Jack is happy, healthy, and LOVES being outside. No seriously - I mean he LOVES the out doors. He is house trained, crate trained, and behaves himself very well inside, but he only tolerates it. Anytime I have brought him inside in the past, he enjoyed it for about 5 minutes and then begged to go back out. If I made him stay inside for some reason, he would lay by the door, patiently waiting for me to take him back outside. So, because that is where he is happiest, he has been a permanently outside dog for the past several years
I would be fine with continuing with the current living situation, if it weren't for his age. He is slower than he used to be. He will still play with the other dogs, but he thinks about it for a minute before he gets up. He no longer greets me with a bounce in his step. Oh he still comes to me to be sociable, but rather than half running, half bouncing to me, he just walks over and says "hi mom." He also requires more food to maintain his weight than he used to. In the past, he stayed in great shape on only 4 to 4 1/2 cups of the particular brand of food we feed him. Now he requires 5 1/2 to 6 cups of that same food. He doesn't act like anything bothers him really. He doesn't seem to be in pain or otherwise uncomfortable. In fact, if you met him for the first time today, you would complement him for being such a good dog and would likely never guess that he is starting to slow down. It is only because I know him so well, that I am able to see the changes.
So this is my dilemma. With winter coming on, I worry that his age may really begin to show. Since he already needs more food to maintain his weight, will his body be able to handle the cold like it has in years past? I know he is a "snow dog" and I know his body is built for cold weather, but even "snow dogs" need extra care at some point. Should I consider bringing him inside, even though I know full well that he is happiest when he is outside? Maybe I should bring him in only at night, or only on the coldest days. But will bringing him inside make him unhappy to the point of misery? Will he begin to waste away because he is no longer allowed to be outside 24/7?
It isn't cold enough yet for me to have to make an immediate decision, and it may not be for a few more weeks or even a month. But it is something that has been on my mind, and something that I want to correctly decide. If I decide to bring him in, I will have to plan for another dog in the house. I will have to make room for his crate, and will have to make time for exercising him daily. I don't mind those things. I was willing to do them the day he came home with me - I just haven't need to since he has lived outside. It's just that, at this point, I'm not sure what would be the right thing, both for his health and his emotional well being.
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