It's me or the dog! Or both of us and a lifetime of sulking
May 1, 2012 5:43 AM   Subscribe

My friend has a dog. Her boyfriend hates the dog. She would like to keep both of them, and has asked me for advice. What to tell her?

My friend has always been a pet-lover, and grew up with dogs. She got this dog around six years ago, when we shared a house and our neighbours literally dumped their neglected puppy on our doorstep. The agreement we made at the time was that the dog would be hers, since I couldn't afford feed and vet care, and so the dog went with her when she moved away a few years later. I'm still very fond of that dog, though, and it's difficult not to let that cloud my view of her current dog-vs-boyfriend situation.

She met the boyfriend three years ago, and he's very, very much not a dog person. He did not grow up with pets (he did grow up in a pet-owning culture, just not a pet-owning household) and does not see the point of them. While he isn't allergic to dogs or afraid of them, he finds them messy and disgusting and truly hates sharing his space with a dog. He loathes the dog hairs that get everywhere, the care and attention the dog needs from its owner, the general dog-ness of it. He refers to the dog as 'that thing', and his interactions with her are mostly restricted to avoiding/ignoring her or yelling at her when she gets in his way.

Friend and Boyfriend have been living together for the past 18 months or so. At first he was living with her and the dog in her tiny flat; since then they've relocated for her job and they've rented a place together. I get the impression he was dearly hoping they wouldn't be able to find a landlord to rent to them with dog in tow, and she was dearly hoping that he would find it easier to live with the dog in a bigger place, but neither of these things happened. They have been having the same "I don't know if I can live with a dog" discussion over and over again for nearly two years now, and it seems to follow the same pattern - dog does something annoying, Boyfriend declares that he doesn't know if he can live with a dog, Friend refuses to give the dog away, Boyfriend considers things and says that he'll stay, wait three months, rinse and repeat.

The dog is well-behaved and non-aggressive, and Boyfriend is not responsible for any part of her care, but the very dogness of the dog is what he can't stand. The things that annoy Boyfriend and spark these arguments are things that would seem relatively minor to a dog-owner - hairs on the carpet, a squeaky toy dropped on the floor. But they clearly annoy Boyfriend very, very much. Most recently, the dog sniffed his sandwich and he lost his temper and called off their house-buying plans, declaring that he couldn't even think about that kind of thing with the dog in the picture.

Friend is, obviously, upset about all of this and frustrated that the same argument seems to come up again every time she starts feeling more secure in the future of the relationship. Their relationship is otherwise great, and she doesn't want to lose it. She very much doesn't want to give up her dog, and has no friends nearby who could take her even if she did (the only options being her sister 5 hours away or me 8 hours away, and neither of us could take a dog at the moment anyway). She also very much doesn't want to give up the boyfriend. I think if it came down to one or the other, she'd pick the boyfriend over the dog, but I know it would break her heart to do that.

My views are not hugely sympathetic towards Boyfriend in all of this. I think after 18 months of living with a dog, it is unreasonable to keep making "I don't know if I can live with a dog..." comments, and it is long past time for him to make a decision and stick to it. I think that while he doesn't have to love the dog, he should at least appreciate that she does. I am beginning to wonder whether declarations like "I know how much you want kids, but I wouldn't feel safe having kids in the same house as a dog" have less to do with him wanting to work out a way forward and more to do with him just wanting to find a way to make her give away the dog. I wonder if he's using the dog issue as a way to keep one foot out of the door, if the dog argument indeed always seems to follow on the footsteps of discussions about other commitments. I think he needs to grow up.

But, I love my friend, and hate seeing her upset. I think she has a history of letting boyfriends get away with unreasonable expectations because she hates rocking the boat. I also love that dog, and hate the idea of such a loving friendly dog living with someone who yells at her and asks repeated questions about how long dogs live and how many more years he'll have to deal with her. And I've always loved pets, and don't understand the viewpoint of someone who hates them as much as my friend's boyfriend does. So I am not the most objective source of advice here, especially since she's terrified he'll leave and doesn't want to be too confrontational.

I've said that I think it's unfair to both of them to keep having the same argument, and that they need to find a different way of approaching an issue that's becoming such a big thing in their relationship, via brainstorming or couples counselling or whatever. But I don't think this was much help to her. Is there anything else I can/should suggest that would be helpful to someone in her situation, other than offering to take the dog for a while myself? (I would absolutely do that, but my landlord has a strict no-pets rule!)
posted by Catseye to Human Relations (90 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hates the dog? Hates it? Asks how long it lives? Refers to it as 'the thing'?

