Wednesday, November 7, 2007

When Nine Are Too Many

I am getting used to the reaction I get when I tell people that I have nine dogs.
"Nine dogs!" Followed by awkward sideways glances. Like I had just divulged the fact that, oh, I don't know, I had a summer home on Mars. Or that I was recently diagnosed with a flesh eating super bacteria. That I had a $5000 a day heroin habit which I supported by ... well, I guess you understand what I'm saying. I don't have any of those things. I just have nine dogs.

The reaction comes from dog-o-phobes, and surprisingly it also comes from some happy dog homes. The dog-o-phobes say "Peeooooweeee, are they outside dogs?" I say no, they live in the house and all sleep in our bedroom. "Oh, PEEEOOOOWEEEE! How very germy and nasty of you!" Well they don't say it so much as step back and wrinkle their noses and roll their eyes. This reaction makes me feel sad for them. I know that they are never greeted when they get home from the grocery store like there is no better human being in the Universe. I know that they never get to lower their finished dinner plate to a wagging happybody who is glad, no, ecstatic, to be offered their leftovers. They have no one who depends on them for everything, and is thrilled with everything they get. No warm heartbeat next to them with silky ears to absentmindedly finger, or those eyes which smooth away the most stubborn of life's wrinkles.

I feel bad for those people.

I do not like when I get the sideways glances from people who have one or two treasured dogs. "Oh," they say. "Do you have a kennel or something?" ("Are you a puppy mill? A for profit back yard breeder? A show person who feeds her own ego off her dogs' wins, and needs more, more, more?") I say no, they live in the house and all sleep in our bedroom. The worried people warm up a little, but remain skeptical. "Oh. How do you love nine dogs?" How do I? Are nine too many?

When it is raining and I have to pick up the yard? Nah, it takes me about fifteen minutes, tops, a couple of times a day. The idea of having to trudge out and scoop on a chilly November rainy morning is not so special, but then I come back in to nine shining faces, wagging for their breakfast, and it turns out it really wasn't so bad.

When I get the vet bill? It is vital, whether you have one dog or you have nine dogs, that you have a vet whom you respect, and whom you trust unreservedly. I see my vet nine times more often than my friend who has one dog. Nine times more routine visits and heartworm medicine, nine times more emergencies. Nine times the bills. But every time I see my vet, I thank my lucky stars. For the vet - "Ol' Poke & Stick" the dogs call him, for the two other vets in the practice, and for the entire delightful staff. Nope, I always feel fortunate when we've been to the vet.

Are nine too many when it's time to do teeth and nails? No, but this old house is too big and Delia and Mama Pajama can play hide and seek way too well. At least they hide well. I swear, I can just think about getting the dremel to do toenails, and there goes Delia slinking up the stairs, or out the door if it's nice outside and the door is open. Silly Luciano begs to be next. And if I'm bathing every dog, Looch will rub and rub himself on the beds when another dog is done with a bath. Luciano won't have a drop of water on him, but he is drying himself for all he's worth! Mama Pajama loves the taste of the doggy toothpaste, but hates the toothbrush, so she butts in line and then bites down on the brush and stares innocently at me: "What?" Nope, these chores are fun.

Are nine dogs too many for me to love? I think that every dog in our house feels spoiled and special. I believe that I was created to enjoy animals; clearly I was that way from the earliest time I was becoming me. I've always understood them, and admired them. (When I was four, I stood outside with birdseed in my hand in the freezing, deep snow Massachusetts cold. I stood there from lunch time until nearly dusk, until a chickadee finally ate from my hand. No wonder I now hate the cold.) And I am blessed with a husband who shares my love of innocent souls, and openly accepts who I am. Encourages me. Helps. I must have been really good in a former life. Or he must have been horrible.

I know my limits, surprising as that sounds coming from a woman with nine dogs. And I know that nine is my limit. I know I can tuck nine dogs in at night. I know that I can walk all nine every day. I know that I can take care of nine, play with nine, cuddle all nine. I can feed them and train them and take them to the country to run.

I know that I love each one. And that for me, nine is not too many.


  1. I imagine that when I am older and more settled, that I will have lots of dogs. It's in my blood. If I met you on the street and you said you had 9 whippets, I'd probably ask to go home with you, lol.

    I love my vet too. I never would have discovered what kind of relationship you can have with them, but it really is meaningful. I had one I no longer see who saved my boy from Parvo. As an adult dog who was fully vaccinated. Worst week of my life. But the vets pulled overtime, they came in during the middle of the nights to check up on him... They are worth any money you need to give them, and then some.

  2. I was chatting with another dog blogger the other day. She said it best. There are Patience's entries...and then there are all the rest. WOW! I loved reading this; it's a love story!


