Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How Many Dogs are Too Many?

Tucker, Rudy, Lucy and Jeffie  

 I used to think I didn’t have any limit on dogs. I’ve mourned the fact that I can’t possibly live long enough to have all the canine family members that I’d like to have. At the same time I’ve also mourned the fact that dogs don’t live nearly long enough lives. I like dogs better than I like most people and I mean it when I say that I cannot comprehend that there are folks who do not share their lives with dogs.

One of my best friends – I’ve known her for more than half my life – always had dogs. Dogs plural, as in, two dogs. When her last dog passed away (at a ripe old age,) she did not immediately get another. I “got” that. However, as time passed and she did not seek a canine companion, I began to wonder about her. How could she enjoy the company of dogs for so many years and then… no dog. I don’t understand it. Call me crazy, but I began to wonder if I ever really knew her.

Suffice to say that it is my heartfelt belief that living without dogs is truly like living in a gray scale world. Technicolor is available!

Gary says his dog limit is one dog. Since we’ve been together we’ve always lived in the country. We’ve always had two dogs and often three. I will admit that this does not lend itself to being able to travel. The cost of keeping two or three big dogs in kibble and vet care is not cheap. However, what we receive in return is… well... the word bliss comes to mind.

We’d been talking about adding another dog to our family for a few months. Tucker and Lucy are senior citizens now. Jeffie, we felt, could use a canine partner. I’ll admit that when more than one pup on Petfinder were adopted right out from under us (it felt like that), I took it as a sign that we should stick with three. Then Gary ran into Jamie and her laundry basket of puppies at our vet’s office. Can you say kismet?

The Saturday morning we were at Jamie’s picking our puppy, we honestly considered taking more than one. In spite of the fact that we already felt like we were drunk on crazy juice or something for even thinking about more than three dogs in our household. Big dogs. Did I mention that? BIG dogs . Confronted with the whole litter of puppies, we wanted them all. We actually considered taking two or three. In the end, a very patient Jamie sent us on our way home with one puppy, Rudy.

Rudy is 20 weeks old now. There’s some chaos in our house that wasn’t here before, but we’ve been happily amazed at our dogs’ adjustment to a new puppy in our family. Easygoing Tucker sort of sits back and observes the hijinks. Jeffie is thrilled and has become best friends with Rudy, not to mention the best puppy sitter in the world. Even Lucy, who was none too thrilled with the addition of Jeffie a few years ago, really likes Rudy and gives him a free pass when he annoys her.

The first few weeks I felt like a split personality. As we worked on housebreaking I began to think that maybe three dogs was my limit after all. At the same time, the joyful energy Rudy added to our family was palpable for all of us. Then the light bulb seemed to go on for Rudy – at about 16 weeks old – and I could say with confidence that he was housebroken. A major crazy maker taken care of (listen, we’ve got hard wood floors.) Now, of course there’s the chewing, the jumping, basic obedience training, you know the drill.

Everything is more with another dog. Four dogs milling around at chow time. Four dogs sounding the alarm “someone’s coming down the lane!” Four dogs with their assorted coats and sweaters during a rare Ozarks blizzard. Four dogs heaving heavy sighs while they sprawl in front of the floor to ceiling windows during a deluge of rain. Four dogs stinking to high heaven after a skunk attack. You’re getting the picture, right?

However, there’s also the posse of love that I travel with as I move throughout my day. The sense of peace as we all settle down in the evening together. The joy of seeing Tucker and Lucy step more lively and dance the play bow again. The adoration on Jeffie’s face as he beholds his new best friend.

Maybe the question should not be “How many dogs are too many?” but rather how many are just right. I think I’ve found my number and my number is four dogs. 
Well, at least for now.


  1. This was such a touching post! We have three medium to large size dogs and I've been wanting another one (a cocker) but I think we're at our limit for now. We just can't afford the vet bills and dog food bill for any more. But my heart is always open to it if one wanders into our lives. :)

  2. Hi! Thanks for stopping by our blog. I really enjoyed your post because I am always pondering the same question. I was initially a one dog person (since my Cocker Spaniel was my first) and it was not until 3 years later when I knew I was ready more puppy responsibility, that I got my second dog (a Wheaten Terrier). I really would like a 3rd dog but it is not the right time, mainly because I am in the military and a deployment can happen at any time. On such times my parents care for my pups and 2 are enough for them. Yes, vet bills can be expensive (especially if you have a Cocker Spaniel) but the love I get in return is priceless. But for now 2 is my number.

    Angie @ Fetch


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