God, your friend has some bad taste in men. It's fine if he's not into dogs, but then he has to get a girlfriend who doesn't actively love a dog. And if she loves her dog, she can't date a jackass who yells at her dog and hopes it dies.

But there's not much you can do about your friend dating any kind of jerk, this type or some other type.

I'd encourage her to think as clearly as possible about what she wants her life to look like. If he doesn't give a crap about her feelings in this matter, there's a future full of that sort of thing. It's not that he doesn't like the dog. He doesn't care how she feels.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [98 favorites]

I'm an animal person, and I couldn't imagine changing my life so that I couldn't have animals in order to accommodate someone I was with. Unless it was for medical reasons, I just couldn't live without pets.

However, she's going to have to weigh the pros and cons of her own situation. I'm sure it's heartbreaking for you to see, but she has to decide if her love (and commitment to...will they be together a long time after the dog is gone, if she gives it away?) for this guy is stronger than her love for the dog/need for a pet.
posted by xingcat at 5:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'd say there are some serious compatibility issues in this relationship.

And the guy sounds like a jerk.
posted by Grither at 5:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

If he can't stand the mess a dog makes, imagine what he will be like if they have kids...

P.S. I agree, he's a total a$$hole!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:58 AM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: and ask her to ask herself, what would happen if she gave up the dog, and then he left her for another reason?

the thing is about changing our lifestyles for others is that sometimes those changes are irrevocable...and it'd be one thing if he just hated living with dogs and complained that he wanted to get rid of it, but in this case he repeatedly talks about leaving her over it...that doesn't sound like a relationship in which she can assume that when the dog goes, he'll stay
posted by saraindc at 5:59 AM on May 1, 2012 [16 favorites]

There do seem to be some compatibility issues, however I am not going to stereotype a non-dog-person as a "jerk" just because they don't like dogs.

If he can't stand the mess a dog makes, imagine what he will be like if they have kids...

Kids eventually learn to clean up their own shit.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2012 [14 favorites]

If he doesn't give a crap about her feelings in this matter, there's a future full of that sort of thing. It's not that he doesn't like the dog. He doesn't care how she feels.

This is so true. A kind, caring, non-manipulative person would either suck it up and learn to deal with the dog, or break up with her if he really, REALLY couldn't handle it. What else will he ask her to change, down the line? You know, once he's gotten rid of her beloved dog and set the precedent that she'll do anything to please him?

Buying a house and having kids with someone this petty and inflexible is a recipe for misery. The dog issue is just the canary in the coalmine.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2012 [25 favorites]

If I were her, I'd tell him that the dog has been in her life longer than he has, and that the dog stays and he's free to go. He sounds like a gold-plated asshole.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:01 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I think she has a history of letting boyfriends get away with unreasonable expectations because she hates rocking the boat.

Also, it might be a good idea for her to talk to someone, like a therapist, about this. Because that's not great. Sometimes boats need rocking.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:01 AM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

...however I am not going to stereotype a non-dog-person as a "jerk" just because they don't like dogs.

I agree totally; some people just don't like animals/pets. But it has been my experience that most people with that attitude have control issues. Just my observation.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I totally sympathise with people who aren't pet people, but the guy went into this relationship with eyes wide open and he's been in it for 18 months. If he couldn't live with it he shouldn't have dated her for so long and then moved in with her. What exactly does "can't live with a dog" mean to him when evidence clearly points to the contrary? Suck it up or pack it up.

And I agree with others, his behaviour and attitude is indicative of much more than just a dislike of the dog. I think your friend would want to be in a relationship where the other person is kind, understanding, and patient (within means) and it doesn't sound like he is.
posted by like_neon at 6:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Rocking the boat is a great way to filter out the assholes.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:04 AM on May 1, 2012 [18 favorites]

The only thing I can think of that might possibly help is couples therapy for the two of them, and individual therapy for the boyfriend to help with his out-of-control aversion to the dog.

From your description, though, this sounds like the situation is uncomfortably close to being emotionally abusive to your friend, using the dog as the pressure point. FWIW, if I were in that situation, I'd be walking out. With my dog.
posted by vers at 6:04 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think love of dogs is a core, spiritual value that simply is not susceptible to compromise. I don't care how much else is compatible, if an SO "hates" dogs it's a deal breaker.

On top of that, I wonder about your friend's integrity because I wouldn't subject MY dogs to someone in their living space who hates them.

