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Taking time to enjoy pets

June 27, 2009
by Steve Weisman - Outdoor Editor

Last week we looked at making the decision to own a pet. Here are some thoughts from my family and the love we have for our devoted pets.

Our lives have been typical, both of us holding down fulltime jobs, raising two children and now enjoying grandchildren. Like all of us: busy. However, we have also found our lives greatly enriched by our pets. I will guarantee you one thing: no matter how bad our days have been, our pets always show us the same exuberance and desire for companionship when we come home. The wagging tails say it all.

My wife loves her "indoor house" breeds. In that time span, she has had a Schnauzer named Gretchen, a miniature Yorkie named Muffin and now a Tea Cup Poodle christened Peaches. It was after Muffin had to be put to sleep several years ago that I encouraged my wife to not get another puppy.

After all, we would soon be retiring and spending time traveling. Not having another puppy would make sense. It would be one less thing for us to have to worry about. For nearly four years, she did without a dog, but that is not my wife. She has always been a dog lover and always will be. Hence we now have a Peaches!

As for me, I love my outdoor dogs. I grew up with Heinz 57 dogs on the farm and as an outdoorsman and hunter, I have targeted the hunting breeds, one German shorthair and two Labrador retrievers.

I now lean toward the retrievers because I hunt both waterfowl and upland birds. Living on the edge of town for over 20 years and in the country for another seven years made it much easier for me to have an outdoor dog. Now, we're in a condo situation, but my big dog has adjusted to her "indoor" palace very easily.

Both Mandi, my black Labrador that helped us raise our two children, and Shasta, my current yellow Labrador, were raised as both outdoor and indoor dogs. Years ago, many sporting dog owners kept their dogs in kennels and that was that. However, more and more owners are finding that these dogs also make great indoor pets. The only negative that I can think of is their shedding when they are inside.

Although it can't be done in town, some people in the country let their dogs run free and simply have a place for them to sleep in one of their outbuildings. I worry about the dogs getting into some poison or waste product, getting together with other dogs and running the countryside, getting picked up by someone or even getting run over by a vehicle. To help alleviate this concern, some dog owners will install the "invisible" underground fence that keeps their pet in the yard or a portion of the acreage.

Time for the dog doesn't have to be hours. For the indoor dogs, they get more socialization simply because they are always in the house with us. So, while we're making supper, Peaches is able to get some quality interaction with us. She may be a tea cup poodle, but her retriever background comes through when we play fetch with her ball.

For the outdoor dogs, it can be as simple as 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. Mandi's favorite toy was a football. My son used to kick the football, and Mandi would retrieve it. Thus, whenever she came out of her kennel, she had her football in her mouth. For Shasta, it is her retrieving dummy.

It's easy to play sit-stay-come before or after work or during a break.

Now as we live in our condo, Shasta and Peaches are both with me when I write my stories right now as a matter of fact. Of course, the hunting season is Shasta's season. At nearly 13, she is on the back side, but she still lives for the hunt. As a condo dog, however, we do require regular baths!

Yes, we love our dogs, and yes, they take time and cost money. However, we feel they are worth every minute and every dollar! Is it any wonder that our son and daughter-in-law have a Labrador and our daughter and son-in-law have a Labrador and Schnauzer?

Guess you could say, "It's all in the family!"



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