Ask Ethel: Is a Dog Worth More Than a Boyfriend?
The article: the dog. The possessive: your dog, my dog, our dog.
Which one is Ethel? Depends on the day.
When I adopted her from the shelter last fall, my boyfriend came, too, stood in line and met the dozens of dogs with me that day. While we made the decision to adopt her jointly, when the shelter staff asked us who would get the dog in the event of a breakup, the answer was clear. It was always going to be me; she was my dog.
In many ways, that's proved to be true. I am the primary caretaker – feeding, walking, brushing, making arrangements for her, that's all me.
In other ways, she's also our dog. Her nicknames are ones he came up with. Late at night, when I'm more interested in sleep than taking her out for a walk, he's there to do it. Sometimes, when I'm least expecting it, I'll find him on the ground with her on his chest, awash with affection for one another.
Still, I know that he doesn't really like her all the time, and that his feelings about her are complicated. She's a high-maintenance creature with needs greater than either of us could have ever imagined a dog to have, so you might not be surprised to find that the primary source of conflict between me and my boyfriend is the dog. Sorry, my dog.
What will we be able to do this weekend? Well, it depends – how long is it going to take? How long is the dog going to have to be alone in her crate? Will we be able to find someone to watch her if we're going to be gone too long? She can be alone for longer than that. No, that's too long. She's not going to be comfortable. She's a dog, and you can't have her dictate what you do with your life!
This past weekend, when there were plans to sit on a Chinatown rooftop before heading to the waterfront to watch fireworks, and requests to play all day at an amusement park, or to watch a summer popcorn movie, we disagreed over which activities we would partake in, how long we would be gone and what we would do with Ethel, and as the fight dragged on through an hour-long subway ride and all the way to the door of our party host's apartment, I wondered whether we would ever make it with a dog in the picture.
I've met several people recently (more than you would think) who have told me that they had broken up with their significant other over their pets. Some express regret over the choice, while others prize their pets above all else. Do I want to be one of those people? I don't think so, but were he and I ever going to be on the same page about this? And what about the dog? Or was I crazy for caring so much?
In the end, with the dogsitter on vacation and little time to make other arrangements for her, I left Ethel in her crate. When we came back, there she was, happy to see us again. As for whether he and I will ever agree on what to do with the dog, I'm not sure we will, but here's to hoping that our relationship outlives all those questions.
Got a thorny pet (any pet!) problem that you can't figure out? Try Ethel – she'll do her best to help. Send your questions to email@example.com. Include your pet's age, breed and sex, and try to give as much context to your problem as possible.
Previously in Ask Ethel:
Ask Ethel: My Dog Rips Up My Wallpaper!
Ask Ethel: Cat Thinks Commuting Is for the Birds