Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A duo for Cleo


By JOELLEN COLLINS

For 10 years, Gallery Oscar in Ketchum was a haven for the dogs Oscar and Olivia, who welcomed all comers and provided something other than art to discuss with clients. What was not widely known was that the gallery's director and I shared responsibilities for the welfare of both canines.

During the day, the two terriers would have people to play with and friends to greet, and I would be able to go to work without the angst of leaving them alone for the whole day. Then I would pick them up and they would come home to spend the night with me. This arrangement was perfect. Since the gallery closed and, sadly, Oscar, the energetic Jack Russell, and Olivia, our abandoned orphan pup, have gone to doggy heaven, we have felt an absence of dog energy in our lives.

The upshot is that the two of us have mutually started raising another dog as co-owners in every sense. We share all associated expenses; we feed her the same dog food and treats and are consistent in other aspects of her life. When either of us travels, we go with the full knowledge and relief that our Malti-poo, Cleo, is happy, loved and enjoying life with an adult who knows her and wants her safe. So far, each of us has taken at least a week to visit family with no obviously negative effects on our puppy.

Cleo spends mornings outside Tully's visiting other dogs and people while I do the quiet things I have to do if teaching or at home (write and engage in my fabric art, for example). By the time I see her again late in the afternoon, she has been thoroughly exercised, petted and adored. She never shows signs of balking at the prospect of spending time with either of us, and we are thrilled with her socialization and eagerness to be out and about.

Of course there are a few hitches in any project like this. There is a danger that either of us will cancel out training lessons and tips by addressing behavior problems differently, but we have tried to teach her in the same way with each aspect of her education, and so far, she does not seem confused by our commands.

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Since we are both "retired," this plan is perfect for our more flexible lifestyles and methods of spending time. Because we live only five minutes from each other, my partner in raising Cleo and I find exchanging the puppy simple and convenient. She fills a void for both of us, and we are blessed that we can do this.

Even if something should happen to one of us, there is the confidence that she will continue being with someone who knows and loves her well.

A couple of weeks ago, Susie, a friend of mine from California, spent a few days with me in my home. Cleo found her fascinating, and since Susie had just had to say farewell to a beloved but very ill dog, the mutual affection was delightful to observe. My friend spent a lot of time with Cleo, teaching her how to drop a ball so that I could throw it back. But as Susie watched my fellow dog-owner and I make plans for Cleo's care while I flew to San Francisco to visit my grandson, I could see her stifling mild giggles. She spoke up as we were compiling lists of "to-do's" for Cleo's stay away, and she said, "You guys remind me of a divorced couple discussing child care!" While that was certainly true, the difference is that we are happy at the prospect of caring for and sharing her sweet spirit.

If there are other owners in the valley who have the same arrangement, please e-mail me. I'd love to find out if we are oddballs, part of a trend with people who live alone or travel a lot, or just the lucky recipients of a happy experiment that worked so well at Gallery Oscar and proved irresistible even after it closed. My e-mail is joellen@alifeinstitches.com.






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