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Big Love
Living the poly-dog life
American Gothic 2.0: Leo, Jason, Kate and Skipper.

“Babe, how do you think Skipper felt about me bringing home Leo? I mean, do you think he feels like...inadequate, as a dog?”

“What on earth are you talking about?”
“Maybe he feels like I got another dog because he wasn’t enough for me? Like if maybe he had a bigger personality, or liked to snuggle more, I wouldn’t have had to go elsewhere for it?”
My most recent TV obsession is “Big Love,” which was introduced into my home after my boyfriend Jason impulse-bought three seasons on DVD. For those of you not hooked on the drama, I’ll fill you in: Unlike other cable shows about vampires, serial killers or suburban drug dealers (“Weeds” or “Breaking Bad,” take your pick), “Big Love” is about a clean-cut Mormon family living in Utah. Oh, yeah, and they’re polygamists. The show has provided the kind of escapism that keeps me hooked, especially since polygamy remains a subject with which I don’t foresee myself becoming more intimately acquainted. I mean, obviously Jason isn’t going to take any more girlfriends in (at least, he wouldn’t live to tell about it if he did), and it’s not like I’m going to take in another boyfriend.
Maybe I’ve become too invested in the show and can’t separate fiction from reality, but all of the sudden I feel really guilty. Perched on the end of the sofa, staring out the window, is Skipper, my faithful first dog. We used to joke when I first adopted Skip that he thought he was my boyfriend, not my dog. He followed me everywhere and slept on my pillow at night (which for a 15 pound dog is quite a feat). Whenever Jason would come over and sit next to me on the sofa, Skipper would look at me like “You’re going to let this fool take my seat? Tell him to move!” and would eventually disappointingly concede when it was clear Jason wasn’t going anywhere.
As if my human boyfriend wasn’t enough (sorry, Skip), imagine how he felt when I brought home a younger, more outgoing canine without real warning. And what’s worse, the latecomer is a total attention-fiend. Skipper’s a little like Big-Love-first-wife-and-total-control-freak Barb, who was dragged into a plural marriage by her husband when he married second-wife-and-compulsive-spender-and-liar Nikki. Like Barb, Skipper must have tried to maintain composure those first few days, but the jealousy probably was overwhelming. When the second dog was not sitting in my lap or getting combed or doing fancy tricks, he’d be misbehaving: Peeing on the curtains, eating my favorite Lady Gaga headband, barking at the heater. Meanwhile, there’s perfectly faithful Skip, a paragon of good behavior, often going unnoticed because he doesn’t ask for much other than the occasional pat on the head or a quiet whispering of “Who’sagoodboy?”
I figured with a second dog, the more the merrier. But after marathon “Big Love” sessions, I have my doubts. What does Skipper think? Is a new dog a replacement? A competitor? While Skip and Leo get along famously whenever they’re interacting—wrestling, cleaning one another, even sharing the same dog-bed—like the wives on “Big Love” the stakes are raised when they’re vying for the affections of one person—in our case, me. Even though there are still minor squabbles from time to time over who gets to sit next to me on the couch, the dogs have worked things out among themselves and seem happier for having one another. As for me? I’ll just have to get over my guilt, stop watching “Big Love” and take the dogs out to the park together.
What about you? Is one dog enough or do you have a poly-canine family?


Kate VandenBerghe is a recent graduate of the California College of Arts MFA program in San Francisco. She runs Paper Animal Design, her own freelance design company, and lives in Oakland with her two rescue pups, Skipper and Leo.

Photos by Lyndsie Smith

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Submitted by Kristin | August 11 2010 |

We started with Gordon (our Gsd mix) who was my husbands dog before we even met. When I moved in our cat Meow came with me. After a couple years, a month before we got married came our 2nd dog Higgins. Then two turtles that a family member was unable to care for. And then 2 months ago came the newest addition, our first human child! Poor Gordon was least pleased with the 2nd dog for sure... But only in the beginning. Now they are literally inseparable. Gordon displayed separation anxiety for the first time in his life the first time he was left home alone without his sidekick. He was our first and honestly is our "once in a lifetime" perfect fit pup. He's been amazingly resilient with all the change in our lives. We think that adding another dog enriched his life and hope that he feels the same!

Submitted by jen | August 11 2010 |

I'm going to top you - I have a three dog home, with an occasional foster.

While I think one dog homes are fantastic for people who can compensate for the lack of dog buddies their dog should have (except, in cases of dog aggression, etc) - I really think two dog homes have the right idea.
Its an upgrade.
Its a bonus!
Its like being in heaven for my dogs anyway.. they get the one-on-one TLC from us humans, and a level of play time, relaxation, cuddling and grooming that we can't give them that only another dog can.

In fact, I got my third dog because my first two dogs were basically one unit - always together, snarking and playing and sleeping and grooming... they are a match made in dog heaven. I got a third dog for me, a velcro dog that needed me! LOL.

I agree, turn off the big love and enjoy a dog leash on each arm - its more fun that way.

Submitted by Inês | August 11 2010 |

We adopted our third dog last December - she turned out to be a very hyper terrier mix, and our 9 year old beagle-mix sometimes gets this "Why?" look in his eyes. Our golden retriever girl isn't crazy about the new baby although she has been incredibly patient. But I don't think I can ever have just one dog - even if they're not best friends I think most dogs enjoy canine companionship. I always thought that four was the maximum dogs I could sanely own, so...

Submitted by D.K. Wall & The... | August 11 2010 |

Six. Yes, six. Siberian Huskies. Just call us the Brady Bunch of the Siberian Husky world.

The reality is that they love having siblings, and I make a point of providing each one special one-on-one time. But we also do a lot of things as a pack that they enjoy. Takes dedication and patience to have so many, but the rewards are so worth it.

Submitted by Tracey | August 13 2010 |

While I only have a single 20 year old son in college... I have two furry kids... Think of it as kids ( My example comes from my nephews) When 1st one was born he was happy and fine but when he found out he was getting a sibling well his whole life changed he was so excited to have a new person just like him to play and share and love... so I do not think dogs are judgmental in a way that they feel inadequate...they just like sibling have a bond that will form of their own...Mine have a sibling like relationship they wouldn't know how to exists without each other, however they have their quarrels and then move on like it didn't happen... We as adults should be more like our furry companions..."No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich" Author: Louis Sabin...so having more makes you richer!

Submitted by Lee Harrington ... | August 13 2010 |

I like to say I have 1 1/2 dogs. My dog Chloe and her boyfriend Rainbow. He sleeps over a lot (we are very liberal and allow them to share a bed even though they are not married.)I work at home, so I like to take both dogs during the day, and when I go out at night (to play music) the dogs go over to Rainbow's house and continue the party. I love this arrangement.

Last year, when Chloe and I went south for the winter, Rainbow, who has extreme separation anxiety, had a hard time. His human parents adopted a second dog, to ease Rainbow's anxiety. But now the problem is the two males run off all the time. Chloe has been recruited to herd them back onto the correct property :)

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