She needs to dump this guy pronto.
posted by jayder at 6:04 AM on May 1, 2012 [13 favorites]

Also this

My friend has always been a pet-lover, and grew up with dogs.

and then this

He did not grow up with pets (he did grow up in a pet-owning culture, just not a pet-owning household) and does not see the point of them.

pretty much means she's going to have to either decide he's worth a lifetime of no pets or decide she's happier as a person who can have a pet and needs to find someone more compatible. Clearly being with him and a pet is a no-win situation so that's not an option.
posted by like_neon at 6:07 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

How can someone hate an animal so actively and for so long? Does the dog do something horrible that makes the boyfriend crazy? Is there a way to have to dog live in one part of the home and not roam about? I can't tell your friend who has an attachment to the boyfriend that this is a bad sign since I can't see the interaction between the three of them, but love me, love my dog. Well, at least tolerate my dog.

So, today, the dog, tomorrow what?

Luckily it is a dog and not a child, right?
posted by Yellow at 6:09 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

This guy sounds like a tool. Not for disliking living with dogs; I don't like living with dogs, and will pretty much always choose a dog-free situation over a dog-full one, all other things being equal. But when I have been in situations where I did live with dog(s), I sucked it up and acted like an adult and accepted that the dogs came part and parcel with the good stuff about the living situation.

If he *can't* actually "love her, love her dog," (which, seriously, it doesn't have to be that hard) then they probably shouldn't be together. Either he doesn't love her enough or he hates dogs too much.
posted by mskyle at 6:13 AM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

i would choose a person over a pet.
posted by modernnomad at 6:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

I love dogs- so long as they are well trained and outside. Can the dog live outside? Not everyone can stand living with an animal. I know I cannot and have ended relationships with men who have cats in their home.

If having the dog outside is not a possibility, then can you or someone else foster the dog until she is over the boyfriend?

They both sound pretty immature so I'm thinking the relationship isn't going go the happy ever after route.
posted by myselfasme at 6:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that we can agree that this guy is a controlling jerk who is using this poor dog as the lightening rod for his anger and frustration.

Your friend needs to grow a spine. If her boyfriend loved her unconditionally, then the dog would be a minor annoyance, not a huge issue. Like my husband's love of basketball. It's annoying, but I'll get over it.

I'd like to point out that this is your friend's problem, not yours. I would have a conversation with her, offer support and then drop it.

I'm hoping she chooses the dog, but that's me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:20 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A swirling vortex of dysfunction that is not your problem. It's sad that your friend is tolerating such a toxic environment - then again, her boyfriend is also settling for less because he genuinely doesn't like dogs. Can't be much fun for the dog, either, since they pick up on emotions and tone. Obviously this is painful for you as well.

You can try saying how you think and feel to her, more for your own sake than hers, because I bet she won't listen. Don't take on your friend's problems by taking the dog; you don't need to get in trouble with your landlord on her account.

If you want, you can help her find a no-kill shelter or foster family for the dog if she is willing to go that route: frankly, I think it would be the most humane thing to do for the dog. If not, well, then, you've done all you can and maybe you need to distance yourself from the situation a bit.

Good luck to all, including the dog.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:21 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The boyfriend is not the only problem here. Both people are playing this game. (The dog is the hapless victim, but not the woman.) She has the dog. She is not giving it up. Yet she tolerates him throwing tantrums about the dog. She can 1) give up the dog; 2) leave him; or 3) say "look man, I am not giving up the dog, so shut up or I am leaving you." Instead she is talking about buying a house with this person?

He is a jerk, yes, but she is a doormat and she is just as much to blame. He seems to have her right where he wants her--maybe he likes pushing people around in this way--so this will likely drag on until she grows a spine.

So, to offer you the requested advice: tell your friend to grow a spine.
posted by massysett at 6:24 AM on May 1, 2012 [28 favorites]

She needs to choose which is more important to her, the dog or the boyfriend. I think the boyfriend is getting a bad rap here, he's been trying to get used to live with a dog for 18 months to no avail. Thats a pretty good effort. And he obviously cares for her enough to put up with it. But sounds like they are both weak-willed people and this'll be a problem until she decides which she wants more, the boyfriend or the dog. I don't think she can have either if she doesn't like her current situation (of cyclical fighting every 3 months.)

Me personally, soon as a girl says she has a dog or a cat, I'm out. It saves both of us alot of grief.
posted by el_yucateco at 6:25 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't think he loves her. When you love someone, you want them to have whatever it is that's so very important to them and makes them happy, even if you can't understand it. If it's something you actively dislike (say, in my situation, the endless blaring of baseball games on the radio and lots of enthusiastic, mind-numbing recountings of what happened in the game), you encourage your partner's enjoyment of the thing, develop an attitude of benign tolerance and try to find points of interest for yourself. All good relationships have this quality.
posted by HotToddy at 6:26 AM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

This is absolutely a compatibility issue, but it's not the ONLY issue.

