Chris Hughes and Mariesa Caliguire run an eight-dog household. If that wasn’t enough of a canine commitment, they also recently fostered another dog who just so happened to have a litter of pups while staying at their abode. That took Chris and Mariesa’s in-home total to a whopping 21 dogs! They’ve since successfully placed the pups in new loving homes and, in the process, become the lead figures in a new online reality show called Life in the Dog House.
With the second episode of Life in the Dog House out now (and available to view at the end of this post), we called up Chris and Mariesa to get their real-life tips on running a harmonious multi-dog household, talk about the heartbreaking scenes they’ve seen while rescuing dogs, and find out which scamp broke a very expensive vacuum cleaner.
Dogster: So which dog did you guys adopt first?
Chris Hughes: Gremlin came first. Gremlin came from a fighting ring in the Baltimore, D.C., area. She was rescued by an undercover cop through Odessa Rescue and Rehabilitation and then I adopted her from them.
What was it about Gremlin that made you want to adopt her?
It was just one of those situations where you met her and the personality was just so overwhelming and she loved everybody even after everything she’s been through.
Did Gremlin have any issues once you got her home?
Just physically. Her back legs were broken. But we worked with her; it was just a case of persisting. But she didn’t have any behavior issues towards people.
So how did Gremlin turn into a house of eight dogs?
After Gremlin came Sammy, who was found in the basement of a foreclosed home. There were two dogs chained up and they found them when they went in to clean up the house afterwards. He went to Baltimore Animal Control and they contacted me and I took him in. Then Quinn was in a boarding house with 50 other dogs. Stig was from the City of Cleveland kennel and he was a stray and we took him the day he was about to be euthanized. We picked him up that morning and he just never left! We just kinda kept going from there; we also have Meatball, Money, Moses and Tejas.
Did you have any conversations with Mariesa about whether you were adopting too many dogs?
Well, I actually had six when I met her.
Mariesa Caliguire: I had the two Greyhounds. They don’t have any great backstory — they’re just retired racing dogs. I was a foster. Collectively now we’ve just starting letting all the puppies go, even though there was one I wanted to keep. Sometimes I’m the voice of reason for him and sometimes he’s the voice of reason for me, but we know right now that we have a really balanced pack of dogs and we don’t want to offset that negatively. Not adopting any more helps us to assist with rescuing more.
Do all eight of the dogs get on?
CH: They all get along really well and they’re all allowed to sleep in the bedroom upstairs — they’ve all been on the bed at the same time before. Occasionally we’ll have toy issues when one has a toy and the other one wants it. We can tell when we’re going to have an issue but we know our dogs and I think it comes down to paying attention to them.
So which dog causes the most havoc in the house?
CH: Yeah, Meatball’s a terrier who is nuts.
MC: He has anxiety and he’s on Xanax and Benadryl, anything to kinda take the edge off his day because his mind is always on fast-forward.
CH: I never wanted to medicate a dog and we took him to two behaviorists. He ate his tail one day out of anxiety and that made me realize that for him to live comfortably he needed some help.
MC: Even now he’s still very high-strung and neurotic.
CH: He’s thinking 10 steps ahead all the time.
Did one of the dogs break a vacuum cleaner?
MC: Oh yeah, Gremlin! We keep Gremlin and the Greyhounds in the kitchen at times. Gremlin likes to open the gate, and they got out and found the vacuum cleaner. She chewed through the cord.
CH: That’s a $500 Dyson vacuum!
MC: That’s just one of many things they’ve done in the last couple of weeks. Since we had the puppies I think a bit of jealousy has crept in.
CH: We recently had a mom we took from a kennel, and the day after we took her she gave birth to 12 puppies.
MC: We had 21 dogs in the house.
CH: It was splitting our time. I think that the dogs felt left out because the puppies required so much care and the mom required so much care. I was sleeping up there in the kennels with her every night. I think our dogs felt neglected a little bit.
What’s the most heartbreaking situation you’ve come across when rescuing a dog?
CH: We get them all the time and that’s one of the hardest things to get to terms with. We’re both very emotional. We can’t really look at the cruelty stuff and it’s hard to know what some of these dogs go through.
MC: I have a hard time seeing any dog in such a situation. We just sponsored a fighting dog. He was so gentle with us and curled right up on our laps and gave us kisses. He was covered in scars and open wounds.
CH: He was a mess. He was one of the most wounded dogs I’ve ever seen. He had to go into a rehab group — he couldn’t just be a normal foster — and he’ll go through special training and rehabilitation.
MC: We’re not trainers. Our dogs will sit with us at the dining table when we eat at home!
CH: Yeah, we have a good pack mentality, where the dogs do know that we’re the leaders, but they’ll push us. Sammy does sit on the chair at the table with us.
MC: But very politely.
When did Sammy start deciding to eat at the table?
CH: He had surgery on his back leg so I’m amazed he can even get on a chair. But one day maybe six months ago a chair was out and he just pulled himself up onto it and sat on it.
MC: Now he’ll jump on a barstool and sit there with us. He’ll occasionally get onto the table if the sun is shining and lay on the table.
What’s the biggest tip you’d give to someone with a multi-dog household?
CH: Be patient. I think patience is the biggest thing. A lot of people are so quick to jump to the conclusion that it isn’t working out, but there are so many things you can do to work out a situation. You can always see a trainer or ask for help. There are always ways to work with the trainers. Don’t jump to negative conclusions.
Are any of the dogs either scared of the cameras or intrigued by them?
MC: Sammy and Quinn are both timid dogs. Sammy was never really socialized with people, so he can be standoffish if someone comes in the house, and Quinn will bark. But the girl who does the video is so great — the dogs love her.
CH: She lets them come to her. She takes her time.
Has Gremlin tried to chew through any camera equipment?
MC: Yes! She tried to chew through the microphone on top of the camera. She’s a spunky dog!
Check out further episodes of Life in the Dog House over at HooplaHa.
Read more about dogs on TV: