Of all the stages you've been through in life and all the dogs you've owned, was there one time that stood out as the best time to own a dog? Childhood, when you had the support of family members? Early in adult life, as you were setting out on your own? Or perhaps later, once you became established with a family of your own?
I bring this up after reading an interesting opinion piece by Jennifer Quasha, co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life" In her newlyweds and dogs piece, says adding a dog is a recipe for trouble for newlyweds.
Citing a National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy report that says 47 percent of shelter dogs studied were between 5 months and 3 years old -- and 57 percent of people surrendering their dogs (who told their ages) were between the ages of 21 and 40 -- she infers that young families play a significant role in the unwanted dog problem we have pretty much everywhere in the United States.
What do you think? If your newlywed friend started talking about dog ownership, would you discourage it?
I think the reasons cited in the story are valid and worth considering for anyone who's thinking about owning dog. Namely, raising a dog is a lot of work, and when newlyweds start their own human families, dogs often get less attention and exercise.
But I'm not willing to say newlyweds shouldn't have dogs. I know too many young couples who do a fine job balancing their animals and their children. I think that, as with anyone considering a dog, you have to weigh the responsibilities involved: Do you have a plan for caring for the dog for the 15 years it might live? Do you have a plan for training? Do you have a plan for exercise? Do you have a plan for a pet-sitter? Can you afford it -- not just the purchase price but the lifetime of food and inevitable veterinary bills?
I've owned dogs at three stages of my life, childhood, as a young adult and now at mid-life. For me, all three times worked. In childhood, I had the support of my family. We had six kids, and there was always one of us around who could care for the dog, even if the primary caregiver had to temporarily give up the dog when moving out or going to school. Of course, my parents played a big role in that too.
As a young adult, my Lab was the one constant for nearly 15 years. It wasn't easy, but he got all my attention because I was single and he was my lone living responsibility.
I have to say midlife has worked out best for me. I'm married but have no kids. My dogs are still a high priority in my life and my wife's, and we're able to spend the time that is necessary for training, exercising and caring for them. They're not left alone for long periods of time because our lives are built substantially around dog ownership.
What do you think? Is it the stage of life that makes the biggest difference in owning pet -- or the commitment you're willing to make?