We just took possession of an extended member of the family: a four-year-old Chihuahua-mix named Peanut. He belongs to my 23-year-old niece, who recently relocated to this coast and is staying with other relatives in the Bay Area while she looks for work and then her own place. Unfortunately, one of the relatives she’s staying with is highly allergic to dogs, and Peanut had to relocate for a time.
As the youngest child in my family, I got to witness my three siblings’ early forays into the adult world: college, first apartments and roommates, jobs, relationships, etc. I also got to take care of a number of their dogs as the dogs were returned to my parents’ house, picked up for a year (or a semester) here and there, and then returned again. The reasons were varied: dogs not allowed in dorms (who knew?); can’t find a place that takes dogs; landlord complained about dog damage; no time for the dog between work and school; boyfriend is mean to the dog (should have been a big hint for my sister about that guy’s unworthiness, right?); etc., etc. My parents had a big place in the country and were always willing to welcome the dogs home. In a few cases, the dogs came back to “grandma and grandpa’s house” permanently.
So I’m used to the concept. It’s hard enough for young adults to get a start in this economy and job market without the added difficulty of finding an apartment that will allow dogs. I’m happy to welcome Peanut to the fold.
He’s a very nice little dog – but admittedly has a few issues we’ll have to deal with. His housetraining went a bit backward since he’s been shuffled around. He’s very hand-shy and guarded with strangers (us); we’ll be using Pat Miller’s suggestions from the September issue to build his confidence. He also needs to learn that our beds are off-limits, but he’s welcome to the couch, and that he doesn’t need to guard his food bowl from Otto or the cats or chickens (who are 30 feet away minding their own business).
I’m also happy to have a place and a budget that allows me to take him on. My local shelter is absolutely packed with owner-surrendered dogs right now – a sad testament to the ravages of the economy. We’ve got dogs from families who lost their homes or jobs, and from people who couldn’t afford the vet care their sick dogs needed. My shelter has taken to sending dog food home with the people who come to the shelter and say they can’t afford to feed their dogs anymore; it’s less expensive for the shelter than taking that dog away from his family and keeping him indefinitely as we try to find him a new home! The shelter has also started waiving fees for dogs who have been picked up as strays if their owners say they can’t afford the fines and we should just keep the dogs. If they WANT the dogs, we work with them. Sometimes we find they DON’T want the dogs; in those cases we suspect that turning the dog loose was less painful than bringing them to the shelter – or maybe they were irresponsible. There is no way to know.
As WDJ readers know, the cost of keeping a dog is much more than the cost of his kibble. We’re coping with a flea epidemic, so even though he came to us flea-free, he had to have some protection applied. He hasn’t been tested for heartworm or received heartworm preventative; he has to have that here. Our county is ground zero for heartworm in northern California. (There are thousands of acres in swampy rice production here in this part of the Sacramento Valley. Mosquitoes abound.) He needed a collar and walking harness; I already have ID tags with my name and number on them (I reuse them for any foster or guest dog who lacks sufficient ID). Responsible care for dogs adds up fast.
Anyway, welcome home, Peanut. We’re happy to have you for as long as you need us.