of Cole’s toenails pacing up and down my hall all night, and the occasional “Baarooooooooo!” of a hound call in the middle of the night, for example, when through our front security screen door, he spots a cat walking across the street. It’s easier to make sure we go for a run every day.

The last extra dog is a foster from my shelter, a perhaps 2-year-old Chihuahua/Dachshund-mix. I took in her and her tiny 3-week-old puppy a few months ago, to help raise and then place the puppy in a good home. That got accomplished, but the mommy really needs more socializing and training before she’ll be able to find a good home. She’s incredibly sweet and affectionate, but also suspicious and growly around new people. Despite having been with me for more than a couple months, I haven’t managed to take her out into the world to work on this with her very much. First, I didn’t want to take her away from her puppy, then she was recovering from her spay surgery, and then she licked a wound open, near the end of her healed-over spay incision, so she’s wearing a cone until it’s fully healed again.

How do people manage having this many dogs all the time? I’m finding it hard to adjust to having to sweep and mop every day (sometimes more than once a day), and I suspect my friends are daunted by the thought of dropping by spontaneously, as it takes a good five-plus minutes to get all the dogs calm and settled after anyone comes to the door. Also, with five dogs around, there is no odd sound in the neighborhood that goes unnoticed by at least one of the dogs (usually the ever-alert small ones), and once one dog sounds an alarm, they are all keen to join in. Who wants to be the last dog responding to an emergency, such as the mailman passing by?

Needless to say, we are working a LOT on ALL the dogs’ polite behavior at the door, and a “group emergency recall” to bring the whole bunch of them to me as quickly as possible. Group training sessions are surprisingly effective for teaching former strays like the mommy dog how to behave; she’s learned quickly how to follow everyone else’s lead for treats.

This won’t last forever. One by one, the three “extras” will return to their own homes, and it will be calm and (mostly) quiet around here again. I love and enjoy each and every one of these dogs for different reasons, but five is a little much for me.