Who better to dog-sit than your parents? Meet the granddogs

Just like a grandchild, a granddog offers all the fun with little down side.
Just like a grandchild, a granddog offers all the fun with little down side.
Published March 7, 2016

Someday, she and her husband might have grandchildren, Lyn Hathaway said. In the meantime, the Rocky Mount, N.C., couple have their "granddogs" Theodore and Reagan.

Theodore is their daughter Madelyn Gallagher's 3-year-old pug. Reagan is daughter Lacy Gallagher's 4-year-old beagle.

While the daughters work, their dogs stay together at one of their Raleigh homes. When their "moms" leave town for vacations or business, though, the dogs stay with the Hathaways.

"They all lie on the futon on our porch and watch the wildlife in the back yard," Hathaway said of her charges, plus her three dachshunds and one foxhound.

About 74 percent of millennials (ages 19 to 35) have dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association. Their dogs affect their life decisions.

"We joke that our dogs must like people we choose as boyfriends or girlfriends, but it's true," said Cory Smith, director of pet protection and policy at the Humane Society of the United States. "We hear from a lot of couples who met at dog parks because that's where they found other 'dog people.' "

Doggie dynamics affect their careers too. "If an employer allows you to bring your dog to work, as HSUS does, the millennials want to work there," Smith said. "And, we choose jobs that allow us to be near our parents if they dog-sit for us."

Sitting for your granddog is a win-win, especially when Mom and Dad can no longer have dogs of their own.

"Our last family dog, a Lhasa apso, died at age 17," said retiree George Maskaly of Carteret, N.J. "I'm too old to have another one for that long. It wouldn't be fair to the dog."

Maskaly sits for his daughter Michelle Maskaly's dogs, an 8-year-old chihuahua named Toby and 1-year-old terrier mix named Maddux. At least once a month, Michelle drives the duo three hours to her dad's house, or he drives to her Lake George, N.Y., home.

"I get all the benefits without the vet bills," the elder Maskaly said.

Like two-legged grandkids, granddogs learn that different households have different rules.

At home, 9-year-old China, an English mastiff, sleeps in her dog bed. While her mom is out of town, though, she climbs into bed with her "grandma," Lori Barnes, a Bonney Lake, Wash., authors' advocate. "There's nothing like having your nose buried in her fur," she said.

China knows her routine at Barnes' house, where she's the center of attention.

"We go to the dog park, then to McDonald's drive-through for a treat," Barnes said. "When the ice cream man comes, she gets in line with the neighbor kids and takes her turn like the well-mannered young lady she is."

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If your parents are your dog's sitters, "choose a breed that matches your lifestyle and your parents' lifestyle," Smith said. "You may be able to keep a border collie exercised because you're a runner, but he may be too high-energy for your parents."

Buy an extra dog tag that has your sitter's name and phone number. If your dog was "chipped," (implanted with a seed-sized chip under her skin) call the chip registry to add the sitter's identification. Then, if an animal control officer picks up the dog, she will use a scanner to read the chip.

"Bring your dog's harness, collar and two leashes so your parents have extra security when they walk her and she decides to chase a squirrel," Smith said.

Lest anyone doubt the dogs like visiting their grandparents, consider China.

"When it's time to go home, she hides behind the pillar in my living room," Barnes said. "She thinks if she can't see us, we can't see her, but we can see everything but her face. All 180 pounds of her."