Top SF Realtor POV: Can a pet make a house a home?

Top SF Realtor POV: Can a pet make a house a home?

Writings about residential real estate and all things home, by Cynthia Traina of Kindred SF Homes.

Reading time: 3 minutes 

Recently our dog, George (AKA Prince George after the birth of the English monarch-in-waiting), passed away.  He joined our family after a Girl Scout outing at the San Francisco SPCA. Our daughters were in first and fourth grades; now one lives and works in NYC and the other is in college.

I was surprised how hard George’s passing hit us. Like the furniture, he was always there, welcoming us, always up for play time, and there when we needed consoling.  He was the constant beating heart in our home–a faithful gentleman-in-waiting.  With George, we explored and became familiar with almost every corner of the city in our endless walks over 15+ years.

I once read a quote from a psychiatrist who said the best thing you can do for your kids is to get a dog.  Why do we love our dogs so? Dogs make a house feel more lived-in and welcoming. George’s playful and energetic nature filled our home with joy and happiness.  Dogs seem to have an “on” and “off” button, where they go from being up for anything, or completely crashed—much like children I suppose, but without the whiney in-between periods often associated with babies and toddlers.

And when we go to work or school, our pets embody the house itself. They keep the house alive with their watchful eyes. When we return, they welcome us, rushing to the front door, jumping up to greet us, as if to say our home is pleased to see we’re back—and what took you so long? 

When our girls left for their adult adventures, we were not empty nesters.  We still had our boy. It’s as though George stuck around for a couple more years to help us adjust to the transition. George did slow down with age, and as I was fond of saying, “when I look at him, I see our future”.

So what does that have to do with home buying? For one, devoted dog lovers prioritize outdoor space—for a dog’s playtime, but also because nobody wants to walk outside at 10pm for a pet’s last pee. When staging a home, does it make sense to put out pet bowls in the kitchen and some dog toys to make the house feel welcoming—like we do with a vase of flowers or music playing in the background?  

Stagers prepare bedrooms that appear like the home’s imaginary children just left for a playdate. Do we ask our buyers if they are planning where their pets will fit into the home? Maybe we should. According to the American Community Survey, in 2016 there were about 115,000 children under 18 living in San Francisco. At the same time, San Francisco Animal Care and Control estimated there were about 120,000 to 150,000 dogs in the city. Any pet lover will tell you that their dog or cat (or other pet) is a cherished member of a family. 

George was part of a pack of four-legged Fillmore Street ambassadors. He knew all the locals (and their furry friends) and helped improve the neighborhood. My husband would pick up trash off the street (with fancy garbage tongs) to pass the time when our then-octogenarian George slowly ambled up the street.  

Our George will always remind us of our years in our home. He didn’t have his own room, but when we walk by the spot where his food bowls sat in the kitchen or see the vacant area of the living room that once embraced his dog bed, we always feel a twinge of sadness—and happiness—for how George created some of our fondest memories of home.


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