Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mom Guilt

I've been asked at various times by various people just how much difference there is between having one dog and having two dogs. I've also been asked how much difference there is between having two dogs and more than two dogs. I've begun measuring that difference in levels of guilt.

One Dog: Guilt at a 2 on a scale of 1-10. One Dog gets all of my dedicated dog time. All of the classes -- sometimes three a week; all of the treats; all of the toys; automatic lap time; and the best spot on the bed. One Dog goes to all of the dog shows with me, and gets the cookies and french fries when we go through a drive-thru. There is a little guilt that I have to go off to work all day and leave One Dog at day care or at home. There is also a little guilt that One Dog doesn't have one of his own species to play with and to keep him company when the humans aren't home.

Two Dogs: Guilt at a 3 on a scale of 1-10. Two Dogs have to share the dog time. Two Dogs may only go to one class a week instead of two or three. The guilt-trip ante is upped when one goes out the door and the other stays behind, gazing forlornly out the window from the back of the couch she's not supposed to be on anyway. (Elli, I'm looking at you.) They have to share toys and treats. They have to vie for lap time and jockey for position on the bed. Two Dogs have to share the drive-thru spoils, or may in fact not get any at all if there is also equipment in the car so they have to be crated. Some of the guilt is alleviated, though, when the humans have to leave, because at least they have one another for company.

Three-Plus Dogs: Guilt takes a sharp leap up to a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10. Now the dog time is split three or more ways, and someone may not get to go to a class at all. Now when one is playing with a toy, he has to guard it from two others, who will inevitably tag team him, one making a feint for it and the other grabbing it while he defends against the first. Treats aren't always so forthcoming, because now there has to be enough to go around. The lap becomes a battlefield, sometimes to the extent that no dogs are allowed up there, just to preserve the human's sanity. Chaos ensues over the best bed spots. Forget the drive-thru -- the human who belongs to Three-Plus Dogs can't afford take-out anymore and has to pack her own lunch. When the humans leave, all dogs have to stay behind the gate in the kitchen, since the youngest can't be trusted yet to behave himself, and the humans don't think it's fair to split up the Three-Plus Dogs and let the older ones stay in the living room. Guilt! Training time for each dog dwindles to smaller and smaller amounts. Sometimes someone doesn't even get any practice between weekly classes, and that's if he/she still HAS a weekly class. guilt Guilt GUILT!!!

Folks, I may as well convert to Catholicism, I have so much guilt. Guilt that Ian isn't going to a weekly class anymore, despite the fact that the one he was going to really wasn't working on the Open exercises we need to perfect to get those other two CDX legs. Guilt that his conformation career is over without getting that CH in front of his name. Guilt that I'm considering neutering him to make things easier with bitches in heat and other intact males, when I've read studies that show it may be better for a male dog's long-term health to leave him intact. Guilt that Magnum isn't getting the kind of one-on-one attention that the others got when they arrived. Guilt that I won't be taking him to obedience or agility class right off because I want to focus on the much-less-fun-for-him conformation training right now.

Most especially, I have mucho grande guilt that Elli is only getting agility training once a week when we go to class, because I don't have agility equipment at home and won't be affording any at any time in the near future. Guilt that I haven't been able to start her on herding, which I had hoped to do this spring. Guilt that I have this dog who would probably be a superlative dog for someone who had a farm and stock to work, or for someone who was an agility fiend who wanted a MACH and a CPE championship and umpteen bazillion other titles from the 3,216 venues that are offering agility now. She is SO smart and she SO wants to work, and she's stuck with me, going to class once a week and getting pushed out of laps by velcro-clingy boys and just hanging with the pack instead of working most of the time.

I used to think it was awful that breeders kept dogs for a few years, bred them a few times, and then tossed them away to "retirement." I couldn't imagine how someone could raise a puppy -- show him, train him, breed him -- and then give him away. Why were they bothering to put all this time and energy and money into raising these dogs when they "obviously" didn't care about them?

I get it now. Good breeders don't place their retirees because they don't love them. They place them because they DO. Because there is someone else out there who DOES have time just for them, who WILL take them to all the classes, and give them all the toys and all the treats and and the lap and the bed and the french fries at the drive-thru. Good breeders place the needs of the dogs above their own selfish hearts, and when the right person and the right home comes along, they recognize it, and they cry, and they let them go.

And still, they feel guilty.


  1. Awesome post, Dawn. This is the first time I've ever had 2 this close in age (usually one is 9+ years older) and I have all kinds of guilt with Kodi now. Is he getting enough attention or am I favoring Emma too much and causing jealousy? It is nice they have each other, but then I have to worry about them having TOO MUCH time together and is the puppy bonding and behaving correctly with non-dogs or is she too attached to Kodi? The mind, it spins...

  2. Wow! What a great post! I often wondered about the "retirement" thing and you have done such a great job explaining that. I also understand the guilt thing. Jimmy gets all the agility training and it makes me feel VERY bad for Wilson.

  3. And a shining example of how special it can be for that dog who deserves more attention than she can get is summed up perfectly by 6 year old Andi, new big "sister" to my girl Breezy. My heart still hurts that Breezy is gone, but how can you be sad when you get stuff like THIS in your mailbox?


    Try not to feel too guilty about the classes. Your dogs enjoy spending time with you whether it's at class or not. I had to stop trying to compete with everyone else getting all the titles, etc. on their dogs and realize I chose to be a multi-dog household, and that Kane enjoys a walk with me as much as he enjoys going to obedience class. Quality, not quantity time. I will take dogs out one at a time and work some quick heeling patterns or signals, etc. in front of the house, and they love it.

  4. A-freaking-MEN!

  5. You hit it well. That is how I was able to place Tristan last year at the age of 9. Just got an email from his new family... one daughter is applying at colleges and an essay was what 5 things do you want if you were stranded on a desert island. Tristan was number one. Her parents never made the list.

    I still miss the dweeble but I know he is so well loved.

  6. Very well said Dawn! It is impossible to keep them all as much as we may want to. And then there are the special cases like Rocky and Jaime. Both are spayed, both should be in retirement homes...but with the possiblity of health issues reoccuring how can I pass that on to anyone else? So they stay, and only get a small portion of the attention they should really be entitled to :(