December 06, 2007

Dog Ready?

The childfree are supposedly pet-friendly. We all have pets as substitute children, right? Maybe not.

My husband and I have been talking about getting a dog for a year now. We finally have a house with a yard. It truly seems the perfect setting. Lots of room to roam, except for the poisonous plants that the previous owner planted, it seems ideal for a pooch or two. I have read that a puppy will put anything in its mouth, not unlike a toddler. I am loath to even think about pulling out the well-established hydrangeas, camellias
and azaleas. Yes, all those lovely plants are poisonous to dogs.

Since puppies are a lot of work, we thought we'd have a starter dog and adopt one from a local shelter. Of course, we'd want two dogs eventually as they would keep each other company when we were not around, and, as the thinking goes, how much more work could two be if you are already taking one for a walk?

A dog-owner reading this post might think that last sentiment sounds naive. My betrothed and I are both working full-time, and right now we are having a hard time just keeping our chickens happy and well-adjusted. With the shortened daylight hours, they are not getting to forage outside the coup as much. Egg production has been greatly reduced. The birds are a little stressed by the change. They make a racket in the morning trying to get me to let them out. Honestly, who needs a rooster when four hens can be that loud? They lay eggs regardless, and yes, fresh eggs are fabulous, but they do not give adoration and affection like a "man's best friend."

We learned from talking to our dog owner friends, that adopting a dog is not so easy. You have to pass a test. One of the questions is, "Do you plan to let your dog sleep in the house?" If you answer is "no", then no dog for you. Apparently, with these rescue organizations it's their way or the highway. When we think this one through, it's a pretty big pill to swallow. Both of us grew up with dogs when dogs slept outside.

With all the poisonous plant, free-time issues we already have, the "where does your dog sleep" question seems like a deal-breaker. Lately, we've come to realize that we are not ready for a dog. It just wouldn't be fair, plus our cats would be mortified if we brought a dog in the house. They tend to "express" themselves on the carpet when they are not pleased. Maybe when we retire, but, then we'd want to travel.

I suspect my friend and co-Contributing Editor, LauraS, will be smiling and nodding her head as she reads this. See why in this post: Meet LauraS.

[Photo: Buttercup, Rosie, Sally and Brenda in the background.]

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Anonymous said...

Yeah, it definitely doesn't sound like you're in a good position to have a dog. But good for you for recognizing that!

And double good for you for not saying "hmph! The dog rescue won't give me a dog, so I'll go buy one at a puppy mill." That doesn't do *anybody* any good.

I'm a *huge* dog fan and also child-free, but I've never understood why people insist on linking the two things. I love my two dogs very much, but I don't think of them as my "children". I don't dress them in little clothes or talk about them like they're little people. They're dogs, they're not kids. That's why I like them. I don't like kids, so why would I like dogs-as-kids?

P.S. It really is true that two dogs are easier than one. If you ever decide you're ready, look for a sibling pair to take from the shelter/rescue. Pairs are always harder to place, so you get double stars in your crown for taking them in.

shutterbug74 said...

I love dogs, but my husband and I simply do not have time to take care of them. Sometimes we don't come home right after work, so we wouldn't be able to let the dog out.

I second the suggestion on adopting a pair of dogs from a rescue. When my father-in-law got his dog, they actually wanted him to adopt a pair of dogs. They are harder to adopt and that is a shame.

Regina said...

I am still in High school, thus I have time for pets. I have a dog, who needs ALOT of attention (it doesn't help with the fact she is jealous of the cat.) But I know that I am going to be a very career oriented woman when I am older, I probably won't have time for a dog. It doesn't sound like you have time for one either. Since you don't want to dig your flowers up and chuck 'em out, It would pay not to have a dog just now.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous friend, thanks for your gift of that nice comment. I really appreciate your practical advice. I personally agree with you on the substitute thing, but I do have some friends who call their pets fur-babies! To each her own, eh?

