We are a blended dog family.
My boyfriend, Alex, moved in with me earlier this year. Like me, he adopted his first dog, Hildie, and acquired his second right around the time I found Millie. The second dog, Roxy, used to belong to his sister, but she was living with his parents. Neither Roxy nor his parents were thrilled with the situation, so Alex offered to take her in.
So, neither of us really set out to have two dogs. And we definitely didn’t want four.
This is what the house looked like when Alex first moved in his stuff.
At the same time, part of why we love each other is that neither of us are the type to abandon a dog or see them as disposable. We’re pretty loyal people. Alex even more so than me. It’s one of his many traits that make me appreciate him.
And this is what it looked like with dogs.
Except now we have four dogs. At least once a day, I say “four dogs is too many dogs.” Or, sometimes, in desperation: “four dogs isn’t really a lot of dogs…right?” At first, when I made either remark, Alex would get upset. He saw it as me commenting constantly on something we couldn’t change. Really, it’s just my way of joking and dispersing some of my nerves about the odd situation we find ourselves in. Four is a lot, but we manage it. Mostly, we’ve fallen into a routine where we both help each other “parent” but we’re mostly responsible for our own dogs. We call my two “the big dogs” (Lila is 40 pounds, Millie is 27) and his two the “little dogs.” They’re both miniature schnauzers, although Roxy is really a mini-mini.
Roxy ends up being the one of his two that I spend the most time with. She has sort of integrated herself into our pack. She particularly enjoys occupying the same space as Lila and is pretty much in charge of both the big dogs when given the chance. She is the first out the door and sometimes when I let her out of her crate, Lila retreats to hers, like “I just cannot with the being dominated right now.”
Hildie (R) and Lila (L) circa 2010 or so. Alex and I were friends before we started dating and, oddly, Hildie and Lila were much closer before they had to live together. Hopefully, this will not be the case for me and Alex. It’s working okay so far!
Hildie is more difficult. She is not a part of our pack. She is a one-person-dog, through and through. Her heart belongs to Alex and she loves him with a fierce devotion that at times makes me downright jealous. It doesn’t help that at first, I really associated her with Alex’s ex-girlfriend. She also had curly gray hair and a tendency to speak sharply. But Hildie is her own dog and I do love her. It’s just…she’s the first dog I’ve ever had to work at loving.
Here they are looking lovingly into each others eyes.
One trick with Hildie is that she’s too keyed up most of the time to go to the bathroom. She needs to go, and she’ll get hysterical if she hasn’t been out in a while, but she will get outside and just….nothing happens. She sniffs like an exercise in comic timing, allllllmost finding the right spot and then bounding to the next one with an emotionless about-face that makes her look like a tiny, ineffective soldier. She has an uncanny ability to realize when it’s raining or windy or otherwise inconvenient and to have to go out RIGHT THEN. She has also more than once refused to go to the bathroom but also refused to go back inside to the point that she must be carried. Once, while I was carrying her back inside after a twenty minute attempt to get her to do her business, she pooped on my arm.
Hildie can be a real chore.
Hildie gets caught looking evil.
She is incredibly sweet, though, when she wants to be, and she is absolutely violent in her determination to cuddle. She will sit on your lap and threaten you with growls and this kind of frantic almost biting snap in the air if you dare to show a reluctance to sit there and cuddle her for the rest of time.
“I will cuddle you. I will cuddle you so hard.”
Roxy is also a pretty determined cuddler. As Alex puts it, she likes to be on the “highest, softest place.” Her ability to find this space and occupy it is unmatched. She will fall asleep on the back of the couch atop a folded blanket. She will fall asleep on top of a stack of precariously placed pillows. More than once, I’ve woken up from a dead sleep to find that I rolled into the fetal position, making the highest, softest place my hip. And there Roxy will be, delicately balanced like a sneetch on a truffula tree, curled up in a little ball, fast asleep.
…or Horton hatching the egg. Really any Seuss character in a tree.
(CC-licensed photo by Creative+ Timothy K Hamilton on Flickr)
When the little dogs first moved in, I was a bit overwhelmed trying to find a place to put them. I had been hiding the big dog crates in the spare bedroom, but that room became full of Alex’s stuff, and I had to move them to my own room. I felt like there were dog crates everywhere so that our tiny condo felt cramped and unpleasant. Despite what a Skymall catalogue might suggest, there are very few options for attractive dog-crates-as-furniture. My solution was to fit three of the crates, Tetris-style into the bottom of the closet-turned-built-in-bookcase in the hallway. The three crates fit perfectly with room for circulation as long as Roxy’s small crate was stacked on Hildie’s. Up until that point, Roxy had refused to get inside of her crate without whining pitifully and she was bunking with Hildie most of the time. This saved mine and Alex’s sanity, but threatened Hildie’s. As soon as I stacked Roxy’s crate, though, it became the highest, softest place. She walked over to me, waited for me to open the door, and hopped right in. The solution had been there all along and we were too stupid to see it.
Roxy, in a moment when the top of the couch was the highest, softest place.