This is what it’s like to have many dogs:
Terrific noise at feeding time.
Watching pups that have two, three, or more ‘moms.’
Bitches that have never had pups and will never have pups acting like mothers to the Italian Greyhounds, gently cleaning their ears, and allowing them to nurse during a false pregnancy.
Odin and Hyde having an entire conversation with a glance.
Everyone gathering at the fence to defend their territory from the coyote passing by.
Cooperatively digging a den eight feet across.
A circle of confused dogs gathered around a horned lizard one of them has killed, not knowing what to do with it because it’s spiky and now no one wants to pick it up.
A chorus of alarm barks at the sound of a rattlesnake.
Cida, her children, and their uncle Spooky running around like maniacs. Every day.
Azawakh attempting to nest atop the other dogs as if they were beds.
Hairy dogs with two or three IGs nestled in their tummy coat in the winter.
Waking up unable to move because you’re surrounded by dogs.
Budgeting for massive vet bills.
Gobs of hair drifting across the yard at Clipping Time.
Making great pots of food.
Youngsters learning bad habits from their elders.
Howling. Lots of howling.
No vacations. Even if you took one, you’d worry about the dogs the whole time.
Body language, body language, body language.
Snarkfest in the middle of the night.
Happy dog faces greeting you at every turn.
Running, running, running, running.
Learning something interesting and new every day.
One of the most infuriating things I have to deal with as the owner of many dogs, is people who assume that because you have more than x number of dogs, that you don’t love them. You can’t love them. As if the human heart had a finite capacity for emotion. Of course,if you have many dogs, they can’t possibly be loved and valued as family members, right? Because the human brain just doesn’t work that way, no human being can love and value multiple individuals of any species. (Sarcasm. Bitter, bitter, sarcasm. Really. Don’t judge me by your own limitations.)
And then there are those…people…who think that every disease can be prevented, every accident avoided, that all precious furbabies should be kept locked up unless they’re being directly supervised, preferably with some kind of umbilical attachment, and if your dogs are sick or injured it’s All. Your. Fault. and your dogs should be taken away immediately for their own safety because you’re a hoarderpuppymillabuser. Those people aren’t worth mentioning, except that they seem to exist just to shit on your day, and they’re everywhere, and they never, ever, shut up.
Those kinds of assumptions make me want to stab someone in the eye.
This is what it’s like to have many dogs, with that nebulous sense of unease that sneaks around and smacks you upside the head when you spend too much time thinking:
Watching multiple dogs grow old, knowing their time is limited and you will likely lose several in a short space of time. Seeing that fifteen year old and knowing that you could wake up one morning, and she might not.
Knowing the hammer of chance could, and will, come down on your head at any time, because the odds are skewed by having multiple dogs, and Murphy’s law favors the numbers, not you. The universe cares nothing for your feelings.
Being repeatedly slapped in the face by ignorant people who don’t know you, don’t know your dogs, who assume that they know exactly what you and your dogs are thinking and feeling. And they certainly know better how to deal with your dogs than you do, and would provide a better home, too.
Trying not to dwell on negative thoughts during the bad times.
This, too, is what it’s like to have many dogs:
In January Loki loses a long awaited litter. None of the puppies are born alive, and it’s too early to save them even if they were.
Also in January, Poody, then fourteen, enters the first stages of heart failure and starts medication. Kingsford, fifteen, develops a heart murmur.
In February, Squee is diagnosed with lung cancer. We euthanize him the first week of March when it becomes too difficult for him to breathe.
At the end of March, Kali starts having pain in her neck and her left parotid salivary gland swells up. After several weeks of messing around with antibiotics and a needle biopsy that shows nothing but bacteria, we remove the gland and pathology shows that it’s an aggressive salivary adenocarcinoma.
About a week after Kali’s surgery, Teshie jumps over a barrier and breaks her left front leg, requiring surgery.
Kali’s cancer recurs, growing around her larynx, and she is euthanized on June ninth when her breathing becomes too labored.
Late in the evening on June seventeenth, Meg bloats and torsions. The e-vet is an hour and a half away. The damage is too extensive and we can’t save her.
Darwin starts seizing on the night of June twentieth. He doesn’t stop. He continues to seize at the vet even though he’s on gobs of medication, enough for a dog twice his size. His blood count and organ function are normal. The vet suggests he has a brain tumor, due to his age (almost seven) and presentation. When the seizures don’t stop, we choose to euthanize him. I can’t even write a proper obituary for Darwin right now, I’m tapped out.
That is what it’s like to own many dogs. For every high, a low, for every joy, a heartache. Many joys, many heartaches. Some years are better than others. Years can go by with barely a blip, a few dents and dings here and there. Other years are beyond disastrous. Like this year. (Except that it’s more, so much more, I can’t even describe it.)
It would be far, far easier if the human heart did indeed have a finite capacity for emotion. If one could reach a point of fullness, where a switch is flipped and you can’t feel any more. But that’s not how it works. Your many dogs need you and you go on caring for them, because you need them right back, because there’s really nothing else you can do, nothing else you want to do. That is what it’s like to have many dogs.