Shutterbug74 -- I am convinced, when we retire, two it will be! My husband is 8 years ahead of me, so he will get to step down first. That will be a great time and a time-filler for a man who has very little personal time right now. We look forward to the day, and in the meantime, we'll just keep enjoying those fresh eggs!

Regina -- Hi and welcome, I think you may be the first high-schooler to drop in on us. Nice to "hear" from you. I too had dogs growing up. I really miss my Irish Setter, Eric the Red. Someone who lives near me has two of them and I always look longingly at them when I see them on the street. Another dog-owner friend told me that really only puppies want to chew on everything. If we adopted two adult dogs, I don't think they'd bother the plants much, but it is good to be aware of the potential troubles.

Too funny that your dog is jealous of the cat!

GottabeMe said...

Just to add some perspective, not all rescue groups have the same requirements. Many groups do want dogs to be allowed to sleep in the house, be it in a crate or wherever, because they want the dog to live indoors with the family. Many rescue dogs were kept outside all the time, which is not ideal for dogs as they are pack animals, and dogs who are left outside all the time are not happy and not well socialized.

As far as the assertion that regarding rescue groups, it's "their way or the highway", I think that's a pretty unfair assertion to make, especially since it doesn't sound like you have even talked to any rescue groups about their adoption requirements.

I serve on the board of directors of a rescue group. Yes, we have adoption requirements. Do we absolutely require that a dog sleep inside? We don't have a rule about it. It's preferred, but if a secure yard and proper dog house were available to provide protection from the elements, I don't think we'd deny a prospective adopter on that alone.

Each rescue group has its own adoption requirements. Each group develops its requirements for what that group believes is in the best interests of the dog. There are many wonderful groups and volunteers that have saved the lives of countless dogs. Please don't disparage what these organizations and volunteers do based on something one of your friends said.
And if you have chickens, you'll have to be very careful about the breed of dog you get, if you get one. Many breeds have a high prey drive which would not be good for your chickens.

GottabeMe said...

Just a question: why wouldn't you want the dog to sleep in the house? It doesn't have to be in the bedroom, although most dogs prefer to sleep with their family members, since that is their "pack". But if the dog is going to spend time in the house anyway, what is the harm in letting the dog sleep in the house?

LauraS said...

Very funny post. You're right, I was smiling.
There is a dog in our future, just not now. We are definitely not "dog ready."
Sounds like you've come to same conclusion.
Your chickens are soooo cute. Sit back, and enjoy the eggs, and the azaleas.

Anonymous said...

I'm 42 and have two kitties, too. Seems like we have some things in common!

I got my cats from the animal shelter and they made me promise that they would be indoors always... but I think that's cruel in a house the size of mine (750 sq ft), so I tarted letting them out for longer and longer periods and one almost lives outside now!

It doesn't make me a bad kitty mom -- cats are animals and love the outdoors... they have a right to it (plus I don't live in a complete concrete jungle with crazy traffic,
so it's not that bad outside for them).


Anonymous said...

Gottabeme -- Thanks for your perspective and for your expertise on the SJ.

Hi LauraS!

Dana -- Thanks for sharing about your cat situation. I really think lots of love and attention is the right recipe, no matter what the breed or the sleeping arrangement.

Claire B. said...

Interesting post and comments. I am one of the animal lovers who does not see them as equal to children--they are far superior, in my experience. Dogs give so much more than they take from us; one of their base needs is to be with their people, and that is the least we can do for them, I think. You did the right thing by holding off on adopting one.

Rescue organizations owe the animals the best possible home, period. And sleeping outside does not the best possible home make. They must have strict standards, or they run the risk of placing a dog in a home where they will not be cared for properly. Setting the bar very high ensures that they can place the dog in good conscience. It is a tough balance to uphold, and I applaud the huge-hearted volunteers who do the work. Our perfect, loving, loyal three-year-old German Shepherd came to us through a rescue agency, and we cannot thank them enough for keeping her out of a shelter and placing her with us.