We are often hit with finger-wagging reminders that pets are not disposable accessories, some people should not have pets, etc. And while I don’t deny that argument, I think we need to hear more stories from the other side of the coin – that is, the lengths owners have gone to in order to keep a pet.
We have a dog called Linus who is extremely fearful and acts out aggressively as a result. I wish I could blame his lousy breeder or his shoddy upbringing but alas, he was born in this house, from two of my dogs, and trained by me. While I don’t claim to be SuperPuppyRaiser, I have a pretty good track record and didn’t do anything wildly unusual with Linus. He is the way he is, for whatever reasons.
Because of his propensity to fight with my other dogs, we have had to arrange the inside and outside of our home in such a way that he is prevented from getting into trouble. That means baby gates, closed doors, double rows of fencing, etc. Billy cut into our front porch and built a dog door and stairs there so that we could have a way to let dogs in and out the yard in addition to the back deck. One entrance to the yard just would not do.
Dogs have to be continually rotated throughout the day with due care to avoid the possibility of Linus making eye contact with someone he’d be likely to fight with. This means dogs being shut in rooms temporarily while others are let in and that sort of thing. In bad weather, we have no choice but to maintain the same routine, even though it results in muddy paw prints all over the carpeting. Mowing the lawn with all these gates and fence layers is a task of woe. (Thanks Billy.)
One of the other things that Linus does is vocalize an extremely shrill, sharp bark that affects me unlike any other dog’s bark. It’s the kind of bark that makes me spew coffee, even though he does it many times a day, every single day. You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now but no. He does it when I’m trying to nap and I bolt upright in a daze. He does it when I’m trying to cook and I drop knives. Some days are worse than others and by dinnertime, I’m just a bundle of nerves. Which I’m sure is not at all helpful to a dog with anxiety.
I’ve always been open to the possibility of placing Linus because obviously, he could have a nice life elsewhere, where he didn’t live with a house full of other dogs. But I can’t just place him with the “average” pet owner. Despite being a very good dog in many respects (no, really), he doesn’t get along with most other dogs, he jumps fences, he’s extremely fearful – you get the picture. It would have to be the right match for me to place him and that person has not come along yet. (If you are reading this Mr. Right Owner, call me!)
So for the time being, and for as long as necessary, we live our life accommodating Linus’ special needs. We have other dogs of course – some elderly, some with cancer – and they have their own needs. We do our best to attend to everyone but always, by necessity, in the context of meeting Linus’ needs.
I know to some people, especially those who don’t own pets, the situation sounds ridiculous. But what would I do? I can’t return him to the breeder (she doesn’t return my calls!) and I’m certainly not about to hand him off to any old person who isn’t likely to be able to handle him. So this is what we do. What looks bizarre to an outsider seems normal to us.
I know I’m not alone in going to what some might consider great lengths to keep a pet. What have you done to keep a pet?