I received the following email from a Facebook fan this week asking how I balance my work-life with Charlie's needs:
"Hi Heather, I know that you have a job outside the home as well and I'm wondering how you balance that with Charlie. I take my dog out in the morning and go home for lunch but still feel awful leaving her and worry she is depressed during the day. I check in with her on camera we set up and it seems she mostly just sleeps but I still worry her life isn't the best it could be."
I have to sigh about this kind of question because I think any good pet-parent deals with ongoing guilt over whether we're doing enough for our pet. Are we feeding the right food? Are we giving them enough exercise? Do they get enough enrichment activities? socialization? love?
Some dogs, like Charlie, have an ideal situation. My retired mom lives with me and watches Charlie during the day while I'm at work. Charlie has a fenced-in backyard where she can play safely anytime she wants. I take her on neighborhood walks (up to an hour) on weeknights and hiking in pristine wilderness for miles on the weekends. She goes on roadtrips and gets to meet new people all the time. I've learned to make balanced homemade raw food to use in conjunction with her high-end kibble. Charlie gets homemade dog treats and lives with another dog and a cat so she has social opportunities. Basically she's never alone and has everything she could possibly need. She is The.Most.Spoiled dog I know.
And yet... I feel guilty at times that I'm not providing enough or spending enough time with her.
I've spent the last 5 years living my life around Charlie's needs, and enjoying every minute of it! She's a wonderful dog that has enriched my life in so many ways, but I have someone new in my life now and my time (and love) is sometimes pulled away from her.
I'm slowly coming to terms with my guilt and understanding that in order to live my life to the fullest, I have to stop living my life for Charlie. She'll always be my baby girl and I'll do anything for her, but sometimes "good enough" has to be "good enough."
You need to take care of yourself too. You have to go to work and make money (so you can spend it on your dog!). You have to take time to refresh your own spirit and enjoy everything life has to offer... including having a wonderful pet that you care so much about. Don't let your guilt ruin your perfect relationship with your pet.
Honestly, if you suffer from Dog-Mom Guilt it means that your pet is one of the lucky dogs.
Some dogs are not so lucky. Some owners couldn't care less if their pet sits outside in cold wet snow shivering all night. Some dogs don't get to eat every day. Some dogs are treated like property instead of part of a family. And worse... some dogs are horrifically abused.
Our dogs are so lucky that we feel guilt over not giving them enough. In reality they have everything they could possibly need: a loving pet-parent.
As I begin to consider a future with D. and fall more and more in love with him as time goes on, I'm becoming comfortable knowing that Charlie has a full life and is surrounded by love even though my love is being shared with another. As I make room for another person in my life, she gets to share his love too.