“Can you watch Joey next week?” my brother asked about his new Maltipoo. “We’re going on vacation but we can’t really bring a dog along. We thought you’d be perfect, but I understand if you don’t want to with Daisy gone.”
We had lost our beloved Goldendoodle of 13 years in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was heartbroken over her unexpected death and wrote about it on my blog. Daisy was like a family member and I told myself I wouldn’t get another dog for a long time, if ever.
Now, five months later, here was a chance to have a cute little puppy around but not have all the responsibility. I thought it was a great idea, and my daughter who was going to college online from home was thrilled to have a furry friend. My husband also welcomed the change since he’s been working from his home office since March. He grew up with dogs and loved them. We agreed to dog sit.
For the next eight days, this tiny eight pound, three month-old Maltipoo turned our COVID blues upside down. Joey kept us smiling and laughing while he lapped our faces with wet kisses, climbed on our heads as we sat on the couch to watch TV and danced with us on his hind legs. He snuggled up next to me while I worked on my book, just as Daisy used to do. I took him for walks around the neighborhood with his short little legs sprinting and leading the way. We shared funny pictures and videos with my brother’s family, who live an hour away. Joey entertained us all day long and we went to bed tired but happy. We hated to see him go so much that we arranged for another visit, this time at our request.
Joey came back a couple of weeks later around Labor Day. He already seemed bigger and had different habits. He was teething so he was biting more and had “accidents” in the house. My brother’s family called them “dookies,” so we adopted the playful term. We followed Joey’s regular schedule and took him out at 6:30 am, fed him twice a day, and played fetch in the backyard for exercise.
I was reminded how much caring for a dog is like caring for a child. When Joey lets out a deep breath before settling down for a nap, I remember our children doing the same thing when they were babies around Joey’s size. In fact, when I hold Joey over my shoulder and rub his back, I recall soothing my own kids. If Joey starts eating rocks or chewing on slippers, he gets a scolding. After losing a tooth, I put it in a ziplock bag and write his name and date on it. It brings back fond memories of being a parent of young children again.
Saying goodbye to Joey again after ten days was hard, especially because we didn’t make definite plans for the next visit.
A few days later, I got another call from my brother.
“You know, Joey seems to do well at both of our houses. We are open to the idea of sharing him. We can be the primary parent and take care of his vet appointments and food. How do you feel about that?” my brother said in a cheery voice.
“Well, I was actually just going to call you and say the same thing. We adore Joey. Let’s try it and see how it goes.” My husband and I still wanted to go on vacations spontaneously and we didn’t want the commitment of raising a dog full-time. Co-parenting seemed like a good compromise.
“We’re putting our house on the market in a few weeks so it would actually help us a lot if you could take him again soon.” My brother’s family was moving locally and had to get their house ready for sale.
So Joey is here with us for the third time in two months and we are loving it. As co-parents, my brother’s family and mine now chat about Joey like he’s “ours.”
“What do you think of his new haircut?” “Is he barking too much?” “How are his dookies?” “He needs his flea medicine today.” My brother, sister-in-law and I talk almost every day and see each other more than ever because of Joey. We have grown closer together as families.
Dog-sharing can be a pure joy and I would recommend trying it. It’s a relatively new idea, but I could see it growing for good reason. There are many benefits and few drawbacks. Our co-parenting arrangement has evolved and will continue to change to meet Joey’s needs as he grows. It’s been good for the dog, and good for us.
These have been trying times, but our college-age daughter being home and the arrival of Joey have been pleasant surprises. Co-parenting Joey has filled a void in my life that has been present since we lost Daisy. It’s like the unexpected joy of having your young adult child back home again, even after being an empty nester. You learn that if you open your heart to new possibilities, anything is possible.
What do you think about canine co-parenting? Can you see yourself doing it? Leave a comment below.