His asking when the dog is going to die- that shit is just cruel. His picking at her about her dog every few months and using it as a weapon is unacceptable. If he were talking to her seriously about a future, he could say "I understand you have this dog and love it very much- but if we are going to stay together for the long haul, this is going to have to be the only dog we ever have together." That is a much more reasonable conversation and compromise than giving the odd ultimatum every few months.

Of course this is all sort of pointless. Her decision is her own- but I wouldn't want to live with someone who uses something that I dearly love as a weapon to bash me with every once in a while.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:29 AM on May 1, 2012 [21 favorites]

I imagine what's going on is that he'll try to tolerate the dog and little doggy things (like begging for food or always trying to get at it) will add up until he snaps at something that seems petty but is really representative of a whole buildup of issues. It would be great if he loved dogs, but he doesn't, and that's not going to change.

The reality of the situation is that she's not going to be firm and make a decision anytime soon, no matter what you or I or the good people of metafilter think. If you want confirmation that he's an asshole, you can find it here. I don't think it's that cut and dried, but it doesn't matter much what I think considering that it's her life, her dog, and her decision.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:33 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it weren't this dog, it would surely be some other one; big deal for your friend, big dealbreaker for her boyfriend. If he can't get over it, she ought to get over him. This constellation shouldn't even work out in the long run, is what I feel.

(as to how much of a jerk he may be, it could be, couldn't it, that he just doesn't like the smell, the well-behaved-doggy demeanor, doesn't like having to play the alpha, likes his sandwhich unsniffed, other things...I love animals and like dogs just fine, but I would have issues having one around the house too. That alone is not a sign of an immature character, I like to think)
posted by Namlit at 6:33 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I grew up in both a non-pet-owning house and (sort of) a non-pet-owning culture. When my girlfriend moved in, she expressed how much she missed living with dogs. I was on the fence, but then we dogsat for a friend and I realized that I could totally live with a dog. If I had a severe negative reaction to sharing my space, there would be no dog.

Not liking dogs is totally cool. It's not a character flaw. Some people don't like dogs. Some people don't like cats. Some people don't like babies. Some people don't like other people. All these things are fine. However, if a person really, really dislikes something, it's their responsibility to not put themselves in a situation where they have to encounter what it is they don't like every day. That extent of misplaced priorities is a character flaw. This is a dude who puts himself in a situation that he clearly knows he doesn't like and expects it to change for the better to suit him, whether or not it makes things easier for everyone. He can not like dogs as the day is long and be a stand-up guy. Once he willingly puts himself into a difficult situation and forces someone else to choose between an animal they are solely and wholly responsible for, and a guy who makes lousy decisions that make others miserable, well...
posted by griphus at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2012 [49 favorites]

I'm not really a dog/animal/pet person, and I think responses on this site in general veer too much in that direction... but I'm firmly on your side on this one. It's not just a question of him hating dogs. The reasons he hates the dog all seem tied to some weird control issues. Worse, he is using the dog as a weapon to exert control in the relationship. What, after all this time, he can't decide whether he's in or out (i.e., whether the dog is a deal breaker)? He can only promise to constantly reevaluate the status of their relationship? Bullshit. He's using the dog to keep one foot out the door and to assert dominance in the relationship. He's a creep.

Now, what can you do? I don't think you gain anything by telling her that this guy is a creep. But you could gain something by reminding her that if she gets rid of the dog and then the guy leaves, she won't be able to get the dog back. Unless you can help her find a family friend or something to adopt it who would be willing to return it.

The other thing you could try is suggesting that she try individual therapy (or something along those lines). Acting in a relationship based on constant fear that the other party will leave is not healthy -- it's not good for her and it's not good for their relationship.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't put the dog outside. The dog should not be punished because she's dating an ass.

She needs to lay down the law. The dog is staying - end of story. If he can't live with a dog then he needs to leave. If he chooses to stay then that's the end of the matter. There will be no more 'I don't know if I can live with a dog' discussions/arguments, they will not be tolerated and she will not engage in them. She needs to make it clear that in all likelihood the dog will live for another 10-15 years (she also needs to think about that, does she really want to put up with 10+ years of his complaining. At 4 fights a year that's another 40+ times they're going to have this fight)

Chances are he will stay true to form and think about it then choose to stay then get annoyed about some trivial thing and try to start a fight. When he does she needs to leave the room - don't say anything, just leave the room. If he keeps following she needs to leave the house (and take the dog). Do not speak to him, do not engage, just walk away.

