19 June 2008

Pets in the simple life

Recently, one of the regular readers, I'm sorry but I've forgotten who is was, asked me to write about my dogs, Rosie and Alice. They are two aging Airedale Terriers now 12 and 11 years old. Rosie is a rescue dog that had been badly treated by her first owners. We found her after our first Airedale, Murphy, died of auto-immune disease at the age of 18 months. When I phoned the breeder to order a puppy, she told me about Rosie because she was the same age that Murphy was. I ordered the puppy but decided to buy Rosie as well. Alice came along about three months later, she is Rosie's niece.

Rosie had a lot of pain in her hips when she first arrived here because she had been ridden like a horse by two little boys. In those early days she growled at Hanno and our sons, if they touched her around the back legs. She never growled at me so I think it was only men and boys who mistreated her. We started treating her with emu oil in her food and after a while it looked like she got over the soreness and eventually came to trust all of us.


When we started to live as we do now, I wondered how non-working dogs could fit into our more frugal lives. The cost associated with the dogs - good food, vet bills etc, might be seen as an unnecessary expense. If Rosie or Alice got sick or injured, we would face hefty vet bills. They were our responsibility and we required of ourselves that they be looked after as well as we possibly could. How could we justify the keeping of them? Could they fit within the framework of a simple life?

Yes, definitely.

I thought about this quite a bit early on and came to the conclusion that not only did they fit within our new philosophy of life, they would help us live to our values. I believe the way I live is not only about reducing the complexity of my life but also about finding joy and beauty in the ordinary and mundane things I surround myself with. I believe that we must find our own happiness not in the shiny high cost items on sale in our shopping malls or European holidays, flash cars or large houses, but in what we already have in our life. It is our responsibility to make ourselves happy with with less - much less. I find a lot of joy in natural things - our garden, the chooks, and of course, Rosie and Alice.

Our dogs are not working dogs in the traditional sense, but they do help protect us - they're excellent guard dogs, and they also protect our chickens. They have been taught to live with the chooks and although Alice will round them up for us when told to, they would never harm the chooks.

Their main value however, is that they make us happy. They make us smile. They jump for joy when we come home. They play with us and and make us laugh when they chase each other like a couple of clowns.

They don't cost a lot for their food and care. We make their daily food for them and I often make them treats. The other expense is for tick/flea medication. We live in a paralysis tick area surrounded by bush where the ticks sit on leaves or are brought into the back yard by native animals like bandicoots and possums. We use Advantix for large dogs which costs us about $50 for three months. I dose them with that six months of the year - so they're covered for the tick seasons and six weeks both sides of it. In the past we only covered them over summer and they both got ticks in Spring, they were both very sick and almost died. It cost us $900 in vet bills to save them. They don't often go to the vet, but when they recovered, he said they were the most healthy Airedales he'd seen in many a year. He asked me what we feed them and was pleased we didn't give them canned food. We learnt a valuable lesson about ticks that year and it was a great confirmation that we are feeding our girls well.

Simple living is not
about deprivation. It is about finding joy in the ordinary and living well within our means. Our lives are made better by sharing our home and our resources with Rosie and Alice. We have found a way to keep them in good health without it costing too much but above all else we love them and they're part of our family. I would find it difficult to live without a dog at my side.


  1. My sentiments exactly about our corgi and St. Bernard:-)

  2. I've read your blog for a long time, you write so many great things, but strangely this post is one of my favourites. I often find people talk about self sufficiency almost in terms of self deprivation - that if they go without things that make them happy they are "doing self sufficiency well". Happiness is essential to life. Your extreme happiness with your life is evident in all your posts, but today your love for your gorgeous dogs shone through. Thanks for your blog and best of luck with your book endeavours.

  3. Such a beautifully written endorsement of "our most adoring fans".
    I lost my constant companion of 15 years (Chesapeake retriever) just last year and have not yet thought about another.
    I so agree with you, Rhonda~Simplifying is not about eliminating relationships, but valuing the best, and that includes dogs!

  4. We feel te same way about our 2 corgis, our two old old dogs and our kitties. They add so much to our lives-pure joy and pure love.

  5. They are such beautiful dogs Rhonda. I think they're chunky looking front legs are my favourite! Do you clip their fur yourself? I'm sure you do. It looks like it would be a challenging job! I love the action photo too - superb!

  6. Dear Rhonda,
    What darling dogs. I have a middle-sized black poodle I call Bo and he is so much a part of my life. I should look up your dog food again. I think you posted it once. And can you post the name of the china you use? I know that doesn't sound like a proper question for someone who is not spending unnecessarily, but it is so charming with the rose hips and small flowers. Thanks.

  7. I loved reading about your beautiful dogs. I have two dogs as well and they give us so much pleasure - they're good guard dogs too. A friend and I years ago rescued three little black puppies who were dumped in my friend's rural letterbox. My parents took one of them, and 'Milly' always used to go crazy whenever any of the men in my family, or visitors wore hats. We figured she'd been mistreated by a man in a hat at some stage before we got her. She is now quite old but has lived a pampered life. :o)
    Rachel from NZ

  8. Hi everyone!

    Hello Ruth, thank you for your lovely comment.

    Carolyn, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your loved one. I hope you find another dog to love another the way.

    Deborah, yes, we clip them here. We bought a good quality pair of clippers a few years back. We clip them in summer and let them go shaggy and curly in winter. That fur on their square legs is called their furnishings. LOL! Funny eh?

    Kristi, it's Villeroy and Boch's Petite Fleur. I have the dinner set with quite a few of the accessories. It's my favourite because I love small flowers.

  9. Having the opportunity to have loved and cared for a pet at some point in our lives is such a wonderful way for us as humans to develop a love and respect for all the other creatures we share this planet with. And the special bond we can share with a pet can be like no other. I'm sure I'd find it hard to live without at least one pet.

    Regards, Marilyn

  10. You bring joy to my heart.
    Thank you for that, what a great post.

  11. awe...this is so perfect...dh just said "we need a dog". Our 12 yr old lab died last summer. I think we're ready. Dogs are so good for us..
    thanks for the confirmation.

  12. I too love my dogs. We also have 2 budgies and 3 guinea pigs (plus the 6 chooks which are my pets too). Yes, they cost money to feed and treat but they give me so much pleasure and love and increase my desire to stay at home. What wouldn't you pay for that?


  13. Hi Rhonda,
    It was me that asked you to write about your "furbabies". Thank you so much for this wonderful post.
    I was smiling the whole time reading it and looking at your precious girls.
    We have 4 "furbabies". Yellow Lab, Lucy. Black Lab, Cletus. Saint Bernard, Emma. And, our big girl....Great Dane, Annabelle.
    We love them dearly..they all live inside with us and are part of our family.
    They bring us so much joy...it's truly hard to put into words.
    Thank you for this post and blessings to you my friend,

  14. They are both absolutely adorable! We sadly lost our oldest dog (age 9) last August to cancer and our middle dog (had just turned 10) unexpectedly in March. We have no idea why she died. She seemed to be having an off day and shortly after lunch I found her gone. I think she grieved herself to death as she and the oldest were just 7 weeks apart in age and had grown up together. We still have our youngest (just turning 7) that we rescued.

  15. I really don't mean this in a trite way - but we could write the same words about our 6 children. After raising 3 beautiful children, we adopted three more precious ones from China. So many times, people have asked why we wanted to take on the financial "burden" of adopting and raising more children. Our answer every time is because of the absolute joy they bring to us. They bring laughter and light to our home. They come with messy faces, kisses and hugs. Those things are priceless and worth whatever the financial cost might be. I believe strongly in simple living, but I also believe in love and joy.

  16. I love my dogs so much. I could not and would not do without them. My big one keeps us safe from the ner-do-wells who live down the street. Those people would never think of stepping foot in this house. (He outweighs most of them) My little one keeps me warm on cold nights and makes me feel as though I were the most important person on this earth, and there are days I need her to remind me of that. She never fails. If I had to give up something else to keep them I most definitely would!
    Thank you for sharing your girls with us. They are beautiful dags!

  17. I feel the same about my cats too. I'd go without before they went without food or care.

    Having pets, while in some ways is a luxury in terms of direct cost I think that the indirect benefits such as our feeling of well-being when they are around, is more than covered.


  18. Thank you so much for sharing your dogs with us. They are absolutely gorgeous! What I love about my dog (an 11-mth old spoodle) is that he is always excited to see, gives me cuddles in the morning, and listens to everything I tell him without interruption. :)

  19. I have a border collie and she is always by my side (until my husband, the dominant male, comes home!) Your dogs are beautiful too and no, they're not a luxury they are a joy!

  20. We have a rescued greyhound, he's the best! Apart from bringing joy, I think a dog also gives the perfect example of what simple living can be: every day at a time, lots of good food, relaxing and being with the ones you love.
    Your Rosie and Alice are really cute, I love that picture where they're waiting (or is it begging?) for something the person out of the picture is eating, I'm sure. :-)

    Christine from the NL
    PS: our dog eats a raw food diet and has never been sick in the 6 yrs we have him!

  21. HI Rhonda
    Thanks for yet another great post. We recently bought a little puppy Border Terrier. Our last dog died last year and we realised a few months ago that something was missing in our house without having a dog there so we scratched the money together for a new family friend.

