What obligation do I have to my ex-dog (or ex-husband)?

I was always a cat person. Had them all the time growing up. In university, it didn’t feel like home until I got a kitten my first year.

That kitten, given a Hawaiian name to remind me of an amazing vacation there, was still with me when I met my ex-husband Will.

He was a dog person.

I should have known it wouldn’t work out. He tolerated my cat and on occasion would admit that he was fond of her. Then she got sick – and sicker – and within a few weeks it was that awful moment of making a decision to end her life to prevent her ongoing suffering.

48 hours later, Will says “so can we get a dog now?”

Yeah; he wasn’t always known for his tact.

Of course we did. A fun, bouncy, barky, terrier puppy. He was Will’s dog, yet as the household manager, I was the one coordinating the dog walker and grooming appointments and taking him for a walk at night.

I didn’t really want a dog. They are great companions but you can’t leave them alone with food and water for three days like you can with cats.

So although I loved my dog, when Will and I split up I didn’t want to have joint custody of the dog, too. Never mind that I’m in a 2-story townhouse condo with no backyard, I just didn’t want the added burden of taking care of the dog as well. I liked the idea of freedoms of all kinds.

I don’t miss him. Say what you want, but I don’t. I like seeing him the occasional times I’m in my old house, but it’s like spending time with a child of a friend: you can give them back and you kind of like it. I dog sat on a couple of occasions, but eventually Will stopped asking me…he turned to his girlfriend Colleen instead.

On a rare occasion I long for a Cat companion, but right now, I’m trying to keep my life as simple as possible. The only living thing I bought for my balcony was a pot of basil. Before, I would have bought pots and plants and then spent a lot of time dealing with them. Now I know what kind of time I have, and where I want to spend those precious minutes (hint: it’s not pruning).

So…fast forward to him leaving for his job in a different country. I didn’t ask what he was going to do with the dog.

Turns out, he just assumed I would take him. I explained that I wasn’t going to to that. I have no backyard. I’m about to be a single parent with a job that requires travel. I am not going to outsource all of the care of an animal to a dog walker and a nanny (as Will did, it should be noted).

I politely inquired why his family or his year-long girlfriend couldn’t step in. Oh, that’s right, his family are all a bunch of selfish assholes too. Ahem – sorry about that – lost my shit for a moment. I also suggested since he was moving to a different country all by himself that perhaps he should take the dog with him. He tells me he is travelling in his role so that will be a challenge.


I did not solve his problem for him, even when he got all dramatic and implied that my not taking him would mean he’d have to give (our son’s) dog away or put him down.

The nice thing about being divorced now is that I don’t have to live with the histrionics. I know his manipulations and choose to not engage.

So that’s what I did. I didn’t make it my problem – didn’t take it on to solve or bail him out as I would always have done in the past. This is his fucking decision and he has to deal with the fucking consequences. I’m the one dealing every day with our son who is sad and angry. I am hardly “not being a partner in this”, as he accused me one day where I dared tell him his relationship with his son will never be the same.

So. Colleen takes the dog. The dog walker goes to her house every day to take him out. It’s not an easy transition for any of them. Although it should be noted that my son has never mentioned missing his dog or asked if he can stay with us.

One day I guess the dog acted out in some way, and Colleen got frustrated and told Will, who then emailed me and asked if I would take the dog.

I said I would think about it – but I really have no intention of doing so. Sure, if he’s about to give him to the pound – that would be different. But he’s hardly at that point.

0 thoughts on “What obligation do I have to my ex-dog (or ex-husband)?

  1. There are dog rescue organizations in just about every city, town, village, hamlet and unincorporated rural municipality that exist to help. The dog isn’t going without a home because of behavior, or illness, but a significant change that makes keeping the dog in his/her Forever Home, very difficult, bordering on impossible. Reach out to those orgs and they can help your ex find a new Forever Home for the pooch. (says the owner of four rescue cats and a rescued dog…)

  2. I seriously dislike hearing this.
    Ooh I can totally understand your argument and won’t even mention it.
    But to have a dog, and only have OTHER people take care of it? I am sorry. (can you tell I am a dog person). Like having a dog only for fun moments.
    Wow having a dog, wanting a dog and taking a dog takes responsibility. We argue to have a pet for our children to gain that responsibility and then we grown up hire in professionals because we hate going out in the rain. What an ass.

    So yeah I get your point of view, he needs to grow up and get some responsibility. From your last sentence I can see you do care about the doggy πŸ˜€

    Sorry if I came on a bit strong. If I could I would rescue every dog who is toyed with as if they are a rubber ball.

