A year ago I thought my life was pretty busy, taking care of my husband, our two kids, and our cat Smokey. Last August we adopted Maggie, my first dog ever, and it was an adjustment, but she’s pretty much a lapdog, and our life was still busy but manageable.
About a month ago, we adopted Bartolo, a German Shepherd mix that the rescue group Doggie Protective Services (DPS) claimed doesn’t need a lot of exercise. I’ve since realized their idea of “a lot of exercise” is much more than mine is.
Because Bartolo loves to run, I started taking the dogs to the dog park. I realized it was good for Maggie too since she barks and growls whenever she sees another dog. Overall, it’s been a good experience. Bartolo runs fastest and is happiest when he’s chasing another dog or being chased. I’ve taken him jogging, I’ve ridden a bike with him running alongside me, and he tolerates it, but he really lives for the chase.
There have been a few incidents at the dog park. One dog walker kept yelling at Bartolo to stop barking at her dog, to the point where I decided we might as well leave. Ironically, she said nothing to Maggie who barked incessantly at another of her dogs. Being at the dog park isn’t unlike being at a playground with your kids. Some people you’ll get along with, others not so much.
I describe my way of navigating the world as “learning by tripwire.” It’s trial-and-error, but much more filled with being oblivious then regretful. I brought a Duraplay squeaky football to the dog park. A guy was there with his dog, let’s call him Ethan and his dog Buster. Ethan usually walks around the dog park fence without ever coming inside. I asked him why, and he said Buster was a rescue dog and wasn’t well socialized. Buster knew the other two dogs who were in the dog park that morning with us though, so Ethan thought he’d try having Buster come inside.
Me, being my usual, optimistic, naive self, encouraged Ethan. For the most part Buster and Bartolo ignored each other or growled then backed off. The other two dogs left with their owner, and I started throwing Bartolo’s football. Buster would chase it but then let Bartolo take it. Until he wouldn’t. They started fighting, and Ethan stepped in to pull them apart. In the process he got bit. Of course both dogs were up-to-date on their rabies, so at least we didn’t have that to worry about. Ethan said he wouldn’t bring Buster back into the dog park again. He told me after the fight that Buster had already recently gotten into a couple of fights.
People say he should have known better, and he probably should, but I still feel responsible too. I don’t bring dog toys to the park anymore. In the future, if anyone brings in their dog and says it isn’t well-socialized, I’m going to take my dogs out before anything happens. We’ve gotten to know a few of the dogs already, and there’s plenty of dogs Bartolo does get along with that we can play with in the mornings. I won’t let this incident keep me from going to the dog park, but I can certainly be more careful.
I admit I had my doubts early on whether we should keep Bartolo. I thought that adding one dog after already having one wouldn’t be a big deal. Perhaps if we’d gotten another small dog, but it was really stressful trying to keep Bartolo from running out of the yard when we opened the door, from jumping up when trying to put his food bowl in his dog bed, and from lunging while on the leash. I actually had a talk with my husband that I was afraid that I wasn’t a “good enough” dog owner to be able to control and take care of Bartolo, and we might need to consider giving him back.
Thankfully, dog owners from the dog park and the neighborhood gave me great suggestions for how to train Bartolo. He has to sit and stay before we open the yard door, and he doesn’t try to dash out anymore. I bought a Gentle Leader headcollar that pulls his head towards me when he tries to lunge. I hook two loops (skipping one in between) on his SnapLeash, removing some of the slack, and wrapping it around my waist so that he has only enough leash to stay right beside me.
My husband is taking Bartolo to obedience training, and it seems to be going well. Bartolo was surrendered to the rescue organization by his former owner, who got ill and was no longer able to take care of him. He is an absolute sweetheart, and one day Maggie will stop growling at him. Probably.
Our lives are crazy busy now. I’m walking about 6-7 miles per day now between running errands, picking up and dropping off my kids, and giving the dogs lots of exercise. I’m also happier than ever. I promised my husband I wouldn’t ask for any more dogs. Now we joke that we should adopt an orange tabby cat. Thank God DPS never seems to have any.
Have you ever had two or more dogs? Was it a big transition adding each dog?