It’s a dog’s life

Any dog lovers out there? There are, I know. I think a person has to really work at NOT being a dog lover; what’s not to like? Dogs are loving, loyal, funny and yes, even compassionate. I’ve heard it said that dogs are God’s apology for people (or for family, but I’m not going there).

My husband and I have four dogs. Four. That’s right. No, we don’t live on a farm or even on a full acre of land. Having this many dogs is not his choice, though he does love each of them. It was mine.

Having four dogs has taught me an awful lot. For instance, having four dogs has taught me that four dogs is too many in a house not designed for dogs, located on about ¾ of an acre. Still, they’re my babies, and I love them dearly. We got each one of them for specific, good reasons. Im sticking to that.

A couple of years ago, we inherited our daughter’s “college” dog, a Goldendoodle (one of God’s near-perfect creations, in my opinion). She is sweet, quirky, smart and funny. Sadly, at age 5, she developed sudden lameness in a rear leg, and the diagnosis was painful,  and a terribly expensive surgery. About $5000 later, she is resting comfortably in a 4×4 pen – for TEN weeks (doctor’s orders). She can’t climb steps or jump up on the sofa. She is allowed outside on a leash to do her business, then right back to the pen she goes. I’ll be honest; I don’t know how a family with two working “parents” would manage this process. One wrong move, and her surgery would fail.

Managing Raleigh’s convalescence alone is difficult enough. Now, factor in the fact that we got a German Shepherd/Poodle puppy – a Shepadoodle – just four months ago. Ironically, we got Theo both for us and for Raleigh. Our other two dogs are 15+ years old, and they don’t do a whole lot of playing or roughhousing. They sleep, eat, and love us. I was actually worrying that Raleigh wasn’t getting enough interaction and exercise with two sedentary sisters, so we adopted Theo. Three months later, Raleigh underwent this surgery that will keep her nearly immobile for months.

Did I mention that it’s been raining here in Atlanta for more than a week now? It started raining the day before her surgery, and it’s still coming down. That means, of course, that even the three dogs who are mobile are stuck in the house. The old girls don’t care. This is great sleeping weather. Theo, on the other hand, is a ball of energy packaged in a sweet, funny, cute and rambunctious 60-lb puppy. He’s like a furry tornado with a great personality. And teeth. And a strong bark.

Theo whiles away the hours on these rainy days by staring at his hero, Raleigh. He wants her to play with him like they used to, before the injury. He stares, whines, barks, play bows, wags, and generally annoys her. She, on the other hand, is bummed out and antsy, also wanting to play. I do believe she’s resentful that he gets to run, fetch and play, and all she can do is watch.

I share all this to try to paint a picture of what life has been like in our house for the past few weeks (Raleigh’s injury, before she was properly diagnosed, still kept her from roughhousing with the puppy).

I am a writer. I thrive on solitude and quiet. Lately, there’s not a whole lot of thriving going on. I am constantly refereeing tangles between the puppy and Raleigh (through bars), and between Theo and the old girls, who just ain’t in the mood to entertain a bored puppy. My husband and I haven’t had a complete conversation in several days. I haven’t sat down to a meal and finished it without jumping up several times to attend to our injured baby, or to keep the puppy from driving her nuts.

Why? Why put ourselves through all this? Why spend that kind of money on a dog?  Why turn our lives upside down for creatures who can’t put a penny in our pocket, who consume food and treats and toys? Why do all this for dogs, who sometimes have accidents and sometimes chew up really cool stuff that doesn’t belong to them?

I can’t tell you how many people have told us they’d have put a dog down rather than pay for such an expensive surgery and oversee such an arduous recuperation. And when I hear them say that, my heart wrenches a little. To us, our dogs aren’t “just dogs.” They mean the world to us, because all they do is love us and desire to please us. That’s it. They have no agendas. They love us no matter how much is in our bank account, no matter how many pounds we’ve packed on over the holidays, no matter whether we’ve had a great day or a rotten one. They just love us.

What other creature on earth can we say that about? Horses maybe, though I don’t know much about them. I know they seem sweet and regal at the same time, and I’ve always been fascinated by them. But dogs? They are nothing but love. Shelters and rescue organizations are full to overflowing with dogs who just want to love and be loved, period.

I have thought more than once, What if we hadn’t had the resources to get this surgery done for Raleigh? I can’t think about that too long, because I don’t know the answer. I can’t imagine not being able to help her. I can’t imagine not taking care of our “old girls” just because they’re “old.” So many dogs are dropped at shelters, their owners giving the reason that “they’re old.” I can’t imagine that – the heartlessness and the cruelty of discarding a dog who’s done nothing but love you, simply because he’s too old. I can’t imagine dumping our puppy at a shelter or out in a field somewhere, just because he requires a lot of attention right now.

After all, according to Mahatma Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I like to think I’m a good person. Sometimes I fall very short, but the kind of person I am (and the kind of nation we are) matters to me. I think Gandhi had something there. Who we are is reflected in the way we treat the most vulnerable of us, whether elderly citizens, people with special needs, and of course, animals. It’s just who we are.

How are we doing?


Carole Townsend is an author, journalist, and columnist living in metropolitan Atlanta. She and her husband have been married for nearly 20 years, and during that time, they have raised their children and now delight in doting on their granddaughter. Through those 20 years, they have brought 6 dogs into their home and family, and they have loved every one of them well and thoroughly. When she’s not writing, gardening, cooking, or training Theo, Carole travels throughout the southeastern United States, talking to women’s and civic groups about being a woman, loving a family, and writing. Visit her at, Carole Townsend – Author (Facebook), @caroletownsend (Twitter), and @carole.w.riter (Instagram).

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