Tiny House Living: 480 Square Feet With 5 Dogs

A small living space did not stop this animal lover from rescuing dogs.
By: Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
Kerri, her husband and her dog in their tiny house

If you’ve ever played the game of Twister—where you spin a dial and have to put your hands and feet on the specific color you land on—you can get a sense of what it’s like living in 480 square feet with a family of five dogs (and some occasional fosters).

That is exactly the situation my husband and I live with every day. Each time we get up from the sofa or out of bed in the middle of the night, we have to navigate multiple dog bodies on beds that cover our floor like carpet. It’s like we’re playing a game of Twister.

My husband and I always thought we would build a larger house on our 10-acre lake property in the Ozark Mountains and use our little cabin as a guest residence and my office. But then the recession hit, and our plans for a big home got derailed. The cabin became our primary residence. But none of that deterred me from taking in as many dogs as we could afford.

Many people ask how we live in such a small space with so many furkids. We’ve had as many as six full time dogs and one foster at a time and, yes—most of them are large dogs. This makes our life a little cramped at times. Each night when we go to bed, our entire brood comes into our tiny 10 x 10 bedroom to sleep. Two dogs sleep on pallets we’ve laid down between my side of the bed and the dresser, as many as three at one time sleep with us in our full-sized bed, and another rests on a pallet at the end of the bed.

One night, shortly after moving in, I was jolted awake. I had not yet grown accustomed to sleeping in a smaller bed and I found myself lying on top of Emma, our German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix. My ankle was stuck between her, the bed, and dresser and both of us were trying to wriggle out of the predicament. Luckily, Emma wasn’t hurt, but I had a sore ankle for quite awhile.

At mealtime, the pack gathers in the kitchen for a pre-meal snack, given to them because at least one of the dogs at any given time has to take medication. In this small of a space, you cannot give one a treat and not the others, so they all get to benefit. After giving them their treats I say, “To your bowls,” and they scatter throughout that 20 x 24-foot space so each one of them can have a little room to nibble their kibble in peace.

Most times, our furkids don’t seem to mind the intimate quarters. Dexter, our Beagle mix, loves to lie right on top of Sade, our Pit Bull, who often naps in my husband’s recliner when he’s not home. We’ve often said we are very lucky to have so many dogs from so many varied backgrounds that get along. But perhaps, like me and my husband, they figure it is better to be friendly in such tight quarters than it is to fuss and argue.

My husband and I both have other places to spread out on our 10-acre property in the Ozark Mountains. He has a large garage (Sade, the Pit Bull, loves to accompany him there) and I have a separate writer’s studio. If things get tense in the house, the larger dogs, like us, have plenty of outdoor space to play.

The tiny house movement is all about living with only the things, people, and animals you really need—that you really love. And though our tiny house is quite full, we wouldn’t have it any other way. As the saying goes, “It isn’t how big the house, but how happy the home.”

Image courtesy Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell