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‘Granddogs’ a win-win for owners and their dog-sitting parents

Sitting for your granddog can be a win-win. (Fotolia / Tribune News Service)
Sitting for your granddog can be a win-win. (Fotolia / Tribune News Service)
Leslie Mann Tribune News Service

Someday, she and her husband might have grandchildren, said Lyn Hathaway. In the meantime, the Rocky Mount, North Carolina, couple have their “granddogs” Theodore and Reagan.

Theodore is their daughter Madelyn Gallagher’s 3-year-old pug. Reagan is daughter Lacy Gallagher’s 4-year-old beagle.

While the daughters work, their dogs stay together at one of their Raleigh, N.C., homes. When their “moms” leave town for vacations or business trips, though, the dogs stay with the Hathaways.

“They all lie on the futon on our porch and watch the wildlife in the backyard,” Hathaway said of her charges, plus her three dachshunds and one foxhound. Although Reagan doesn’t dig at home, she teams with one of the dachshunds for backyard excavations at Hathaway’s house. “It’s just a thing those two do together,” said Hathaway.

Today’s young adults are having children later and marrying later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Marriage and children may not be on their horizon, but canine companionship is. About 74 percent of millennials (ages 19 to 35) have dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association. Their dogs affect their life decisions.

“We joke that our dogs must like people we choose as boyfriends or girlfriends, but it’s true,” said Cory Smith, director of pet protection and policy at the Humane Society of the United States. “We hear from a lot of couples who met at dog parks because that’s where they found other ‘dog people.’”

Doggie dynamics affect their careers too. “If an employer allows you to bring your dog to work, like HSUS does, the millennials want to work there,” said Smith. “And, we choose jobs that allow us to be near our parents if they dog-sit for us.”

Sitting for your granddog is a win-win, especially when Mom and Dad can no longer have dogs of their own.

“Our last family dog, a Lhasa Apso, died at age 17,” said retiree George Maskaly of Carteret, New Jersey. “I’m too old to have another one for that long. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog.”

Maskaly sits for his daughter Michelle Maskaly’s dogs, an 8-year-old Chihuahua named Toby and 1-year-old terrier mix named Maddux. At least once a month, Michelle drives the duo three hours to her dad’s house, or he drives to her Lake George, New York, home.

“I get all the benefits without the vet bills,” said the elder Maskaly.

Maskaly admits he caters to his buddies. “Toby has to sleep on something fleece,” he said. “If there’s no fleece blanket around, a fleece jacket will do.” He equipped the front of his kayak with a rubber mat so the dogs can ride with him instead of staying home.

It’s all about peace of mind, said Lori Dowling, a Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, homemaker who takes her 8-year-old poodle-cocker spaniel, Lacey, to her parents’ house before she leaves town.

“I don’t worry because I know she’s safe and happy with them,” said Dowling of her folks, retirees John and Donna Viehman, also of Mount Lebanon. “They adore her and she follows my dad everywhere.”

Like two-legged grandkids, granddogs learn that different households have different rules.

At home, 9-year-old China, an English mastiff, sleeps in her dog bed. While her mom is out of town, though, she climbs into bed with her “grandma,” Lori Barnes, a Bonney Lake, Washington, authors’ advocate. “There’s nothing like having your nose buried in her fur,” she said.

China knows her routine at Barnes’ house, where she’s the center of attention.

“We go to the dog park, then to McDonald’s drive-through for a treat,” said Barnes. “When the ice cream man comes, she gets in line with the neighbor kids and takes her turn like the well-mannered young lady she is.”

When Barnes has company, China patrols the perimeter of her 2-acre lot “to make sure there are no bad guys trying to get in,” said Barnes. “Then, if one of the kids strays, she herds them back in.”

At home in New York City, Stanley, a terrier mix, is a city dude, used to brisk walks with his humans, Jeremy Whiteman and Marsha Ignatyeva. When they travel, though, Stanley spends hours leisurely inspecting his country digs (Whiteman’s mom’s home in Toms River, New Jersey).

“The only problem is our dog door, which scares him,” said Lynette Whiteman, who also sits for another son’s dog, Guthrie. “He gets right behind one of my dogs so he can run through before the flap comes down.” Between Stanley’s visits, Whiteman’s dogs don’t touch the toy stash he keeps at her house.

If your parents are your dog’s sitters, “choose a breed that matches your lifestyle and your parents’ lifestyle,” said Smith. “You may be able to keep a border collie exercised because you’re a runner, but he may be too high-energy for your parents.”

Check the homeowners’ association ) covenants at both homes. “If they say ‘no dogs more than 30 pounds,’ get on the HOA board and change it because it’s backward,” said Smith. “Tiny dogs are the ones who are noisy and scratch the door while you’re gone. Larger breeds are couch potatoes. They nap.”

Ideally, you and your parents learn dog training together with your dog, said Clare Reece-Glore, a Durham, North Carolina, dog training instructor.

Crate train your dog so the crate is her home away from home when you’re gone, said Reece-Glore. “Done right, the crate is her refuge, not somewhere she goes to be punished,” she said.

Don’t schedule vacations until your dog is potty trained and past the chewing stage. Accidents on the carpet and gnawed shoes are a lot for your parents to tolerate.

Buy an extra dog tag that has your sitter’s name and phone number. If your dog was “chipped,” (implanted with a seed-sized chip under her skin) call the chip registry to add the sitter’s identification. Then, if an animal control officer picks up the dog, she will use a scanner to read the chip.

“Bring your dog’s harness, collar and two leashes so your parents have extra security when they walk her and she decides to chase a squirrel,” said Smith.

Warn your parents if your dog becomes a shivering wreck when she hears thunder. Wraps like the ThunderShirt comfort some dogs, but others want to be cuddled until the storm passes.

Lest anyone doubt the dogs like visiting their grandparents, consider China.

“When it’s time to go home, she hides behind the pillar in my living room,” said Barnes. “She thinks if she can’t see us, we can’t see her, but we can see everything but her face. All 180 pounds of her.”

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