  3. We can see by the picture that your bed is full and that everyone is warm and happy! We love it!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  4. Nine wagging tails, nine lots of Whippety kisses, nine doses of that incredible unconditional love? I consider you one of the luckiest people I "know".

    Only two dogs I know but I was lying in bed this morning with Lurcher No. 1 curled up against my tummy and Lurcher No.2 curled up in the crook of my knees and a feeling of complete and utter happiness and contentment seeped through me.

    Non-doggy, or non-doggy-cuddle type people, have no idea what they miss out on.

  5. This is such a great post, Patience. The photos of your husband and your dogs are just endearing.

    The more dogs the better as far as I'm concerned! You've got nine times the love in your house! xo

  6. Hi Whippets 9! Thanks for sniffing over at our yard. We came over to see what's going on... there is lots of love in your house, awesome. M&D would have more if the community would let them so their looking for land. our paws are crossed.

    TX Trio wagging tail and barking loud

  7. I always thought that two dogs were enough - after all, I have two hands with which I can safely hold two leashes. This theory worked just fine with my kids! Our most has been four, we're currently down to three and a kitten (which, with two sighthounds in the house, is an interesting experience). If I wasn't away from home 10 hours a day, I'd probably have more.

  8. what a wonderful post! I dunno how I would feel about more siblings seeing as how my first brother ended up being a complete doofus face :) We are so happy you are able to care for so many lucky doggies!

  9. We loved your post, and know that Muzzer would have more of us, if she could get a warrantee against any of them being like Teka. But, she does love Teka's silky ears, just as she loves my furry ones. We know she envies you, but for right now, she has to make do with us.

    kissies from Gussie

  10. I'm only too well familiar with those same looks and those same reactions. I've almost gotten to the point where I don't tell most people exactly how many dogs I do have.

    But, since I'm not ashamed of them. I do respond and smile through the comments and criticisms. My response can vary from "Well, it's my life and you don't have to live it." to "I am blessed by my animals and love going home every night from work."

    I feel your pain, Patience.


  11. Ha if I had the room I would have many more dogs. And, would love everyone of them!

  12. Well, MzPatience, as a former PEEEOOOOOWEEEEr who can barely keep three houseplants alive let alone nine of anything, I think it's your special zest for all things warm and fun that makes nine just fine in your happy home! Your converted and biggest fan, Mary

  13. Thank you so much for this post. It was truly heartwarming to see your husband on the bed all snuggled up with the pack.
    I live in Belize, where dogs are usually valued only for their guarding abilities. I have a 7yr Labrador, and get GASPS of horror when i tell people he is a HOUSE dog and sometimes sleeps in my bed with me (when he's not shedding, hehe).
    I got even worse looks when I announced I had just adopted a golden retriever and yes, she too would be a HOUSE dog. I've been told to have children, that dogs are dirty and that I'm nuts. I've also been told that I'm corrupted by western society (i grew up in UK), because dogs want to be dogs and live outside, and that i'm robbing dogs of that. They obviously don't know retrievers :-)
    Thank God for my mother who is also a true animal lover (she has 4 pekes), and for my boyfriend who has golden and a cockerspaniel, yes IN THE HOUSE too! And thank God for people like you, who love animals for the beautiful souls they are, and not just as possessions.

  14. I can truely relate since I have nine furkids.
    Five of which are Old English Mastiffs and weigh an average of 200 lbs each.
    The only difference is that mine are not allowed on my bed.I need someplace for quiet time and if they where allowed on my bed I would have to sleep on the couch,lol.
    They do sleep in our bedroom floor at night and I just love all the snoring they do.
    It's like music to my ears when I go to bed at night =)
    I get some pretty strange reactions when people ask if they are housedogs and I say yes,lol.
    We don't have much company but that is fine with me.If they don't like my furkids chances are I don't have much in common with them anyway.
    Keep up the great work =)

  15. Patience, You've hit your mark again! When I am walking my 6 or 7 whippets in the neighborhood, my neighbors are often amazed at how well they walk together and comment that they can't even walk their one dog that well. Many get their cameras out to snap a shot of it and I just love it. I'm so proud of my wonderful whippets and their good manners. As we walk by runners around our 4 mile walk around Burke Lake Park, they are so in tune with each other and focused on the walk (and a possible squirrel sighting) that they don't notice the people unless I stop to talk to them. Most people on this walk are impressed with the athleticism my whippets but occasionally some are shocked that they are "all" mine. Taking care of "all" ten of my whippets is part of the joy of total package. Scooping the poop, feeding, training, showing, coursing, racing, dock diving, etc. are part of the deal. As are vet visits with my wonderful vets including the special needs of my now blind 16 year old rescue, Lucy, and Josephine who has lymphangiasarcoma who requires vet visits with specialists. They each have their own personality that makes life wonderful!


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