Dog on Chair

Ranger won’t sit on the grass; he prefers a lounge chair.

Where have all the doghouses gone? It used to be that dogs had their own little domains outside the family abode. Not any more — dogs have moved inside and, in the process, have staked their claim to “Home Sweet Home.” Not only have these beloved pets moved inside, but they have pretty much defined their own terms as to where they eat and sleep.

Before my Tasha, a golden lab and retriever mix, passed on, she ate out of a designer blue-and-white Spode doggie bowl. She ate dinner in the kitchen with my husband and me, and was also the official taster of the house. She took her station proudly and stood statuesque by the side of the stove every time I took out a pot or pan.

Although she pretty much had the run of the house, she was not allowed on our upholstered chairs. No bones about it — it was forbidden! Still, whenever we left the house, she claimed these chairs. We didn’t use hidden cameras to determine this; we used a vacuum cleaner. As for sleeping, all attempts to find her a plush and plump doggie bed failed. In the middle of the night, our pretty pooch mysteriously wound up on our bed.

However, I have since learned that I wasn’t the only one with a pampered pooch. These irresistible, quick-to-lick, lovable pets are now treated as members of the family. Our homes are their homes, too.

“I can’t believe what I hear,” said Connie Piccioli of Trumbull, regarding her daughter Barbara’s dog, Rudy —  the next day Rudy had a play date. “Imagine that? That dog is treated like a child.”

Barbara and Frank Boyle of Trumbull enjoy their little cockapoo. “He’s our retirement baby,” said Barbara, adding that he has the couple trained. “He rings a bell when he really needs to go outdoors, but he also rings that bell whenever he just wants to play.” As for Rudy’s sleeping arrangements, he does have a designer pup pad, but he prefers the couple’s bed and sleeps belly up with all fours aimed at the ceiling. “He’s the last one out of bed in the morning. We have to coax him to get out of bed,” Barbara said, with a laugh.

Jim and Patti Hliva of Oxford have two dogs. Joplin is a white labradoodle and Taylor is a dark keeshound. Patti said that wherever she or Jim goes, the dogs go, too. What is so amazing about these dogs is that they have learned how to open the back door. I’ve seen them stretch on their hind legs and push the door handle, so I know firsthand that this is true. Because the property has been electronically fenced, there’s no danger of the dogs running away, but you have to admit they are pretty smart dogs to have learned to do this. The Hlivas also have a bell on the door, so when the door is locked (the dogs haven’t figured this out yet), they ring the bell. While the friendly dogs love to jump on the bed, Jim makes sure that they are off the bed when it comes to sleep. However, watching television is a whole different story. It’s a family affair with the two dogs sitting between Jim and Patti.

“If a cat is on TV, Taylor howls,” said Patti, convinced that he actually watches television. However, if the doorbell rings, both dogs go crazy and bark. “They are very protective of their home and ours,” she said.

“We feed them only dog food,” said Jim, explaining that people food is not nutritious for dogs. “Of course we cheat,” he said with a laugh. He also said their dogs are somewhat trained. “When I tap my foot or whistle they come. I did the training so that they know who the master is, but I don’t make them jump through hoops. In the mornings they lick us to wake us up, and we give them our affection.”

Sherri Ganter of Milford has her own dog, Buddy, as well as her mom’s aging miniature poodle, Buffy. “Buffy is so old that I have to carry him down the stairs. They’re easy going dogs, but they’re also money pits. They get groomed every eight to 12 weeks,” she said. Both sleep with Sherri. Their favorite place in the house is wherever Sherri is.

A professional dog trainer and pet sitter, Lynn Marie Bisignano of Southbury has seen everything. “One of the dogs I care for is so spoiled that his owner prepares his dinner for him every night. Sometimes she brings rotisserie chicken home, but if he turns his nose up, she’ll cook a London broil or a cheeseburger for him.” Lynn Marie stressed the importance of training. “It’s like teaching your children manners,” she said. “With training, you can take your dogs anywhere without having to worry about them jumping up on people or chasing after other dogs.” Her own canine is a husky/border collie named Ranger. Though he is trained beautifully and obeys every command, he does have his own idiosyncrasies at home. For instance, he will not eat his snacks or treats on the floor. He eats them on the couch!

Nature writer Henry Beston once wrote, “For the animal shall not be measured by man … they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.” And so it seems right that we share our lives and our homes with our beloved pets. They make home sweet home, all the sweeter.