When we were growing up, Fran and I (Hope) were under the mistaken impression that our family dog, Spunky (a Boston Terrier), was the family dog. It turned out that wasn’t quite the case. Unbeknownst to us, our Mother and Spunky were a pair – bonded for life.
It’s probably true in many, if not most, dog-owning households. The parents tell the kids that the dog is “your dog,” and their responsibility. All the while, behind the scenes, the adults are making darned sure that the dog gets fed, walked, and cared for as he should be. Mom and Spunky had lots of time together after we were asleep. We thought he slept in the kitchen, as good dogs were supposed to back then. Not so. Especially not if it was a stormy night. Like I said, Mom and Spunks were bonded.
Possession is only part of the equation
When I was all grown up and looking to get a dog of my very own – it didn’t work out that way. When I went home on weekends, Dragon (Brussels Griffon) and Daemon (Boston Terrier) glommed onto Mom and stayed there. Until they were dragged back into the car to go back to the city. Brats.
As time passed, things changed, and I returned to the family home, I was determined that I would have a dog who was all mine. I tried with Golly herself. She wanted none of me. I smuggled her onto the plane from Louisville to Chicago. I took her through a series of veterinary visits resulting in open-heart surgery. Nursed her back to health. She was single-mindedly devoted to Fran in every way. Her dog.
Then there came Ceilidh (Kay-lee). I really, really tried. She picked Fran.
Success at last!
When it came time to think about adding another dog to the family, I was absolutely determined. Roc was Golly’s nephew, also a Brussels Griffon. While Griffs are sociable dogs, they’re really one-person pups. So Fran wasn’t allowed to touch Roc when he came home. I carried him around for four days in a carrier. Fed him. Walked him. No interaction with Fran at all for the first two weeks.
It worked! He was wholly and entirely my dog. My first obedience-titled dog. We were a team. He allowed Teddy to join the team. It was great!
Not for everyone
A couple aspects of being extremely bonded aren’t for everyone. When you have a bond this strong, you never go to the bathroom by yourself. You can never dash through the house without kicking somebody. And other family members may get annoyed when your dog whines and sits by the door waiting only for you.
The upsides more than outweigh the downs. You always have somebody who wants to cuddle. You’re never lonely. There aren’t any arguments or backtalk. Your dogs are always thrilled you came back – even if you only took out the garbage.
There are individual dogs and whole breeds of dogs that are family dogs. They have a special relationship with each member of the family. That’s a wonderful, special situation, too. But if you want to be your dog’s person, in our experience you have to be everything for the dog, first.