A Michigan dog owner is proving that sometimes it takes a village to raise Buddy, her Maltese poodle mix.
Janet Eggen, 59, of Ferndale, Mich., is participating in dog sharing, the latest trend in the sharing economy where three different families also care for her high-energy dog through arranged playdates, impromptu games of fetch and overnight care.
She found the families by posting an ad on private Facebook groups and on Nextdoor.com, describing her 18-pound Buddy’s needs (sleeping with a human and being the only canine in the house) and her requirements — no young children, a home visit and an interview.
Dog sharing is akin to doggie day care but without the $25-$30 daily fee, and a loving family gets to experience the joy of having a dog, said Eggen, whose busy schedule as a health coach and nutritionist, mom to six kids and grandmother to four, necessitated the search
As the 7-year-old dog’s owner, she covers grooming and vet costs, provides a leash and coordinates, by text, the socializing. The other families purchase Buddy’s food and a bed for when he sleeps at their own homes.
“There are a lot of people out there who want a dog but are afraid of the full-time responsibility,” Eggen said. “After reading about dog sharing for the first time, I thought, ‘this might be a good solution.’ ”
About 37 percent of U.S. households own a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook.
Elaine Greene, executive director of the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit in Dearborn, Mich., wishes there were more dog owners. She has about 1,000 dogs annually awaiting adoption.
“It’s a novel idea,” said Greene. “People are already doing all kinds of sharing — sharing cars, sharing jobs — so it’s not far-fetched to think that people are interested in co-owning or co-sharing a pet.”
Has the trend translated to more pet adoptions?
“Do I think I’ll have a line out the door wanting to adopt,” after hearing about dog sharing? Greene asked. “Probably not. It will start their wheels turning and thinking of ways they could incorporate a pet into their life and maybe plant some seeds.”
Eggen has heard rumblings from critics concerned that it’s unhealthy and confusing for the dog to live at multiple addresses.
Animal behavioral specialist Dr. Jill Sackman of BluePearl Veterinarian Partners in Southfield and Grand Rapids, Mich., discounts that concern because owners are adept at reading their dog’s body language, moods and behaviors.
“Dogs are persons too,” said Sackman. “They have their likes and dislikes, with some more extroverted or introverted, and you can tell if they are comfortable with their body language.”
Dog sharing or going to a dog day care is ideal for canines that have separation anxiety, Sackman said.
Still, not all dogs thrive in dog day care, said Amber Larivee, assistant manager at The Barkshire, a pet resort in Troy, Mich.
“Some shy away from being social and need more human one-on-one interaction,” Larivee said.
Rescued dogs often struggle at first at a day care because the smells, the sounds and number of dogs remind them of their days at the pound, she said.
Buddy was a stray Eggen took in five years ago after she and other residents saw him racing through the area where she lived at the time. They put together a search party to find him before his bolting tendencies ended in tragedy.
“He would have never stopped running had he not gotten sick,” Eggen surmises. “He collapsed on my friend’s driveway and was covered in cysts, had a fever and a bunch of infected sores.”
Eggen and a vet nursed him back to health, a process that took nearly three months.
It also was enough time to fall in love with him rather than adopting him out as she planned. Eggen has been dog sharing for about 1.5 years.
“I think dog sharing worked for me because Ferndale is a small community and I ended up knowing all the people that wanted to be involved,” she said.