But really she should just leave him and choose the dog. If she stays with him she will never, ever be able to have a dog again after this one dies (hopefully of old age in 10-14 years from now not an 'accident')

Tell your friend that it is very unlikely that she will get what she wants (to keep both of them and for the arguments to stop) so ask her what would feel worse - she leaves him and the dog dies or she gets rid of the dog and he leaves her anyway (for some other reason)
posted by missmagenta at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Most recently, the dog sniffed his sandwich and he lost his temper and called off their house-buying plans, declaring that he couldn't even think about that kind of thing with the dog in the picture.

It sounds like something deeper is going on with him than disliking the dog, but he is using the dog as an excuse as to why he is unhappy with the relationship. If the dog leaves he'll just find something else to blame.
posted by littlesq at 6:46 AM on May 1, 2012 [16 favorites]

She needs to decide if this is a deal breaker. It certainly would be for me. Either this guy's dog-aversion is so strong it makes him cruel and inconsiderate of her feelings and unreasonable, or he's just cruel and inconsiderate of her feelings and unreasonable. I suspect the latter, and I suspect this isn't primarily about the dog at all.

And no, she shouldn't put the dog outside, this is not appropriate for the vast majority of dogs (despite what many people believe), and it is doubly inappropriate and cruel to do this to a dog who has been raised living indoors with people.
posted by biscotti at 6:48 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Please find a way to make your comments without insulting other people in the thread, thanks,
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:48 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had a girlfriend who was into astrology in a big way. I can't stand it. Since I cared about her though, I looked into it more than I had previously, and asked her questions about it, and tried at least to love her love for it, even if I couldn't love it.

If he can't even tolerate something that she is passionate about, then it shows you how much he is willing to work to make her happy.
posted by twirlypen at 6:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: My husband likes dogs, but he is not a cat person. In fact, not only does he not particularly like cats -- he's also allergic to cats.

When we met I had a cat -- a 12 year old cat who had been in my life longer than most people. She had once been a very sweet cat, but by the time my husband (then just my boyfriend) met her, because of arthritis and a host of other age-related health problems she was grumpy and suspicious and not very friendly. She was also the jealous type. So her reaction to he and I moving in together was to pee on all of his stuff.

So this poor man who does not like and is allergic to cats was sneezing all the time and getting his clothes and furniture peed on by a grumpy, jealous cat who, when she wasn't conspicuously ignoring him, regarded him with regal disdain.

He made it pretty clear that he didn't like living with my cat. Hell, after a few months of her peeing on things and him sneezing all the time I was starting to feel like I didn't like living with my cat.

But he never once told me it was the cat or him. Not once. In fact, when she got sick while I was at work he took her to the vet. When I was out of town he fed her. When she was in the mood to deign to be near him he even petted her now and again. Because he knew she was probably really too old and sick to be adopted out. Because even though he didn't like her and she didn't like him she was a living thing who deserved compassion in her old age. Because even though he didn't love her, I loved her, and he loved me.

As a person with a cat allergy, really, he had an actual right to insist that I give that cat away, but he didn't. To me his willingness to put up with the cat on my behalf was basically a giant flashing neon sign that read MARRY THIS ONE.

We do not have cats now. Which makes me sad, because I love cats. But I owe him.
posted by BlueJae at 6:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [80 favorites]

She grew up with pets and wants kids? Is it safe to assume she would like her kids to grow up with pets? Well, seems difficult with this partner. (Assuming his pet hate is not restricted to dogs).
posted by travelwithcats at 6:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Being very much Not A Dog Person myself, I want to have some sympathy for this guy, but -- no. He's being an ass about it.

Very much an either/or situation. It's a fundamental character issue for being a Dog Person or Not A Dog Person, and they both have to choose which they want. (If the dog is really what the fight is about.)

She should DTMFA.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:50 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

OMG, I would not let a person who called my dog "that thing" and actively made comments about wanting it to die ALONE with my dog much less live with my dog. Not because I think he would try and kill the dog, but you know he's neglectful and/or mean to it when she's not there. Of course he is.

For better or worse she accepted the role of owning this job and it is her job to take care of it because it can't really take care of itself. That means making sure the dog is physically and emotionally safe by removing it from this situation (foster, new adoption, get rid of boyfriend). I obviously concur with the general thought in this thread (i.e. ditching the boyfriend), but if she is unwilling to do that she needs to suck it up and make sure she's looking out for the welfare of her dog.
posted by Kimberly at 6:55 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am NOT a dog person - and I say the boyfriend needs to go.
Anyone making such a demand - I will walk or else...

