September 8, 2012

Pet owner feels guilty for leaving pup

Dear Dog Lady,

I adopted a 1-year-old black Labrador retriever, whom I call Shadow. He’s amazing and has brought so much joy and love to my life. Since I am single and work long hours, he spends about five hours in the morning and about five more in the afternoon alone at home.

I go home during lunch break to feed him and take him out. He seems to sleep during most of the day, even on Sundays when I am home. He always seems happy and is very sweet-natured and obedient, though extremely mischievous and playful, too. But though he seems mentally and emotionally healthy, I am still consumed by guilt about whether he’s spending too much time alone. Is he? Will this process change him for worse?

— Alma


The Shadow knows. Your dog sounds as if he has accommodated himself perfectly to your working life. He’s not acting out and destroying the house when you’re gone. He’s not barking and causing your neighbors to complain. He does seem emotionally healthy. Dogs close down when their humans are not home and they sleep a lot. Well-balanced canines wrap around their keepers’ working hours.

The guilt you feel is understandable, but rest assured your dog is content. Your demanding schedule has become Shadow’s snoozing schedule. This will not warp him for the worse.

If you observe any strange new quirks in his behavior, you might have cause for concern. Until then, simply stick to your routine and make sure you provide plenty of quality walking and playtime for your pet whenever you can. Also, don’t make a fuss when you leave or return. Without fanfare, Shadow will continue to be peaceful around your comings and goings.

You may be acutely aware of how many hours you spend away from your dog, but, for Shadow, the clock stands still — until you come back home to him.

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