Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Your Pet or Your Partner

I remember vividly that morning at the shelter I volunteered for - a young woman and her new fiance brought in the woman's 5 year old shih tzu. The woman cried and shook as she filled out the paperwork to relinquish her pet. Her fiance sat stoic across the courtyard. The dog did his best to comfort his distressed owner.

We were forbidden to speak with owners relinquishing their pets. In fact, I could have lost my volunteer position for doing so. But I had seen too many of these to keep silent. I brought the poor woman a box of kleenex. As she blew her nose, I told her how cute her little dog was. She said, "He's such a good boy." She dissolved into tears again telling me his favorite toy (a little pink octopus), his favorite spot to sleep (on her pillow), his favorite walk (Balboa Park), his favorite food (roasted chicken). She bought him when her grandmother had passed away to help her ease the grief. He had been there for her at one of her darkest moments.

I asked softly, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"I don't have a choice," she sobbed.

"There's always a choice," I told her. "He is going to be here for you long after that one is gone."

Two things I have learned over the years: 1) It's never about the pet. There's always an underlying issue when someone says to you "it's me or the dog". 2) If someone really loves you, they're not going to ask you to give up a pet that is such an important part of your life.

She didn't change her mind. She relinquished her little shih tzu. He was absolutely adorable and it was obvious she had loved him - well socialized, well trained. I don't think we had him for a full week. He went that quickly to his new home.

She came back less than a month later. Her fiance had left her. She wanted her dog back. He was already in a new home. There was no going back.

When I was in my early 30s, I met and fell in love with a man. I had a cat. He was allergic. I understand cat allergies because I have them as well. I still own three cats. It means air filters in every room, hardwood floors and extra cleaning but it is manageable. So him not being willing to work through his allergy meant we had to stop seeing each other.

Boy did I hear about it from EVERYONE. "You're a fool!" "You're choosing your cat over (insert name here)? You're CRAZY!" "You're going to spend your life alone!" (Really, Mom, I'm only 31. It's not time to push the panic button yet.)

I held firm. It broke my heart. I was in love. But I had made a lifetime commitment to my cat. There would be someone out there who would love him like I did. It took four more years for me to find him - and Junior had passed by then.

I hit the jackpot. I can have my cats and my husband too! I would never give up my pets for a person. That is no way to reward their loyalty to me. I promise to always be just as loyal to them.

Mercola has a great article on this same topic here.

What about you - would you give up your pet for a partner?
(The dog in the picture above is Henry, a 2 year old Shih Tzu looking for a home through New Life K-9 Rescue in Sherman Oaks, CA. For more info on him, click here. It's his Petfinder page.)


  1. Awe, that's just so pathetic to me! I would never give up an animal I loved for a person, and I'm with you, if someone loves you and understands how much they mean to you, they will never ask. Harumph.
    A friend of mines now husband was allergic to cats when they met. She told him to get over it or take a hike. They have been married for 5 years now! (and he found a cure for his allergies!)

  2. I loved this post so much that it made me cry. You tried to help someone realize what they were doing. My dog will always be a member of the family. Unless he bites off my husband's head (which, look at him, so not possible), there is no way we will EVER give him up to anyone.