Granted, it does sound like he has tried to deal with it,
but in the end, it is still an "or else" demand
posted by Flood at 6:56 AM on May 1, 2012

*owning this dog
posted by Kimberly at 6:57 AM on May 1, 2012

The boyfriend has my sympathies.

I dislike dogs. I dislike the way they smell, and I dislike the way they jump on me, and I dislike their constant need for attention. And I really, really dislike the whole poop issue. So I get where the boyfriend is coming from, and I would find this a tough situation to be in, too.

But I would never ask somebody I was dating to get rid of a pet.

The dog was in your friend's life before the boyfriend came into it. The dog will also be there after he leaves, which is surely going to happen eventually, because as other people have pointed out, he's acting like he constantly has one foot out the door. I think your friend needs to give him an ultimatum of sorts: are you in or out? If he's in, let him be all in. If he's out, wish him godspeed.

(And I do wonder, if she got rid of the dog, would another issue take its place? Would there be something else the boyfriend would blow up into this huge deal so your friend had to 'prove' her love by making a sacrifice for him? Because he's is coming across as in need of a lot of validation.)

Whether the dog stays or goes, the fact that the boyfriend calls it "that thing" and asks when it's going to die should be a real red flag. What a carelessly cruel man he is to the woman he says he loves.
posted by Georgina at 7:00 AM on May 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

Tell her she is already actively choosing the dog over her boyfriend... this is a decision she is already making every day, she seems to be just waiting for that decision to sink in, and it's not fair for her to pretend that he has any input in the situation if he really doesn't.

I feel bad for both the dog AND the boyfriend. Not so much for her, who is so far the only one getting everything she wants.
posted by hermitosis at 7:05 AM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

Being very much Not A Dog Person myself, I want to have some sympathy for this guy, but -- no. He's being an ass about it.

Yes, this. I wonder why he moved in with her in the first place, and continued to live with her. The rational thing, it seems to me, if the person you love has some condition about their living arrangements that you can't tolerate (dog/smoking/apartment the size of a bread box), is to have an adult conversation where you agree that you will be together but live in separate places until the situation changes. (Say, until they can find a place with some rooms off-limits to the dog/where there's a balcony to smoke on/where there's enough room for both people.) The fact that he got himself into this situation he knew he'd hate, and has stayed in it, and only deals with it by lashing out and being mean to an innocent animal - and the fact that she let it happen, speaks to some larger communication/planning/compatibility issues.

I wonder, if the dog was hit by a bus (sorry!) would she want to get another one? Would he be all "Whoo-hoo!! Finally!" and make her feel even worse? Have you asked her if she's considered this? I feel like imagining what would happen in the event of what is probably his perfect solution might give her the answer.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:09 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

She should choose the dog. Assuming this is a normal dog, she loves her and holds her in high regard and is unlikely to hurt her or leave. I can't say the same for the boyfriend.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: WRT this:

other than offering to take the dog for a while myself

Aside from the fact that you can't do that, anything involving "temporarily" rehousing the dog would do nothing besides creating what the boyfriend will view as a transitional state to never living with a dog again. Absolutely should not be on the table in any form.

If there's anything your friend needs to hear it is that her boyfriend is clearly never going to be anything other than miserable living with a dog and that while he might not be willing to go to the absolute ultimatum of saying choose me or the dog, by taking buying a house off the table and putting children into question he is clearly signalling that he is going to fight dog ownership every inch to within a hairsbreadth of that ultimatum.

Your friend needs to accept that she is NEVER going to be able to cohabitate peacefully and happily with this man and any dog. There is no way this guy is ever going to "get over" his issues with the dog. Your friend has three options: she can end the relationship, she can stay with the boyfriend and find the dog a new home where all the home members actually want it, or she can accept the status quo of her relationship where the issue of the dog will routinely cause arguments and obstruct the development of the relationship (and, unless she is willing to look at this dog as the last dog she ever owns, this will be an issue for the duration of the relationship).

I don't know that there's likely to be much benefit in your giving any input (this very much strikes me as one of those relationship stand-offs that is only going to be resolved in its own internal, very messy and unfortunate own time) but if you want to help her to deal with the actual reality she's in, that's what it is.
posted by nanojath at 7:18 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Presumably this guy has other good qualities when not viewed entirely through the dog-lens. Yes, he's being a dick about the dog, but people do get a bit of a pass for being dicks occasionally when something really frustrating is happening. And don't underestimate how frustrating it can be to have an animal having the run of your living space if that's something you're not into.

