On Dogs and love
I have been thinking a bit recently about how relationships with dogs can be similar in some ways to romantic relationships.
Not to all people and dogs, of course. To some people, dogs are tools to carry out part of their job or pets who become disposable if circumstances change (including in some cases, if a new carpet is purchased and the dog doesn't match the new colour scheme).
To others - myself included - committing to a dog means developing a close, emotionally intimate relationship with a sentient, communicative being who has their own wants, needs and opinions. It means sometimes doing things I'd rather not do because it's what the dog wants to do or changing plans so that they become more dog friendly. It also means an ongoing commitment to spending time learning how to communicate with any dog I'm in a relationship with (dogs understand humans way better than humans understand dogs so I see the onus as being on us to keep on learning about them if we choose to have them in our lives).
With that in mind, the choice to develop a committed relationship with more than one dog has some parallels with choosing to develop a committed relationship with more than one adult human.
It is very common for people sharing their life with just one dog to agonise over the decision and worry that another dog will disrupt the relationship they have with the first dog. Discussions around whether or not that might happen fill internet forums. As do discussions about how to handle introductions between dogs and ways to set things up so that the human can develop a good relationship with the new dog and the resident dog can also develop a good relationship with the new dog. Many of the discussions are unbelievably similar to some of the discussions I read on here about worries over existing relationships and over metamours not getting on.
In some households there is open hostility between the resident dogs. I know many people who live very divided lives because they have 2 dogs that don't get on. Their lives are often filled with stress and anxiety about not providing enough love and attention to each dog. People maintain both relationships out of love. The dogs may not like one another but they love both dogs and are willing to work with it.
Sometimes the situation can be resolved. With work, some dogs can learn to put their differences aside and co-exist peacefully with each other.
Sometimes the dogs not getting on is enough to end one of the relationships - one of the dogs is found a new home or given back to the person they came from.
In some mixed households, the dogs co-exist but don't tend to interact much with each other. They can be fine, loving their humans and being pleasant to each other but never developing a close friendship with each other.
In other households, the dogs love each other and the humans. C and my old love adored one another. They never argued and regularly sought each other out for play and affection. They had a relationship all of their own based on love that didn't include me. I had a relationship with each of them too as individuals. All of the relationships were worked on including the one between the 3 of us.
These dynamics don't just exist between dogs, of course. It is not uncommon for dogs to be less then welcoming to new humans. I used to know a girl who's bullmastiff was not at all impressed when she got a new boyfriend - the mastiff showed his displeasure by being openly hostile toward the new boyfriend. With patience and work they were able to resolve their differences and the dog eventually accepted the new dynamic in his life.
I know lots of houses where one human is preferred way more than any other. Some dogs will sit by the door and wait patiently for the return of their favourite person, refusing any interaction with anybody who is at home.
Those situations can cause intense feelings of jealousy from the human and sometimes these situations can result in the end of one or other of the relationships. Sometimes a dog becomes homeless - I also have at least one friend where the husband became homeless. He and the dog had a tense relationship and when he couldn't stand it any longer, my friend broke up with him and continued to live with her beloved dog. (I doubt very much if she is alone in having done so).
Some people seek monogamy from their dogs - there are a great many people who will proudly describe their dog as a 'one person dog' - and point out that the dog loves them to distraction while just tolerating other humans and dogs. Those people can become visibly upset if the dog does show affection to somebody else - much of the time the dog doesn't (not many dogs like to see their humans upset).
Other people don't feel such sadness if their dog loves others. In fact, some people encourage the dog to develop close relationships with others that don't necessarily include them and encourage the dog to seek out new connections when they wish. C has human and dog friends that I don't know very well - he and my SO have a relationship all of their own and regularly spend time together. My old love just adored my SO. My old love had a real preference for men and was over the moon when my SO started visiting - and even more happy when they started spending days together while C and I were out.
I'm constantly fascinated by the parallels between what I read here and what I read on dog forums. I wanted to write some of it down as I think it will be useful later.
Dogs love so thoroughly and with such generosity that I think considerations of how they love and develop relationships are worth looking into.