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Sunday, November 22, 2009

When are six dogs too many? An Erma Bombeck moment for Sally

When are six dogs too much?
Six dogs are too much when they all become ill at the same time, six dogs are too much when they all want to ride in the car together, six dogs are too much when you want to go on vacation, six dogs are too much when others bring their dogs over for a visit, six dogs are too much during mud season, six dogs are too much when your house is up for sale, and six dogs are too much when their main caretaker is down and out due to illness.

Having had at least six or more dogs most of my married life I have been hit with illness before usually lasting a day or two and while at the time it would seem the dogs were a pain in the neck I was still able to keep up with their needs, because really, who else would know what to do? Should I trust that the rest of the family knows which dog gets only brand A dog food and which gets only brand B or diarrhea will occur? Can I trust that each dog on medication will get the right medication or get their medication at all? Do I trust that all the water bowls will be filled both inside and outside? Can I trust them to put the dogs out in the correct pens? Can I trust they will even be let out at all if not reminded? Can I trust that the dog hair will be vacuumed up and cleaned off the counter tops and stove before a meal is made? Can I trust that sweeping, vacuuming, and floor washing will be done before they leave for the day?

I often wondered why my family rolled their eyes at me when I took the time to type out a 4 page letter on how to care for the dogs in my absence.

After recently taking a knock out punch from the Swine flu my questions were answered. Before I go on let me just say that one household acquiring six dogs was not the decision of one person. Puppies were brought home by just about all who lived here and many pups were even born here. So I wonder why one person is generally designated the dog’s constant caretaker. We all work, sure the hours are different, the places are different, the jobs themselves are different, but we are all still expected to keep up with a household regardless of what that entails. We all rake leaves, we shovel snow, we all mow the lawn, we fix fences, and clean for company, yet the poop scooping, the feeding, the brushing, the washing, and the medicine giving for the family dog or dogs seems to fall upon one person.

So if you are reading this and you are not the primary caretaker of the dogs, please know that the caretaker who writes those 4 pages of notes does so to make it easier on those that must take over the job. On the other hand, if you are the designated primary caretaker, don’t assume that all who live in the home automatically know what to do just because they live there. It’s one of those 50/50 things, ya know?

Swine Flu Day one: I am awakened from 14 hours of sleep as Bentley barks to go out. I get up, put on shoes, grab a leash and walk him to the pen. Come back, get the other dogs and walk them to the pen. Drink, eat, and ask hubby to fill water jugs because the dog’s free flowing water dishes have been put away for the winter and replaced by old tin buckets and bowls. Hubby fills up the jugs, I go back to bed, then wake to bring them back in, feed them, and check water bowls. For some reason are all extremely thirsty.

Sunday: day two: Awakened to dogs pacing back and forth around the bed, Bentley gives a light bark which says, “Wake up, wake up, I want to go out.” Hubby has gone grocery shopping as usual. Get up, put on shoes, put leash on Bentley and take to pen. Walk to kitchen; see water jugs filled from previous day on the counter, which explains why everyone was so thirsty the day before! Take the girls out to pen so hubby can get through back gate with grocery bags, and then bring out the jugs of water for dogs. Eat, drink, take meds and go back to bed. Wake, bring in dogs, feed dogs, give meds, fill water bowls, get ready for bed.

Monday: day three

First day of the work week, dogs pacing around bed, dogs barking, “Take me out!” I get up, put on shoes, get leash, take Bentley to pen, grab water jugs and bring girls to prospective pen. Let out remaining three dogs, drink, eat, sweep, vacuum, wash floors. Rest. Get up, get dog food ready, feed three dogs, bring in remaining dogs, give meds, and feed them. Ah, bed for the night.

Tuesday: day four.

Carry out water jugs, Put dogs in perspective pens, sweep, vacuum, wash floors. Drink, eat, take meds, and rest. Feeling a little better so get up and bread some pork chops for dinner, hardly believable I know. Rest, get dog’s food ready, bring in four dogs, feed, fill water bowls, and eat dinner. Bring in the girls, feed, give meds and try to relax.

An hour later, bang, bang ,bang, bang, Abby is smashing her paw against the kitchen gate.
“Abby, knock it off!” says hubby.
Bang, bang, bang, bang!
“ABBY! STOP!” says hubby as he walks to the kitchen. “You’ve eaten and you got water, now knock it off!”
Hubby walks away.
Bang, bang, bang, bang! Slams Abby’s foot.
“ABBY!” boasts a voice with a slight annoyance from another room.
“I think she needs to go out.” I yell from my sick bed.
“No she doesn’t! She’s fine. Abby go lay down.” Hubby yells
“She hasn’t been out since she ate over an hour ago.” I suggest again.
Bang, bang, bang. Abby paws the gate again and I am now gripping my head between my hands!
Hubby gets up and lets her out.

