Adding A Canine Companion to Your Household

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We made do with a few worthless cats.

We made do with a few worthless cats.

We were dogless for many years at Fortress Peschel. We made do with a few worthless cats (as we called them whenever they acted cat-like: yowling in the hallway at night, laying like kitty-mines on the staircase or horking on the rug). I thought about a dog, long and hard, for a long time. I wanted a companion animal, company during the day, someone who wanted to walk with me anytime, someone to alert me to the presence of strangers on our property. Castaway Critters supplied us with Muffy and she has been a very good dog, although perhaps not as much of a watch dog as one might wish. She does catch mice, opossums and ground hogs to make up for that.

Muffy has been a good addition to Fortress Peschel; she earns her keep by keeping varmints (rabbits and groundhogs in particular) out of the garden beds. It is obvious to all our neighbors that we have a dog. Burglars tend to stay away from houses with dogs. They bark and alert the homeowner. They may bite. She provides the security alarm system that I wanted from a dog.

But Muffy gave us something more, something unexpected. I walk Muffy every day for a mile or so; sometimes twice a day if I have the time. Because of Muffy, I have met more of my neighbors in two years than in the previous ten. People introduce themselves and comment on what a friendly, pleasant dog Muffy is. I have a few different routes and I walk them regularly. Neighbors who see us may not know exactly who I am, but they recognize Muffy and they know that we belong here. We are not strangers. We are no longer the odd people with the overgrown yard; we are wildlife fanciers and we have a friendly dog named Muffy. In an emergency, being known as a good neighbor and not a crazy stranger may be very helpful.

Walking Muffy every day does double duty. I get the exercise I need (first rule of zombie defense is good cardio-vascular fitness) and I can thoroughly explore my area. I am just walking my dog! I don’t look like a suspicious person walking up and down the alleys looking into other people’s backyards. I am just walking my dog! I am not looking over trash cans for possible mongo or piles of scrap lumber for building supplies. I am just walking my dog! I am not looking for low-lying areas that flood, or potential fruit sources from unused apple trees, or like minded preppers as evidenced by their extensive food gardens and water storage devices. I am just walking my dog! Muffy allows me to completely explore my area (a two or three mile circle around my house) in the safest and most innocuous way possible. I am just another dog walker. I blend right in at the same time I learn all the ins and outs of my area. Muffy even pays for a can of dog food now and then with the change we pick up.

If you want a companion, a protective family member, an exercise machine and an exploring partner, consider a dog.

If you want a companion, a protective family member, an exercise machine and an exploring partner, consider a dog.

Dogs need far more work than cats; they need training, socializing, regular vet checkups, walks, and can’t be left unattended. Think carefully before adding a dog to your household. They are another family member. A dog tied up at the far back end of your yard, ignored and neglected, is deeply unhappy and useless for any of the things you want a dog for. If you are going to do this, do not get a dog. Pay for an alarm system instead. If you want a companion, a protective family member, an exercise machine and an exploring partner, consider a dog.

Do some reading on the different breeds. Some dogs are bred specifically to be pets as opposed to working or hunting dogs. Just about any dog can be a watch dog. Even a toy poodle will alert you to the presence of someone coming up your sidewalk. Any dog will be delighted to go on walks every day and help you explore your neighborhood and get fitter. Smaller dogs tend to live longer and eat less than larger dogs. This may be a consideration for budgeting reasons. The vet bills can be the same but 50 pound bags of dog food cost a lot more than 5 pounders. A well-trained dog is a much happier dog that is easier to live with. Make the time and do basic training with your dog. Your vet or local pet store can give leads on where to go for classes if you don’t want to do it yourself with a library book.

Take your time and visit shelters and rescue groups. Get to know the dogs that are available. If you want a specific breed, there is a rescue group for that dog. I knew I wanted an adult dog, fully grown with a known temperament, some training and housebroken. I did not want a puppy I would have to housebreak and train from scratch. I did not want a specific breed, so a mongrel would work fine. Mixed breed dogs can even be healthier than pedigreed ones. Castaway Critters told me that Muffy is a terrier/German shepherd mix. She looks like a small shepherd. I don’t know how they figured out the terrier part unless it was her behavior. Muffy is very independent and single-minded in her pursuit of varmints in tall grass. That must have been the reason.

Visiting to a dog show will enable you to see the wide variety of dogs.

Visiting to a dog show will enable you to see the wide variety of dogs.

Consider what you want in a dog, what you want to get out of a dog, and what you are willing to put up with from a dog. Then study the dogs. Visiting to a dog show will enable you to see the wide variety of dogs and hear straight talk from the owners about the plusses and minuses of each breed. Newfoundlands are huge, shed like mad and drool continuously. Toy dogs are hyper alert and no one will ever set foot on your lawn without you knowing it. That may be too much alertness for you. Your insurance company may have something to say to you if you get a dog that they regard as dangerous: Akitas, Rottweilers, pit bulls. Every dog is better with training, but it is a must with larger breeds. If you can’t control the dog, there will be real problems with behavior. Behavior problems, most of the time, are not the dog’s fault. They are your fault because you didn’t train your dog.

It was absolutely worth getting Muffy for a host of reasons. Look closely at your household, your needs, and your tolerances. Chances are, the right dog is waiting for you.

Next Week: Seeking Mongo and Obtainium