    • No, not too strong at all. But yeah, this is a pattern of behavior with him – not taking responsibility. So in some ways, I feel he should have to deal with ALL the impacts of what was fully his choice to move away – damaged relationship with son, broken promises about coming home (yup, already started!), managing the dog and girlfriend, etc…

      There’s also a back story that I didn’t mention…he never appreciated what my parents do for my son (taking him once a week, etc) and only now does he see the benefit of having engaged family members who my son really loves. Versus his parents who are relatively non-existent.

      I’ll keep you posted on the dog drama πŸ™‚

      • The kind of selfish behavior thinking he is the man.

        I see first hand what kids are like when a grandparent is non-existent. They don’t miss them. It is him and his parents missing out.
        That sums it up? But I am not to judge when not knowing the whole story.

        I hope he will be granted a good home at the end of the story. πŸ˜€

  3. I am completely with you on this one. I too recently downsized to only one pot of basil on my balcony (for real) πŸ™‚ I have been a single mother for over 7 years, and during that time I took care of the children, family pet and house that was much too large for us. I have now downsized to a smaller apartment and the children…no pets. You are right to know your limits. Hold you ground Ann! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for the support…my natural inclination is to rescue. I always sorted the shit out in our relationship – he would say he would do something and then not want to do it and I would have to be the one to call and cancel, for example.

      It’s my problem if it affects my son. And of course I’m still a caring human being. But it really has to be a last resort for me to take on any of this responsibility.

  4. My only quibble (or is that kibble) is that I contend there are times when you may spend a few of those precious minutes, here and there pruning πŸ˜‰ ala marian greene’s version of pruning that is πŸ˜€ ok, sorry I couldn’t resist…

    I am a dog person. I would love to be a cat person too because I find them interesting. Sadly I am deathly allergic to them, so much so that I must carry an epi-pen. I agree it’s not your problem though perhaps you might consider putting your wicked smarts to use and help him find a solution that doesn’t involve you taking said dog? That’s all, I hate the reality of disposable and neglected pets in general. They’re family.

    • I am absolutely spending some quality time with myself, when I feel the need.

      It’s great advice and that’s what I tried to do when he got all agitated…suggested a few routes / options that might work for him. But didn’t offer to suss them out further, or to just take on the responsibility.

      I *did* say I would dog sit for a couple weeks if it became untenable for the dog to stay at Colleen’s and if he was going to have him “shipped” to his new place. So far, I haven’t been asked again.

  5. Ugh.. I don’t envy you. I am brought right back to those days, that ended when the child finally grew up. Now any interaction with my ex hubby is usually pretty positive. Well I’m glad you kept the dog because they aren’t so bad ;). Actually mine is a lot better than a lot of people I know. Hey, breathe and know there is hope at the end of it all.

    • I’m not sure what’s in his head now…but I know for a while he really wanted to believe that I was the only one that thought his moving “was a big deal” – he said that to me a couple weeks before he went.

      The reality was that everyone knew there was nothing they could do or say to make him change his mind…so we became resigned to it.

  6. Ah, ex-husbands who would like to keep controlling our lives like they did when we were married, who don’t mind so much the benefits of being single again, but just cannot accept the consequences of their choices.
    When I moved out, I wasn’t given a choice, I shoulld take the cat. But while we were married, he didn’t want the cat sterilised but then refused to take care of birth control (it’s so easy to kill kittens just after birth and it’s free). And when birth controll failed and kittens started to rot inside the womb of our cat, endangering her life, he got angry about the costs. Of course it was my fault if this thing happened to the cat, for not being on top of birth control.When I had wanted to get her neutered years before!
    Now, he does it with his kids. No, not neutering, at least not physically πŸ˜‰
    But he asked for shared custody because he couldn’t live without seeing his kids that often. Yet he doesn’t take on the responsibilities that go with it (making sure homework is done, staying home over the weekend when they have birthday parties or activities…).
    I say good for you that you didn’t let him bully you into taking on the dog. It was his choice to get him in the first place, let him handle the care now.

      • Yes, I know what you’re saying.
        It was hard last week to hear my youngest say ‘you should help me with homework because you’re my mother” and me only being able to retort “No, that homework was Dad’s responsibility, and if I’m your mother, he’s your father :-/”
        (and just so that I don’t sound like an awful mother, this is about homework that should have been done over the weekend and we only had a lunch break to finish, which was way too short).

What do you think?