Actor and commentator Ben Stein says the solution to most every problem is to “get a dog.” But what if your apartment is too small, or you can’t handle the expense, or there are any other number of reasons you can’t have a dog? Let’s explore some creative ways to have a dog in your life, so you can take advantage of Ben Stein’s miracle cure for just about everything!
Step One: Borrow a Dog
I bet you have family and friends with dogs. (If you don’t, Step 1 is to expand your circle of friends.) Pet sitting or checking on someone else’s dog when they are away is a nice thing to do, and when you don’t have a pup of your own, it gives you what you need: quality time with a dog.
Family and friends will probably let you walk their dog now and then, or take their pup to the local dog park for a play date. Everyone seems to be busier these days, and that often means less time with Fido, who needs to run and play to burn off all that stored-up energy. That’s a win-win-win scenario: Fido gets extra exercise, your friend gets time to go on a date or get some work done without having to leave Fido home alone, and you get to spend quality time with a dog!
When you borrow a dog, also be sure to borrow your friend’s disciplinary philosophy, so you don’t confuse Fido or undermine your friend’s training. Since you’re a dog lover, we’ll assume that you only have friends who are responsible pet owners. But people have their own style when it comes to their pets, and it’s not cool to make up new rules. If your friend allows her pup on the couch, be prepared for Fido to expect to be on the couch with you, even if it’s your couch. If your friend doesn’t allow Fido on the couch, you shouldn’t let Fido lounge there either. In other words, use common sense. Fido needs consistency for the loaner concept to work best.
There’s one other thing you need to be prepared to borrow, and it’s a tough one. Our daughter, Hannah, knows several of the neighbor dogs quite well and takes a turn walking them. One of her favorites was a small dog named Sassy (breed unknown) and when Sassy passed recently, our tender-hearted little girl also shared the grief which comes with the loss of a pet.
Step Two: Become a Volunteer
Animal shelters are bursting at the seams with pets who are desperate for love and affection. Spending time with shelter dogs can be a wonfurrful way to have a dog in your life when it’s impossible to have a dog of your own. Shelters are almost always understaffed, and an extra pair of loving hands to care for the pups is always welcome. Be prepared to have your heart tugged on every day by pups needing good homes. It’s hard at times, but you’ll feel better about having given homeless dogs some love and attention while they wait for that special family to take them home.
One additional bonus to being a shelter volunteer is that when your circumstances change and you are able to add a dog to your family, you will have already forged relationships with several possible candidates. Choosing will certainly be difficult, but the head start you received during your volunteer work should pay huge dividends when you are able to take one of those special fur babies home with you.
Don’t Forget Vet Clinics: Some veterinary clinics also do pet rescue, which overburdens staff already tasked with caring for patients. When there isn’t a no-kill shelter in the area or the shelter is full, many vets do their best to care for and find homes for abandoned pets. Having a volunteer come in to spend time with rescue animals allows the medical staff to concentrate on getting their patients well while volunteers help with the rescue pets. Veterinary schools and hospitals often face the same quandary, and many would welcome volunteers to help care for pets abandoned at their facility. You get to spend time with dogs and make a difference in the lives of homeless pets.
Ben Stein is right. A good dog can make most problems seem not so bad. Spending time with a dog any way possible, even if it’s not full time, can go along way toward improving your life, and can make real difference in the dog’s life, too.
And now it’s your turn. Did you take this avenue before having a dog of your own? How did it work out? Do you have any suggestions to improve the success rate? Surely I haven’t said all there is to say on the subject. So let’s hear your thoughts. How have you been able to experience the joy of a dog without having a dog? Or maybe you’ve been the one who shared your dog with a friend who loves dogs, but can’t have one right now. Any tips for us from the dog owner’s side of things?
Full disclosure: I originally wrote this a few years back as a series of Daily Dog Tips for Dogster. This version contains new information and material not included in the Daily Tips for reasons of space.