I used to work 10-hour shifts at a newspaper, which meant my then 1-year-old dog Ace spent 11 hours home alone on my work days.
I lived just close enough so I was (barely) able to get home to let him out during my break.
Ace seemed to do just fine with this routine.
I had specifically chosen to adopt a laid-back, potty-trained dog because I knew I would be gone a lot. I knew I needed a calm dog, that a puppy wasn’t right for me.
I also made sure to exercise Ace for an hour every single morning before work. While he was a mellow dog, he was still young and deserved my time. After a good walk or run, he was always content to lounge around until I returned.
Here he is at my grandparents’ house in 2007 – just a kid! (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)
Our money and our time
Yes, dogs require a lot of our time. And they require a lot of our money, too. We all know that.
But sometimes there is an attitude out there that people don’t deserve a dog if they work full time or if they don’t make a certain amount of money.
Unfortunately, certain rescue groups will even reject families from adopting a dog if everyone in the family works outside the home or goes to school full time.
There are also wonderful adoption groups that are not so picky, but this type of “high and mighty” attitude is all too common in the dog world, and it’s not helpful.
Yes, you deserve a dog too
I recently read a blog post called “Working? Struggling? Yes, you ‘deserve’ a dog too” by Jen deHaan at DogThusiast.com, which is a blog I regularly follow.
Jen’s post touched on these issues in such a thoughtful way that I decided I’d share it with you.
“I used to work all day long at a corporate job,” she wrote, in the post.
“I did a lot of adjustment of my work/life balance prior to adopting Mikey [her dog at the time, pictured below], but I didn’t leave my job altogether or ask to work from home … I made sure to go home on time. But I still had to work, and no, I did not feel guilty about it.”
Sounds pretty similar to my arrangement with Ace, doesn’t it?
Articles that suggest working families don’t deserve their dogs or shouldn’t adopt a dog to begin with do nothing to help keep dogs in their homes, Jen wrote. These articles also do nothing to find homes for dogs in need.
“ … the good news is so many dogs do well, despite being left at home during a day,” she wrote. “And if they don’t there are many ways to solve this problem.”
Jen also wrote about some personal examples of how life throws you surprises, and you can’t always plan for everything. People lose jobs, for example. Or they change careers.
“I ran into some extreme hardship right after we adopted a couple of cats,” Jen wrote.
“My husband lost his job, and I was still in school. He managed to find a new, but much lower paying job that sometimes made us wait to cash the check. What did we do? We ate ramen noodles for a couple of years and bought the best cat food we could afford.”
Can’t we all relate to this in some way?
My husband and I both took a risk and quit our jobs (not at the same time) to start our own businesses back in 2008. While working for yourself comes with benefits like being able to set your own schedule, it also comes with financial ups and downs, especially when you’re first starting out.
There were definitely times when I wondered how I was going to afford a bag of dog food.
But you know what? We made it work.
Jen said it better than me:
“Families on a limited income or experiencing financial or medical hardship should have the option for experiencing the emotional advantage that having pets can bring to their life. They should not be ripped apart, they don’t need to be judged.”
Of course, sometimes families will decide they can’t keep their pets for whatever reason, and we should not be so quick to criticize. We should be helpful, not judgmental, because we rarely know all the details.
I hope you’ll head over and read Jen’s post. I’m sure she’d love it if you left her a comment too.
Have you ever faced a life change that made caring for your pet more difficult?
Any advice for someone who might currently be struggling?
Let me know in the comments!
Wednesday 15th of September 2021
Adopting an approx. 9-11month old dog from a shelter when I get off work tomorrow at 5pm. I have history with her. She was my neighbor's dog. Sometimes he wouldn't come back home after having let her out to run around the neighborhood loose and totally vulnerable. She was a puppy at the time, maybe 3 months old. My neighbor was murdered a few months ago and his relatives took the dog with them to live. I found her on the shelter website last night. Visited her today and she remembers me! So, I'm adopting her. But...
...I have to go to work the following morning at 8am. I come home for lunch at 12pm M-F and go back to work at 1pm and return shortly after 5pm.
What do I do with her while I'm at work within the first 24hrs home? Taking off work is not an option.
She's supposedly a mix of pit bull and Australian cattle dog. She's a medium size with lots of energy and absolutely zero training beyond the occasional sit.
How do I handle this? I don't have anyone to watch her and I don't like that anyway, especially so soon. Sorta like when the baby calls the nanny "Mama" instead lol
Also, I live in a 350sw ft 1 bedroom cottage (1 bedroom, NOT studio - like a 1 bedroom apartment but without being attached to any neighbors. Tiny standalone house a gated community. No backyard. No front yard really either because I think she's actually bigger than the patch of grass I have. Also, our previous owners house is directly across from mine.
I don't know if any of that matters for anybody's reply but just wanted you to know everything so you can hopefully help me and my sweet dog! Thank you!
Wednesday 15th of September 2021
I would try a crate/kennel for just a few mins here and there when you get her home. If she doesn't freak out, leave her in there with some kongs stuffed with peanut butter.
If she freaks out in the crate, then still leave her some kongs or other puzzles. Go for a long, long walk the night you get her home and again before work. Hope for the best!
Sunday 30th of May 2021
Don’t know. Definitely not puppies. Dogs are incredibly social animals. They adjust but not sure they’re happy. They never leave the pack. If it’s a choice between a shelter and a working all day loving person definitely the latter but you’ve observed dogs a ton, you see how social they are.
I bought a cheap kiddie pool for the dog. Not crazy. Right.
Friday 2nd of April 2021
Thank you for your article. My husband and I both work full time, so we’re away from home 9-10 hours a day. We’ve been trying to adopt a dog for a while but keep getting rejected. We lost our previous dog last year, and being without a dog has been so hard. We really prefer the thought of adopting over buying, but this constant rejection has been awful. We’re great dog parents, and we know that we could make a great home to an older, laid back dog. I just wish the rescue services would see it this way as well...
Saturday 3rd of April 2021
Best of luck!
Sunday 14th of June 2020
I think some people judge without knowing the whole situation. I was taking care of a sick family member, and they made me promise not to leave the dog. Now they are gone and he won’t warm up to anyone but me or have walks by anyone but me. Yet I have to work full time as I need to pay rent and bills, and there is no other family members around to help me and all my friends work long hours, and I don’t have spare cash to pay someone everyday to come in and see him. He’s a very old dog at 13years and already lived longer than expected. He can’t even walk longer than 10 mins because he’s so old and knackered and doesn’t really care for long walks. It’s not fair to give him to someone else who he doesn’t no and too old to settle with, as he’s sad his owner isn’t around and depends on me as I’ve known him since a puppy, I can’t leave him too, plus I made a promise. So people don’t take into consideration all the money it could cost for help, needing to work full time, and I never went out to get a dog, he was left to my by the family member I live with.
Tuesday 6th of November 2018
Do you have any advice for people who work on how to have a better shot at getting an application accepted by a rescue? My husband and I both work but have the resources, space and time to take care of a dog; however, we’ve either been turned down or ignored by half a dozen shelters in our area! So frustrating.
Tuesday 6th of November 2018
I would try talking to the rescue volunteers in person or by phone at least if you haven't already. It's hard to reject a real person vs an application.