I think that if you want to be productive and helpful in this, you need to not focus on whether or not he's being unreasonable and instead focus on ways there can be a compromise. If I were your friend, I'd put forward the following proposal:

1. They find a place that's big enough that there can clearly be dog and non-dog areas of the house, for example a two-story house where the dog is not allowed upstairs. A well-trained dog should learn this rule very quickly.

2. They slowly transition the dog to spending more time outside. Outside time does not have to be a punishment and, if they get a place with a decent sized yard, a dog can be very happy spending a large part of its time outside.

3. They agree that this will be the last dog they have to own together but, in exchange, he makes a solid and sustained effort to be friends (or at least non-enemies) with the dog for the rest of its happy natural life.

It's really not reasonable to get all DTMFA over somebody hating living with a dog. I love dogs, but I hate sharing a house with them. If she approaches him with a mind to compromise on the matter, however, and that goes terribly then maybe DTMFA is warranted after all. Unwillingness to find a middle-ground is a serious danger sign in a way that disliking pets is not.
posted by 256 at 7:19 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

He may really hate dogs, but this time, he's using the dog as a tool to sabotage a relationship he doesn't really want to be in.

She needs to get out, although she probably won't until it's gotten much worse (in other words, nanojath's last paragraph).
posted by Coatlicue at 7:20 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

he's using the dog as a tool to sabotage a relationship he doesn't really want to be in.

That's funny, to me it sounds like she's doing the exact same thing.
posted by hermitosis at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

For all things sane, advise your friend not to become the girl that chose the dog over a human being.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2012

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for the responses. I'm glad to hear that I'm not alone in thinking that the boyfriend is totally out of line with this, whether or not he likes dogs.

I do think she should be laying down the law on this, and I certainly would be doing that in her position, but I don't think telling her "Dear God, woman, why are you putting up with this?" is going to be any use to her at all. As previously mentioned, she strongly dislikes rocking the boat in relationships and is very afraid of the boyfriend leaving. So while I know what I'd do in her position, telling her "Holy hell, DTMFA" is not going to help her much next time she contacts me upset about this.

Suggesting things for her to think seriously about, though - what this issue says about his approach to conflict and compromise, what it says about their future together, whether she honestly believes he'll ever be able to live with a dog, how she'd feel if she gave the dog away and then he left anyway, etc - might work, though. And it'll certainly make me feel better to suggest it, no matter what the effect is. So yeah, any other responses along the "Have you considered..." lines would be appreciated.

(To keep to AskMe pet question best practice - this is the dog in question in her hyperactive puppy days, btw.)
posted by Catseye at 7:28 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd be afraid of coming home and the dog would be gone, and I'm the sort of person who refuses to live in fear.
posted by SillyShepherd at 7:32 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

People should be allowed to like or dislike whatever they want. For example, I really dislike babies. They leak fluids everyone, get away with whatever they want, and despite this, everyone else thinks they're cute. And yet I do volunteer work, give money to charity, and do other things to help society. Am I a bad person solely for disliking babies?

My point is that people who draw arbitrary lines in the sand and say "I like X, therefore people who dislike X are jerks" are revealing themselves as small-minded and intolerant people.

The boyfriend has clearly made an effort to tolerate the dog, despite his loathing for it. Try to view this from his perspective - due to his aversion, living with a dog is like living in a house with live centipedes scuttling about. It's no wonder his nerves are a little frayed and he snaps from time to time.

What's more important in a relationship is whether both sides are capable of compromise. You're painting your friend (and the dog) as the good guys, but so far it looks like the boyfriend is the one who's made all the compromises in the relationship (moving to a new town to be with her, living with an animal he can't stand, etc.) while your own friend has refused to budge. If your friend can have a conversation with the boyfriend and promise a compromise - for example, "I know you don't like the dog, but if you're willing to put up with it and try to be nicer to it for the duration of it's natural life, then I promise this is the last pet we'll have" - then how the boyfriend reacts will tell much more about his personality than everything you've described so far. And if your friend isn't willing to entertain such a compromise, then I'd say she's the bad one here.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

If she is aware of your views and concerns you could just point her to this thread - that should give her food for thought.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mother really is not fond of cats. Her partner had two cats when she met him; she has never pressurized him to get rid of the cats because they're important to him and she loves him. She'll tolerate them doing cat things, having their beds in various places, even take them to the vet, because that's love. You want the other person to be happy, you want them to have the things they love if those are not destructive. If the cats had been a deal breaker it would have been more than cruel to move in with him and then scream at the cats for being cats and to use emotional blackmail for him to get rid of them.

