Love; the most powerful force in the universe. We all experience and understand love in a very unique way, whether it be in romantic relationships, within family, friends or with animals. Everyone’s experience of loving a dog is different - and every experience is valid. I know a lot of you only have one dog who you love with all your being. I also know some of you are exploring the possibility for another dog, but always stopping at the same point: wondering if you could ever love a second dog the same as your first one. I know, because I used to feel the same.
Some people never think about this topic, never doubt their own capacity of love. That’s great and if that’s you, I hope you approach this article with open mind and compassion. For some of us this is a very real topic and I think it’s important that we talk about it.
Without further ado, here is my take and my personal experience on this question:
is it possible to love a second dog the same as you love your special first?
When I adopted Bailey 5 years ago, we instantly had a connection. I can honestly say I never had to work to build our bond, it was just there. I did hand feed her from day one, so this probably contributed a lot, but even before her first meal ever, while we were in the car driving from the shelter, the bond was there. It felt cosmic. Meant to be. I’ve known we are soulmates since the first second.
Growing up, I always imagined myself with a pack of dogs - two dogs minimum! Even on Bailey’s adoption day, I had a thought in the back of my mind that she is only my first dog and that more of them are going to come along. I was very unprepared for her issues, truthfully, but I was also unprepared for the amount of love I feel for her. It was life-changing and scary. What if something happens to her? What if I’m never going to love another dog like this again?
I couldn’t even imagine that a love like that could be matched - ever. So for a while, because of Bailey’s reactivity issues and my overwhelming love for her, I pushed my dreams for a second dog out of my head.
When she was about three years old, the wish for another dog arose again. I don’t really know what triggered it, but I just assumed Bailey would benefit from a canine companion and my daydreams of having a pack returned. It was always just Bailey and me. I wanted to add one more soul to create a dynamic trio, a team, a pack. Bailey’s training was progressing well and I was confident that we would do just fine with another dog. For the next two years, this wish would burn inside of me, but for situational and financial reasons it was “never the right time”. I felt like I was totally ready, Bailey was ready … but life was just a mess.
Enter December of 2015. My life has finally gotten a bit more stable. Things were flowing into the right direction and I made a decision: I’m going to adopt another dog in 2016. I knew I wanted a Border Collie, I knew I wanted a rescue. I started following shelters and rescue organizations on Facebook, checking for possible Border Collies. In the beginning of February, I found him. There was a post about a little pooch being found sick on the streets of Bosnia. At the beginning, I didn’t think he’s going to end up mine. I figured someone else will adopt him once he’s released from the vet. His photos kept popping up on my feed, so I was following his recovery closely. I fully believed he had so many possible adopters already lined up, I genuinely didn’t even consider him. Until one day, a picture was posted of him in his foster home - and the caption read he’s still looking for his forever home. He was looking so devilish, healthy and happy. I could not believe that he still hasn’t found a home! My brain went: what sane person would ever pass up on this baby? I wrote a message to the woman who rescued him in the middle of the night and the rest is history. We underwent a phone conversation and a home check. After the home check, it was official: we’re going to drive to Bosnia and pick up my baby number two, a boy I named Chilly.
The gravity of me adopting another dog didn’t hit me until the evening after the home check. I was cuddling in bed with Bailey, thinking of how much she means to me and all of a sudden, my heart stopped.
HOLY - FUCKING - SHIT. What the HELL am I getting myself into? Am I insane? I don’t think I could ever love another dog like I love Bailey! This is impossible! Why am I doing this? It’s going to be so unfair to the other dog! What if he won’t get enough attention because of Bailey’s special needs? What if he’s going to be super jealous? What if I completely mess this up????
All this and more. A million what-ifs and a self-doubt so big it could pass as a mountain. I quote my mom a lot, because she says the wisest things, and when I was really young I asked her how she can divide her love between four kids. She said: “Love does not divide - it multiplies.” Meaning, you don’t have a fixed storage of love that you have to divide between different people and animals. Love multiplies with each soul we grow to love. I decided to trust mom on this one. I also knew that Bailey is going to eventually love the new addition too, so it was worth the try. Besides, I couldn’t get Chilly out of my head. He was already my dog, even though he was so far away. He had yet to be neutered and I worried about that constantly. I worried about how he’s going to handle the journey from Bosnia and if he’s going to have a hard time adjusting to his new life. I bought him the cutest dog bed (that he chewed up on day 7) and the cutest leash and the cutest toys.
I loved him since the moment I saw his picture on Facebook, I just didn’t realize it - because it was the kind of love I wasn’t used to. It was full of worry and responsibility and having to overcome my own feelings of self-doubt. It was the kind of love that puts up a mirror and tells you “this is what we need to work on.”
Once we finally drove to Bosnia and Chilly was finally in my arms, I felt like my heart is going to burst. I missed Bailey the whole day so terribly, but I knew Chilly belonged to me the second I first held him. When we got back home later that evening and I saw him with Bailey, I knew I made the right choice. Sure, she was nervous around him and unsure. But he was patient, curious and loving - towards us both. The three of us clicked together like we were always meant to be a family.
Having one reactive dog and one young Border Collie has made my life incredibly busy overnight. In the first weeks, I didn’t really walk around thinking about how much I love Chilly or how silly it was for me to ever doubt that. I tried my very best to set up a daily routine that would work for all three of us. It was a lot of work, especially because I was doing separate training sessions. Then one day, Chilly got really sick. I hate canned dog food and I don’t know what the hell has gotten into me that day, but I gave some of it to Chilly and it upset his stomach. I was so terrified. He was throwing up all the time. I was worried he has brought a weird bug from Bosnia. I was worried he has an undiscovered disease. It happened in the evening and I was on the phone with the vet, almost sobbing into the phone, describing his symptoms. The vet reassured me it’s just an upset stomach and gave me further instructions. At 1am, Chilly finally stopped throwing up and I decided it’s time to go to sleep. I tucked Bailey under the covers, I moved Chilly’s (half-eaten) puppy bed out of his crate and spent the whole night sitting next to him. I couldn’t leave him alone for one second.
Somewhere around 4am it hit me: I can’t believe I ever thought my heart isn’t capable of loving another dog. Here I am, terrified to bits and pieces for a dog that I have barely had a month. This feeling of my heart aching with fear - this is what love feels like.
Chilly was alright within a couple of days (thankfully!) and our life went back to normal. Since that day, I have often re-examined my love for him. I would think about how much he makes my heart sing. How he fills me with joy. I would think back on how I used to doubt my own capacity to love.
I did get one thing right though: I don’t love him like I love Bailey. But I also don’t love Bailey like I love him. I don’t love my mom the way I love my sisters and I don’t love them the way I love my mom. I have learned that every love is absolutely unique. They are all love, all equal … but all different.
I know better know. I know that I will never love anyone like I love Bailey and Chilly, but that doesn’t mean my love ends with them. It only means I love each soul individually. Each soul has traits that I am in love with. Every relationship is completely different and one of a kind, every relationship teaches you different things and shows you newfound depths of love.
I am so thankful for both of my dogs. They are my greatest teachers and I know that I really needed this lesson on love, because I often think about it in other areas of life too.
If you want to have another dog and your only hesitation is the fear that you won’t love them the same as you do your first dog, let me tell you this: you will not the love them the same - you will love them differently, but equally. Give the second dog a chance to step into your life and teach you a lesson about how love always, always multiplies.
How many dogs do you have? What have they taught you about love? Share your insights in the comments below!
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