Raising 2 Big Dogs: Double the Trouble, Twice the Fun
I’ve always been in a one-dog family, but now that we have two large dogs, I’m convinced we’ll never go back to one dog.
Scruffy, Skittles, Scrappy, Silas, and Duke: those are the names of the five dogs I’ve had in my life. Prior to Duke joining our family, I never had more than one dog at a time. Scruffy and Skittles were my childhood dogs, both small dogs who were under 20 pounds. Scrappy (a 10-pound terrier mix) and Silas (an 80 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback/Labrador mix) were both adopted after my husband and I married.
Scrappy was my first fur baby — he was utterly spoiled in many ways to make up for the early years of his life spent on the streets. He slept in our bed, he got 4 walks per day (as my husband went home at lunch every day to walk him), and he had a special carrier (like a sling) so we could wear him and bring him with us everywhere. When he had digestive issues the first few days after we adopted him, we rushed him to the vet for multiple tests, which led to my husband nicknaming Scrappy “the walking flat-screen TV” (since we could have bought one back in the early 2000s with the amount we spent at the vet!).
When he continued to have digestive issues, we slept on the ground by the sliding glass door so he could go in and out as he needed. We eventually put Scrappy on prescription dog food due to unspecified allergies (although allergies never stopped him from stealing our food whenever he could — like the steak he pulled off the table when my husband was on the phone). We were *those* dog owners that brought him everywhere and planned our lives around him. Elderly relatives joked that they wanted to come back as our dog.
Then we had two babies and Scrappy aged before our eyes. Once he passed away, I was devastated and it took two years before I was willing to consider adopting a new dog. We have good friends who had a purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback that they raised from a puppy. I was fascinated by how calm, sweet, and loyal their dog was. He was also very gentle with my girls.
When I found a Rhodesian Ridgeback rescue group, we went to meet Silas (a half Ridgeback/half Labrador). The group told us he was four years old when we adopted him. Now, nearly nine years later, at almost 13 years old, he’s starting to show a few signs of age. His muzzle is turning white. He needs us to help lift him up into our SUV. He sleeps a lot. Yet he still chases squirrels and sometimes even manages to catch them. He just caught one yesterday, which sparked me to write this essay. Silas doesn’t realize he’s a senior dog (82 in people years?) and I think part of what’s keeping him young is our new Labrador.
We had Silas for eight years when Duke entered our lives. I never expected to have more than one dog at a time, even though my husband has hinted at the idea a few times. It didn’t appeal to me because it just sounded like so much more work. I already was stretched thin juggling a full-time job, a nearly 3-hour round-trip commute, my family (including kids who needed to be picked up from activities), and volunteer service on the board of a community-based nonprofit and a University committee. But then 2020 came and we were suddenly all stuck at home.
The freedom that comes with not commuting anywhere, working remotely, and even doing my volunteer service remotely, meant that I had so much more time and energy. So I surprised myself when I agreed to adopt Duke a month ago from a relative with very young children.
We are all happier — including Silas, who seems to have reversed aging since Duke joined us. Rather than just sleep all day and occasionally chase a squirrel or two that dares to invade our yard, Silas is regularly chasing Duke around the couch or eagerly going outside multiple times a day now. The two dogs play well together, run along with each other out in the yard, and fall asleep near one another.
My husband makes sure to run the boys each morning so they get some excess energy out before they settle in for naps on the rug near my desk. My kids take them out for quick walks between classes or homework assignments (since they’re still remotely learning), which is a new habit. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have encouraged my daughters to leave their bedrooms at least a few times during the day so they’re not glued to their desks. Only since adding Duke to our family has this actually happened on a regular basis!
I think the other benefit of having two dogs is that BOTH dogs get more attention. Now, if we’re petting one dog, the other one will run up for attention, too. Before we added Duke, Silas was sometimes aloof, waiting for us to approach him.
Of course, there are some drawbacks. It’s twice as expensive for two dogs to receive veterinary treatment, let alone the cost to feed them, administer flea/tick/heartworm medicine, and provide various accessories (e.g., beds, toys, collars, and leashes). There’s also twice as much output to clean up (and big dogs produce a lot!).
Still, these two dogs offer us so much love and we gain so much joy, it’s all worth it.