When I tell people I have four dogs, I often get the question, “Which one is your favorite?” To which my answer is always, “ALL of them.” They are all so different, so unique, so their own little “person.” There are things I love about each one of them. Ian for his sweetness and for being an all-around Good Boy; Elli for her quirkiness, her intelligence, her drive; Magnum for his over-the-top ridiculousness, his charm, and his sense of humor; Whiskey for her self-possession, with occasional flashes of mischief seeping through. How can I not love them all the same?
Unfortunately, loving them all the same doesn’t always — and perhaps shouldn’t always — translate to treating them all exactly the same.
I have what is probably an over-developed sense of fairness. The standard caveat that “Life isn’t fair” has always been particularly hard for me to swallow. Someone cutting in line? Uh-uh. Preferential treatment to a co-worker because their father/mother/uncle/aunt/8th cousin five-times removed works there? Not gonna fly with me. Letting professional handlers into a building to set up before other exhibitors are allowed to do so? Oh HELL no. So it is particularly difficult for me to offer privileges to one dog and not the others. Especially since it’s not like you can offer a dog a rational explanation for it. (Some might argue that you can’t offer ME a rational explanation for it. Shut up, “Some.” No one asked you.)
But the fact is that not all rewards, treats, and/or privileges are appropriate for all of the dogs. Examples abound. Ian doesn’t get to run with the rest of the pack when there are backyard Chuck-It sessions, because he’s a bully and will snark at the other dogs to further his pursuit of the almighty ball. He has to wait and have a solo session. Some might argue that the solo session is more of a privilege, but I assure you, the whining and carrying on coming from the kitchen as Ian watches the others play out the window would vehemently argue otherwise.
Going for walks — You know that bucolic vision of walking four well-behaved dogs on loose leashes down a pristine country road? Yeah, that’s not us. I decided about 30 seconds into a walk with Ian, Elli and Magnum that dog-walking is an activity best enjoyed by one human and one dog (and mainly in the summer). Elli is usually the benefactor of these walks. Not because she’s the best-behaved; I think she’s actually probably the worst. But she’s also the only dog who won’t run after the ball out back, so exercising her falls to a leash walk, else she’d be the size of an ottoman.
Elli is also the most frequent to be taken to classes of any type. She’s the highest-drive dog in the house, and she gets colossally bored with the day-in and day-out humdrum existence. Agility is a blast for her. She also likes to work, so she’ll be the one to benefit from obedience classes as I try and ready her for her CD.
Whiskey, still a baby, doesn’t get too many privileges like being off-lead or being left loose in the house, even while I shower. She is crated at night, she’s crated if all of the humans leave the house, and she eats her breakfast in the bathroom most mornings while I bathe. Fool me once, and all… One thing she DOES get, and that all young puppies get at my house, is a ton of being picked up and snuggled, smooched on, handled all over, etc., because I don’t want to raise dogs that are weird about being touched or hugged or kissed or groomed or, well, anything.
And now, the latest dilemma for my conscience: The Bed. I’ve always had a policy of no dogs sleeping on my bed. They’re allowed to get up and cuddle with me if I watch TV for a while when I go to bed, but I’ve always made them get down when it’s time for lights out. I mean, the bed is only so big, and with a constantly expanding dog population, it’s only practical. Besides, it’s not like there aren’t perfectly good dog beds all over the bedroom floor.
But… well, see… this one time,
at band camp at a dog show, I kinda sorta maybe let Magnum sleep on the bed with me? And he really liked it? And I kinda sorta maybe didn’t really mind so much? I mean, he’s pretty respectful, doesn’t move around a ton or try to sleep on my head or commit heinous acts of biological terrorism (normally).
The problem is, now he wants to sleep on the bed ALL THE TIME. And I’m having this huge internal struggle with the whole thing, because of the aforementioned innate sense of fairness and all. Sure, Ian dances around and digs at the covers and drapes himself across your feet and is a general pain in the ass when he’s on the bed, but it’s not like I can explain these things to him and offer him the opportunity to sleep on the bed if only he will behave within certain parameters. And then what about the girls?
So, I either maintain the policy of no dogs on the bed and make Magnum sleep in one of the dog beds, even though he can behave, or I let him sleep on the bed but make Ian get down, and feel HELLA GUILTY about it, lying awake while my inner Supreme Court Justice pounds the gavel and tells me I’m in contempt of court.
*sigh* And they say all’s fair in love…