    I have been unsure what to feed our new puppy on, so it is very good timing with the dog food & treats post. I will do some calculations and see if it works out more cost effective. (I am sure it will) and again, same as our food, it is sometimes worth it just to know EXACTLY what is going into the food.
    Take care
    Luv StephB

  22. I always enjoy your blog but this post is my favorite. We live in a high expense area and are retired. Our money is quite tight but our English Cocker brings such joy to our lives. I gladly give up shopping, oversea travel, eating out, even Starbucks (LOL) for the cheer our little guy brings to us. cari

  23. Our family is full of animals - we go without things to have the lifestyle we like - eg we don't go on holidays - our choice. We enjoy just being at home and having a rest from routine.

    Our animals begin talking to us from dawn to dusk -it's funny when dh leaves for work they all begin... the goose honking, the sheep baaaing saying good morning, the goat neighing & they all come up for a tidbit. The dog gets his morning relief while he helps dh open the gate & then the cats begin their welcoming calls.
    The rooster usually crows... quite noisy at our place.

    But like you we really enjoy our choice of lifestyle.

    I enjoyed seeing photos of your dogs - hope they sneak into the blog often.

    Love Leanne

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  25. When my first marriage broke up my ex husband kept my lovely red setter.....she lived until she was 18, unusual for a setter.

    We would love to have had another dog, but working all day and the lifestyle we led was not conducive to us getting another one.

    We did talk about it a lot, but our move last year into our present home meant that we lost the opportunity. However when we house sit for my friend its to look after her dog, cat and horse, so for a few days each year, we do get a dog to look after.

    My setter was a lovely dog, so good with the grandchildren, although I never left them alone with her, if they were in the room and I went out, the dog went with me. She knew that one of my grand sons did not like dogs. She liked to go to the door and see who was there, if it was him, she would go and lie in her basket in the kitchen until he had gone..... I still miss her............

  26. Alice and Rosie are beautiful. I have been waiting for a post about them. :) We have 2 labs--Hank and Greta, 3 years old. I love them so much and feel just as you do--can't imagine life without a pup at my heels. Several people commented on losing their dogs--such a sad time. I wish I knew where I found this: "It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are." If only it could be true! But it has really helped me as I still deal with the loss of our first labs--Buck and Coco, a few years ago. To me it is a little easier if I remember that they did in fact give me a piece of their heart.

    Again, thank you for a wonderful post.

  27. Love your beautiful airedales Rhonda....brought back memories of dog-sitting my friend's pair....Albert and Victoria!

    I don't have a dog at the moment, but provide emergency care to cats rescued from the pound, and have 5 with me currently. The pleasure and joy I have in coaxing those traumatised and frightened lovelies back to a place where they can be ready to be rehomed is indescribable.

    ...and speaking of finding joy in the simplest things, I had to share my latest...a friend gave me 3 week old ducklings that he'd had hatchedin his classromm, and the kids cared for. I hadn't realised how much fun they'd be....I had got up in pain and feeling grumpy,and was mentally griping about the things to be done before I could have that first cuppa, then these yellow fluff balls followed me up the yard after I let them out, peeping madly, little feet windmilling madly to keep up, and tiny funny wings held out like little sails.

    I just had to laugh, and my day was instantly brightened, how could it not be with such joy on offer from such a simple moment.

    Thanks for a great post Rhonda.

    Nanette from northern NSW

  28. cathy, as soon as I saw your name I realised it was you. Thank you for the prompt.

    Kim, if I rememebr correctly you had Australian Shepherds. I'm so sorry to hear what happened.

    Christine, they were staring at Hanno who was eating morning tea.

    It is quite clear to me that everyone here is writing with love about their pets. I'm so pleased Cathy asked me to do this post. It's been a real pleasure.

  29. Just found you a few weeks ago and look forward to every new post while reading past ones. People who don't live with dogs will never understand those of us who do. I'm widowed for 12 yrs now and couldn't do without my best friends. If I go to the mailbox for 2 min or shopping for 2 hrs the greeting, when I come back in the door, is the same. I will sacrifice to keep them loved and healthy. My husband felt the same way. Bless you and your furry companions!! From North Carolina, USA

  30. Yes I feel just the same about our cockapoo puppy! We wouldn't be without her now, plenty of other things I would rather give up! Rosie and Alice are lovely, my grandparents bred airedales so some lovely memories for me.

  31. Dear Rhonda,

    I have been reading your blog for quite awhile. Yoiu have encouraged me thru your writings even-though we live so far away- Australia to USA. Unfortaunately, people think that living simply means depriving your family and yourself with the things you love - your pets, your crafts, etc. I love my dog and my cat. They are members of our family and to me feeding them well and taking the time to take care of them fits with my simple living. Thank you for writings. Many blessings to you and your husband.

  32. I agree whole heartedly! I could not live without a dog, or a cat for that matter, either!

    Beautiful girls!


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