Throughout most of my adult life, I have been a multiple pet owner. Some of my pet populations have had their own rooms or even buildings. In California’s more temperate climate, I kept my parakeets and cockatiels in their own aviaries. It only took the escape of one 10-inch long king snake to get my entire collection of snakes banished to the detached garage. However, I have never kept my dogs in kennel buildings or even confined to just one room of the house. My wife does ban them from our formal areas, but then she also bans me from the formal areas.

That generally means that if you visit my home you meet our pets…well most of our pets. The wife’s Toy Poodle bitch, Fannie, hates my Cairn Terrier bitch, DeeDee, and just about everybody she meets. So, she lives mostly on the second floor, like some eccentric relative you trot out at family gatherings. Visitors to my home are greeted by my three dogs, the aforementioned DeeDee, my Scottie, Bernie, and my Italian Greyhound, Pepe. DeeDee will greet all visitors enthusiastically, as she has never met a human she didn’t love. Pepe loves most people, but views children as mutants to be avoided. Bernie is my all-business executive assistant. He will ask if you have an appointment, check your identification, and then see if I am available. He will then escort you to my office, wait for me to give him the all clear, then quietly retire.

I rarely get to have a one-on-one conversation with my guests as my Double Yellow Head Amazon parrot, Julio, will insist on joining in on any spirited conversation. Julio loves a lively exchange, always says hello, laughs frequently, and objects to being removed from the gathering with that standard teenage lament, “That’s not fair!” Once my daughter complained that Julio had irritated one of her friends. I think the young man was just intimidated by Julio’s superior vocabulary.

Most of the time, the visitors enjoy the animals, and the animals enjoy the visitors…unless the visitors stay more than a day or two. The dogs and I are creatures of habit. We like to get up at the same time every day, eat our meals at the same time every day, and go to bed at the same time every night. Whereas I can be flexible with my schedule and adjust to my guests preferences, the dogs have no such sense of hospitality. They will not abide a late meal, a delay in their exercise routine, or any alteration in their sleeping arrangements. If a visitor overnights in the Wheeler household, they can forego sleeping in as the dogs rarely go into the yard after breakfast without announcing their presence.

After our morning outing, the dogs all report for their regular jobs. DeeDee posts up on the back stairs to assure no critters trespass on her yard. Pepe takes his place next to me, occasionally reaching over to hit the space bar on my keyboard. He seems to think it gives the page an airy look. Bernie takes his place on the ottoman in front of the window that looks down the drive, then announces the departure for work of each of my neighbors. He grumbles at SUVs, barks at sedans, and warns those in pickup trucks to move to another street. Should any visitor interfere with these self-appointed duties, they will be met with determined resistance. Pepe will whine, DeeDee will relocate her backyard surveillance to a vantage place not accessible to humans, but Bernie will simply tell you not to bother him, he’s working, and he will not budge.

Visitors also mean frequent opening of doors. For the most part this is not a problem in our house. Neither DeeDee nor Bernie will venture out the front door without an escort. Pepe is another story. Any time the front door is open, he sees it as invitation for adventure. It’s not that he wants to run away. He generally runs to my car and sits until I open the car door as he loves to go wherever I am going. The problem is if I am not home, Pepe will insist on locating me as soon as possible.

The worst conflict with visitors occurs anytime food is served. All of my dogs are extremely food-focused as most show prospects are. While all of my dogs know that I will never share food with them, they see visitors as easy marks. Now, I don’t inflict my dogs on dinner guests or someone who drops in for tea, but if you spend a week with me, I’m not going to crate my dogs for the duration. I’ll put the dogs away at meal times, but if you come downstairs for a midnight snack be prepared to share.

Next month I will have a house full of guests in town for my daughter’s wedding, and we will kennel the dogs for the few days that the guests are here. In many ways, the dogs will appreciate not having to deal with multiple intruders, especially the children. However, Bernie will sulk for several days after he returns home. At first he will give me the cold shoulder. When he does deign to speak to me, the first thing he will do is remind me how foolish it was to leave the house unprotected while he was away. He will then crawl up on the ottoman, look out the window and ask me, “Didn’t I tell that yard man never to come back?” Next time I think we will kennel the guests and let the dogs stay home. And that’s today’s Back Story.