Now, all of that aggravation could have been avoided had he only known her routine and remembered that she has a urinary incontinence problem to deal with!

Wednesday morning: Day five
I hear heavy thudded pacing up and down the hallway. I know it is Steeler, nothing about him is subtle. Ruff, ruff, says Bentley on the side of the bed. More heavy thudded pacing, and more ruff, ruff, ruff by Bentley. Then plop, bounce, bounce! On the bed jumps Casey with a shoe in his mouth, prancing all around my cold yet fever filled body that is hidden deep beneath my blankets. I know Casey very well, he does not have to go out, he is nervous that something between the dogs is about to happen and he carries this object in his mouth to tell the others he means no harm to anyone.

I get up, grab my shoe from Casey’s mouth, put the leash on Bentley, take him to the pen, get the girls and jugs of water, put them in their pen, and then call Casey to go out, just because I can! Then, Bam! What do my wandering eyes a see? A soft, dark brown, melted into the rug, lump of dog shit from a dog who was obviously not feeling well. I break out the paper towels and the Little Green rug cleaner, a more disgusting smelly scene I did not want to encounter while having Swine flu! ‘

Go to the bathroom, empty and clean the Little Green rug cleaner, go to the kitchen, pick up the dog mats and bam! Urine soaked kitchen floor. Throw the mats outside with the bag of shit and break out the bleach and start swabbing. Eat, drink, and rest. Get up feed dogs, give meds, fill water bowls, tell hubby how frustrating it was to wake up ill and have to clean such a mess , then off to bed for the night.

Thursday morning: day 6:

HOLY CRAP! I’ve slept until 10 AM and there is no noise! No barking, no pacing, no whining, no thudding, no bang, bang on the gate, just the faint tap, tap, tap, on a plastic mat of a dog trying to get comfortable! I slowly stick my head out from the covers fearful of wakening a whole brood of dogs and opening the floodgates which will make me have to jump up and take care of everyone at once and quickly! But no, the only one in the room is Casey and he lay comfortable on his plastic mat. I poke my head out of the bedroom door and glance down the hallway. Empty! Kitchen? Empty! SWEET! I stroll to the kitchen and grab some coffee, look out the kitchen window and see all the dogs in their appropriate places. Start up my computer and upon opening my email box I see, RE: “Good Morning” and it is from hubby. “Hope you are feeling better, all dogs out (except Casey) let the barking begin! Have a nice day.”

This past week has made me feel like I have been stuck in the movie Ground Hog Day. These little “inconveniences” are things I do on a daily basis but don’t give much forethought to until one day when I awake stricken with Swine flu. And this my friends, is definitely the answer to, “When are six dogs too many?” Oink, oink. Stick an apple in my mouth, I’m Done!

Obviously the moral here isn’t just that dogs are a pain in the ass when you’re ill, but it is about communication among the family and sharing responsibilities.

I do so hope that none of my loyal friends and readers get stuck with this dreaded illness, but if you do, hire someone to care for your dogs!


  1. Please, parteners and main caretakers, do not get offended at this article, this is not a blog about anger or blame, it is a blog about communication! It was just as important for me to tell hubby what I needed from him because how else would he know? And it was just as important for him to ask what to do. It's all about communication, we are not telepathic.

  2. Oh my, thank you Sallie! Quite often I feel put upon because I have 100% of the responsibility for 6 dogs and 4 cats. But my dogs are little compared to yours and I can let them all out the back door at the same time and they all get fed at the same time. But wait - don't 4 peeing cats make up for some of that difference?

    We will be back to 5 dogs in a couple of weeks and it's amazing what a difference 1 dog, more or less, makes. Little Scottie is a joy to have around, but it does add to the load. Besides, most of my girls are old and the one who isn't doesn't want to play much. Maybe 2 minutes in the morning and 2 in the late afternoon. Besides Rosie bugging me to play ball, that's it, the rest of the time they pretty much lay around. And if I happen to be sitting, they're great lapwarmers!

    So my job is easy compared to yours. I hope you appreciate Peter when he comes through for you like that. Even once in 6 days is a miracle worthy of celebration!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving to everybody - I love reading your blog!!