Double-Duty Dog

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The school bus is about to arrive. Caitlin is ready, but Ellie is still brushing her hair and cramming folders into her backpack, and Talie is pirouetting around her shoes instead of slipping them on.

Trapper, our 9-year-old adopted black Lab, has put the eye-lock and the full tail wag on me. He heard the word "walk." Only it wasn't walk as in taking Trapper for his walk, it was walk as in, "Ellie, it's a long walk if you miss the bus."

I'm faithful about walking Trapper (he'd eat the couch if I wasn't) but truly, his outings are shorter, slower, and much less varied than they were back in what he must think of as the good old stroller days. When the kids were smaller, it was easy to put whoever was home in the jogger and/or backpack carrier and walk the dog.

I adore Trap, but I have to admit, now that the schedule's fuller, he sometimes becomes another chore on the to-do list.

I was chatting about this with a dad I met at soccer when he revealed an amazing solution — dog sharing.

Jeremy and his wife have two young daughters, a lively 80-pound yellow Lab named Curry, and a small yard in the city. Curry enjoyed long walks and trips to the beach until the girls' arrival, which put the kibosh on her top-dog status and the extended outings.

Then, two years ago, Jeremy arranged for a co-worker to take care of Curry while the family was out of town. She fell in love with the dog — and knowing that Jeremy and his wife were at a breaking point juggling a newborn, a toddler, work, and a dog — proposed a dog share. Each "sharer" would get two weeks with Curry, then two off. Brilliant.

Jeremy reports success with this arrangement on all fronts, despite the fact they've had to switch sharers along the way. When Curry is with her other family (a couple with no children), she gets heaps of running and attention, and play dates with other pups. When she's with Jeremy and crew, she gets pint-sized hugs and snuggles and all the comforts of home. She greets both groups with eager wags.

Both sharers get a regular break from walking and the ongoing project of yellow hair removal, and there's no need to send Curry to the kennel when either is going out of town. Plus, Jeremy's kids can sometimes have friends over without Curry jumping into the fray. Seems like a win-win, to me.

I'm not ready to part with Trapper even part-time, but it's nice to know that if things get really over the top, there just might be a happy medium between no dog at all and 24/7 Lab-land.

How do you juggle family and pets? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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