This one came in a not so friendly e-mail, but it is a valid question so let’s go there!
If you were to ask those that feel that proper care of a dog depends solely on the length of his toenails, we are failures. We are failures because we don’t have Slugger on a special diet to battle his flatulence issues. We are also failures in our cruelty to Slugger for having him pose for pictures, and make certain public appearances, with a car air freshener dangling from his collar.
But you know what? If those instances in the previous paragraph makes us unfit parents, golly, someone had better tell the kids!
To take proper care of so many dogs is an exhausting endeavor. There is a mountain of laundry – dog bed covers, furniture covers, towels, etc. that has to be done every week. The floors have to be vacuumed every day, usually multiple times. While the brain is on the day job, one eye is always on the clock to make sure one of us gets home at a respectable time before one of the little ones (it’s always one of the little ones) has an ‘on purpose’ on the floor. And we haven’t even started on direct attention on the kids!
Maybe food, toenail length and cleanliness is what all the books say is important, and by that scale we probably sit in the middle. Since we don’t feed premium food, maybe by the book we are at the lower middle end.
But I come from the school that says interaction carries more weight. It doesn’t matter how tired we are or if we don’t feel well, the kids have to be interacted with. Despite having such a large yard, they still have to get out and see the world, so we take them places. OK – not quite as much in the summer, but hey, try getting any of them to go outside voluntarily when it is over 100 degrees…
It’s also about priorities. My mother would be horrified to go inside our house. Then again, maybe that is why my parents never visit to begin with. Mom is house proud. I on the other hand, am proud of my kids. If we get a really good rainstorm, we deliberately take The Idiots and Willy out on the desert to play in the really gooey mud. So it takes days to clean the mud out of the house, and Waggin’ Wagon, the kids have a great time and make us laugh! Mortimer and Emmi like to eat soap (we don’t ask…). Do we get mad? No, it’s just another feather in the caps of 2 members of The Idiot Group. When you live with 12 dogs, experiences and not things are the priorities.
While on her deathbed my mother may re-live her clean houses, I on mine will remember the day Vito chased a ginormous visiting dog into the fish pond and wouldn’t let him out, or how Gracie pulls her own gums back to get her teeth brushed, or how Emmi won’t let me sleep, or just about anything about Slugger, or the time… well, I think you get the picture.
More than anything else, I will remember that it doesn’t matter what new and exciting place we go to, if I were to sit down, all of the kids will come sit with me and yes, that includes Willy. Despite my self-doubt, every time that happens, I know I have to be doing at least an OK job overall.
Still, I do worry that I am not giving enough attention, so I have come up with a little trick: I lend some of the kids to my clients for a day, on a regular basis. We call them Rental Dogs, though no money changes hands. For the day, one or 2 of the kids is separated from the herd and is spoiled by someone who loves dogs, but for whatever reason doesn’t have one of their own. Gracie, Frankie, Vito, Angus, Slugger, Sarah and Emmi have enjoyed being spoiled rotten by others. Morty has recently been summoned to try as a play date for another dog. OK, so there have been a few times when I have forgotten to pick them up on the way home from work, but hey, forgotten on a couch, where they are being fed dog treats isn’t so bad a place to be forgotten.
As far as proper veterinary care – let’s forget about the fact that Emmi, Slugger, Angus and Sarah all have Valley Fever and Willy is medicated for his emotional issues. Absent the follow ups related to those issues, there are the regular visits required for all dogs. 12 dogs says you either go to the vet once and lose a mortgage payment, or you go every month taking one Valley Fever and one ‘healthy’ dog. And lest we forget, Sarah has her neuro problems that can cause an unexpected visit, AND we are 12 times more likely than the single dog home to have an emergency with any of the dogs at any time, and it doesn’t matter how tired we are when we discover the emergency, it has to be dealt with, immediately.
When DASH! had his intestinal blockage and required surgery to save his life, we didn’t have the money. Crabby told the vet to do the surgery and left. He came back with a check from the bank, from a loan he took out to pay. We are now 2 years (April) past the surgery, and with this year’s tax refund, DASH! ‘s re-sected small intestine now belongs to us! 2 years paying off a surgery for a little dog no one else stepped up to help when he was healthy and alone. I think it is safe to assume we are committed.
The dogs, well, all except Morty that is, didn’t appear on our doorstep and demand we take them in. We chose to take them in. Therefore, they can not be ‘blamed’ for being here. Our choices, our responsibilities.
We do not have nice clothes, indeed, we share a lot of them. We don’t get to go on vacations or weekends away together. No fancy nights out. Aside from work hours, we can’t leave the kids alone for more than a few hours – would YOU leave 12 dogs alone in your house???
So to answer the question, if you remember what it was; it is possible for us to take proper care of so many dogs? They are happy and bouncy, they eat twice a day, every day on schedule, they get immediate and regular veterinary care, and they are so very much loved. Neglected dogs don’t act the way ours do, so I have to think we are doing an OK job.
All this being said, to all those people who have said they wish they could have ‘that many’ dogs – no you don’t. There is a world out there, or so I’ve heard. I’m too busy at home to know anything about it.