A house is just property; our dogs are our world

crystal graham dogs
Crystal Graham with members of the #TeamAFP family. Photo by Chris Graham.

Waynesboro City Council is reviewing a proposed ordinance Monday night that makes recommendations for pet owners in the River City.

The proposed ordinance would make it “unlawful” for any person to keep more than four dogs or five cats (not to exceed a total of 7 animals) on the premises of any lot within the city.

When I read this news this morning, I was obviously angry. As a dog mom of six, this means that without a special permit issued by an animal control officer for “exceptional circumstances,” we would have to find new homes for two of our dogs. (No cats here. We are highly allergic).

Apparently, violating the code would leave us subject to a misdemeanor. And we’d have 90 days to comply. No grandfather clauses.

So which dog should we get rid of? The ones we added last to our family? The oldest? We have three senior pets (over the age of 12) and three younger dogs (ages 3-5). Four of our dogs are rescues.

Do we get rid of the yorkie that was abused as a pup and walks on three legs? The one that didn’t trust any human in this world until he jumped into my husband’s arms the day he was rescued – and hasn’t left his arms since. The dog we named Tyrion because he is small but mighty? The dog that literally sits on my husband’s lap while we work from home? The dog that sits next to my husband on a chair at night with his little paws in the air in delight as my husband rubs his belly? The dog who snuggles up against him at night under the covers? The dog who wants nothing more than to play with his toy fox or alpaca or chicken all day long? The dog who was days away from being euthanized or abandoned before we took him in?

Or Barley? The dog who lived with us as a baby (he was originally our niece’s dog) and then went to West Virginia but was suffering depression from being separated from his sibling? The dog who loves to play fetch and always has a smile on his face? The dog who gives other members of our tribe kisses first thing in the morning whether they want them or not?

Or Snickers? The dog who won’t go outside without having his belly rubbed? The dog who lays on my husband’s desk all day long and doesn’t bark at the birds right outside the window or the people taking walks or runs on the road outside? The dog who literally gives my husband kisses on his forehead at night well after he has fallen asleep? And prefers to be carried around like a baby?

Or Cookie? Our first shih tzu that adores her mommy more than anything in the world? Who gives her mom and visitors to the house deep kisses until they have to tap out? The world’s happiest dog up until this moment? The girl who lays with her best friend (her stuffed monkey) Sebastian every single day? And the cutie who has a habit of sitting in her mommy’s pink plush desk chair whenever she can?

Or Mochi? Our minature poodle that loves running in our backyard and snuggling with his mama? The dog who fashions bow ties and neck ties? A dog who loves toys more than almost anything and came to live with us when his senior parents thought he was a bit of a handful?

Or Bella? Our shorkie who tries to talk her mommy and daddy into taking her everywhere, from the beauty salon to a ballgame? Who follows her mom and dad to every room and cries if she’s not in the same room with them for two minutes? Who will give her Daddy more kisses than he can take at times? Who sleeps in a little unicorn bed in the living room that is all hers? Who had cancer removed from her mammary glands a few years ago?

We bought a 3,500-square foot home in the city with a large city lot and paid to have it properly fenced so our dogs could have the best life possible. And they do!

They are inside dogs but love outdoor living. Snickers and Barley regularly lay on the steps to our swimspa after they are done running the yard. Cookie loves to settle in a small raised bed we have outside near one of our rose bushes. Tyrion loves to lay in the top of the yard. Mochi is usually busy exploring the yard – unless he joins his mama on the outdoor furniture. Bella is little miss independent, usually wandering our large yard until she comes to rest by the door.

These dogs have their own Instagram with 4,374 followers – and some would argue have a better life than some humans.

Well-meaning people say not to worry, we should be granted an exemption. But can you imagine what it feels like to have your fate determined by one person? And no guidelines that I’ve seen as to what qualifies for an exceptional circumstance?

I’m not willing to part with any of my dogs. As much as I love the home we moved into a year ago, it’s just property. Our dogs are our world.

Story by Crystal Abbe Graham


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