Big Dogs in Tiny Places — An Essay

I’ve written in the past about my life spent moving a lot and also about gravitating toward tinier places to live, such as shared housing or renting small abodes. Today, as I once again stumbled over my dog as I was trying to make breakfast, I thought, “I’ll bet there are other people who live in tiny houses but have big dogs.”

I’ve mostly had cats throughout my life and, apologies to the feline, but cats are easier and smaller than most dogs. Although we had German Shepherds when I was a youngster and we had one Golden during my marriage who went with the ex, I didn’t get my own big dog until I was 49 years old.  She was born on a friend’s farm where I also happened to be renting a small apartment on that farm.

In 2011, my big dog, a little dog I had rescued that year, and two cats moved into our own house and expanded to a whopping 972 square feet with a large backyard. This was huge for me. I was happy to spread the wealth and thought I would start fostering even more animals. Turns out I’m a failure as a foster mom as I ended up keeping two more cats and another little dog. I engineered a doggie door off the dining room and into the garage where the dogs and cats could go in and out to the fenced-in backyard. It never seemed crowded at all to me even though it was a tiny house.

In 2016, after we had been camping with first a large tent and then a camper shell on the back of the truck for many years, I bought a 24′ motorhome. It didn’t seem small to me after what we’d had in the past. Just taking 2 to 6 day camping trips for two years in the motorhome meant that  we only needed to take the stuff we needed for that trip, not everything I owned and the cats stayed home. That all changed in the middle of 2018 when I retired and decided to sell my house. Now that 24′ motorhome was our only place and everything I wanted to keep had to be in it too.

I wasn’t worried about the dogs losing their freedom and their big back yard because the two that were still around were both getting older and I do take a lot of walks and small hikes often. I was a little concerned about the cat (down to one by this time) because he spent his days in the backyard among the gardens and didn’t use an inside litter box very often. But he adjusted beautifully and I think he actually enjoys the coziness in the motorhome with the dogs. But the one thing that did change from using the motorhome for trips versus actually living in this small space was the big dog.

Poppy is now 12 years old and she does spend a good portion of her time sleeping but there just doesn’t seem to be a place for her in the motorhome. I bought one of the smallest models they make, no slides and only 24′ long on the outside. I wanted something that would fit in the driveway and it really did seem like enough room at the time. Let’s just say Poppy has gotten really good at responding to the command “move” and she has learned to walk backwards.

I do think she’s happy being part of our pack but I wonder if she’s comfortable. There is literally no floor space because there was not much to begin with but then I added a large dog ramp so they could get up on the platform bed easily without my assistance. This dog ramp leaves about 10″ of hallway space to the side. Not a lot of room for a 55 pound dog to maneuver.

And she doesn’t really have her own place either. She likes to sleep under the dining room table but whenever I’m using the dining room, she takes exception to my feet touching her, she’ll huff and puff and get up and move somewhere else. I often find her on the dog bed I placed between the driver and passenger seats in the cab although I wonder how she fits exactly. It’s cozy.

Her absolute favorite place though is the bathroom floor. The only problem with that scenario is that I can’t use the toilet or the sink when she’s laying in there. So every time I go to use the bathroom or wash my hands, she has to get up from a sound sleep. A few times I’ve tried to use the bathroom without disturbing her but I feel like I’m an acrobat on a tightrope wire trying to balance around her and not fall over and it doesn’t really work.

There will be more room in the motorhome when she passes but my heart will have a huge empty place. Big dogs can fit in tiny houses.

12 1/2 and going strong
“I’m trying not to be in the way”
“Look! We all fit.”
“Please don’t step on me”
“We’re safe here”
“If I fits, I sits”

3 thoughts on “Big Dogs in Tiny Places — An Essay

Add yours

  1. You seem so much like me ,I haven’t started yet but with property values going up I might be rich and homeless! I’d like to know if most of the places you go accept more dogs than even you had. I love the pictures of everyone in the big bed! Beautiful babies!. I have six dogs mostly small. One large llassa apso named Poppy also ,she’s ten . Five small very active and barkers. What do you do with your little ones when you shop and do short adventures for the day. I’d be afraid to leave them for long. Cherie.


  2. Looks like she likes the bath plenty…. & happy also on the bed! I always like your bed: you do a good job with it? Didn’t you also have a parrot? love your posts


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