Editorial June 2004 Issue

A One-Dog Home

A week of dog-sitting halts a new dog search.

Many of us dog lovers are accustomed to pet-sitting for each other; often, the only people we trust with our dogs are our dog-owning friends and relatives. I frequently offer to dog-sit for family and friends; it gives me a chance to use their dogs to test products and take photos for WDJ. (Readers are probably familiar with some of my most frequent guests: Paws, a handsome young yellow Labrador, who spent three days a week with me during the most destructive months of his puppyhood; Cooper, my father-in-law’s well-mannered Australian Shepherd; and Jessie, a neighbor’s “shelter Pit-mix,” who is so accustomed to modeling that she now sits and smiles every time she sees a camera.)

Plus, having different dogs come over is fun for me and my son. We have begun talking about adopting a new dog, and though I’m in no rush, we enjoy discussing the merits of the various sizes and canine personalities that we might consider.

Over spring break, I had the opportunity to have two new guests stay over. One was my brother’s dog, Hannah. I mentioned in the last issue that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet her. Right after the last issue went to press, I had that opportunity, in spades, when I dog-sat her for four days while my brother was on vacation. Yowsa! That’s a lot of dog! She is the color and shape of a Rhodesian Ridgeback (sans ridge), and has a lovable, goofy disposition.

To make matters a bit more complex, I had also agreed to dog-sit my ex’s dog, Sally, a middle-aged German Short Hair Pointer, for a week. When I said yes to both of these dog-sitting requests, I hadn’t actually looked at the calender, and didn’t realize until too late that Sally’s week-long stay would overlap with Hannah’s four-day weekend. When I realized my error, though, I wasn’t too worried; Sally is well-socialized and terrifically skilled at communicating with other dogs. She also likes being in charge of other dogs, and I figured she would be a good role model for Hannah.

But as playful and fun-loving as Hannah is, I quickly learned that she, too, likes being in charge. She enjoyed romping and running with Sally in my backyard, but when the games were over, she wanted to be the only dog who got to drink water, enjoy a toy or rawhide chew, and lay down near my chair. She accepted direction from Sally for exactly one day, and then they started having fights.

Well, that’s a strong word. Fortunately, both dogs have terrific bite inhibition, so none of their scuffles drew blood. But it was nerve-wracking, managing their interactions so they could continue to play and exercise without putting them in a situation that was bound to start trouble – like all of us walking through my office door at the same time.

The end result of all that management and vigilance was that I got no photos of the two visiting dogs together, and only one or two blurry frames of fast-moving Hannah and my Chihuahua, Mokie. And, after all the extra work of having big dog guests, (picking up big poo, trips to the dog park, feeding in shifts, etc.), we’re content with just little Mo, for the time being.

-Nancy Kerns

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