Part-time pets

People are now sharing the responsibility of pooch ownership, and if it's done right, it can be a win-win for everyone involved.

The moment Janet Eggen started fostering "Buddy" she fell in love. She wanted to adopt him but required some help. "It was a challenge for me to give him what he needed. He needed a lot of exercise," Eggen says.

So, Janet started "dog sharing" Buddy. The Maltese poodle mix's time is split between Janet's house and three other families, including Jane Hook's.

"After the first visit alone, he was 100% confident and happy and felt comfortable with us," Hook says.

Each family buys food and supplies for Buddy, but Janet is his primary owner and pays for his vet care.

"Having people who love your dog like you do, it's wonderful," Eggen says.

We found part-time pets popping up all over the country. Like pooches Woody, Oscar and Queen Emma, owned by Mercedes Nanson. They spend the day at her mother-in-law's house while Mercedes goes to work.

There are apps out there to help connect people, like Dogtime and Let's Share a Dog.

Janet posted on private neighborhood websites to find Buddy's helpers and checked them all out. She says, "I was concerned about, you know, safety issues."

Veterinarian Lori Teller, who is on the board of directors for the American Veterinary Medical Association, says pet sharing can increase a dog's socialization but recommends:
  • A primary owner maintains financial responsibility and decision making for the dog.
  • Get personal and vet references.
  • Do a home visit and play date-to make sure it's a good fit.

Dog law expert and attorney Jeremy Cohen from Boston Dog Lawyers recommends a contract to clarify things like:
  • Who is responsible if the dog bites someone?
  • What training methods will be used?
  • If an owner passes away, who has rights to the dog?

Janet and the rest of Buddy's extended family say they hope their arrangement inspires others to adopt.

She says, "There are so many animals in shelters that need a home. And if families can partner to share the responsibility, I think that would be wonderful."

Dr. Teller says not to adopt a dog unless you can meet all their needs without pet sharing.

Lastly, remember, dogs can live for one to two decades, so you'll want to make sure you have a long-term plan in place for your pooch.
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