It's fine to not like dogs. It's fine to not like cats. (I'm not wild about pet birds myself. No idea why. Just not.) It's not fine to use anything as a tool to beat the emotional crap out of someone you purport to love.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:55 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Doglover. Dating non-dog-lover for about 16 months. Cohabitation imminent.

I don't think this guy is such a jerk. If he was a REAL jerk, he'd have made her give the dog up. He doesn't like dogs. Clearly. So why is he living with a dog? Because he loves your friend more than he hates dogs. Maybe only slightly more, but more. Just because his love for your friend outweighs his aversion to living with dogs, doesn't mean that his concerns just dry up and blow away. This is clearly a constant struggle for him, and if he's only letting it eat his lunch (or sniff it, as the case may be) every three months, then I think it sounds like he's doing a good job of keeping it under control.

As for questions about the longevity of the dog, I think those are fair. It is reasonable to ask about the duration of any difficult phase in a relationship. How long are you going to work 18 hour days getting your start-up going? How long is your mother going to live with us? How long until you're finished with your dissertation? Just because this is based on the life-span of an animal, it doesn't make it an invalid question. And just because it is a callous way to approach the subject, doesn't make him a jerk. Clearly, we've already established that he doesn't relate to dogs the way the rest of us do. So why are we holding him to the same standard still? Oh, that's right, because we want to invalidate his feelings.

My boyfriend currently lives in a tidy, sterile environment. When we combine households later this year, I'm going to bring my dog with me - with all the attendant behaviors, smells, and... detritus. I know this is not going to be easy for him. We've already approached some of the basics that needed to be decided early on. He's a no-dogs-on-the-furniture kind of guy. I am an omg-I-will-cuddle-you-all-night-long kind of guy. Dogs in the bed is a dealbreaker for my boyfriend, and so about six months ago, I started training my dogmonster to sleep outside the bedroom. We've agreed that, in the new place, the dogmonster will live downstairs (wood floors), and wont be allowed upstairs (carpeted). I enforce the no-dogmonster-on-the-furniture rule at his place (and will in the new place), and he is relaxed when the rule is occasionally, briefly, broken.

What concessions has your friend made? Have they discussed what - short of not having a dog - would make him happy/happier? Have they identified issues that bother him deeply? (Like food sniffing?) Have they decided on how to manage those situations? (Sequestering the dog during times when food is out would be the immediate one that comes to mind if he dislikes the food sniffing/begging/etc.) Have they identified the human component in these things? (When I am maddest at my dogmonster, I'm actually maddest at myself because I've set him up to do something that ticks me off... like climb on the dining room table and eat my unattended dinner.) I know those things aren't his fault. I know they're mine. But someone who doesn't love dogs is going to have a harder time understanding that, and it is going to take a lot more explanation to train this boyfriend how to avoid setting the dog up to piss him off.
posted by jph at 8:00 AM on May 1, 2012 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Ultimately she is the only person who can decide what to do with herself or her relationship.

However: She is with a guy. She has a dog. The dog is important to her.

The guy says he loves her. He knows the dog is important to her. He doesn't like dogs, so he gets a little short-tempered around the dog. So far, okay. But:

He asks (more than once) when this dog, which he knows is important to her, is going to die.

If someone said that to me, they would be single again before they could say Jack Robinson. To me, that indicates such a huge level of basic disrespect that I could not imagine wanting to be with that person, no matter how nice they were otherwise. It isn't about whether he likes dogs or not. It's about treating someone you love as a human being.

This animal, which is such an important part of her life, is at best an inconvenience to him, sometimes more of an annoyance. That's not the big problem here. The problem is that he is looking forward to the end of his inconvenience, which for her would be the loss of a beloved companion. He can't just say to himself, "Augh, this fucking dog. But she loves the dumb beast, so that's good, if nothing else."

And you know what? If I wanted to know how long a pet I hated was going to live, I'd just Google it. I wouldn't ask the person who loved it. But he did, and not only that, but he asked more than once, because it isn't about wanting to know how much longer the dog will live, it's about reminding her that he hates the thing, in a really really shitty way. And you know what? She knows he hates the dog. She'd know that even if he didn't take pains to remind her that he is greatly looking forward to the day when she's incredibly heartbroken.

I'm not going to point fingers or call him a jerk, but this behavior is a jerky one and it sounds like an expression of a really unhealthy dynamic that exists between them independent of the dog. Couples therapy wouldn't be a terrible idea.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:13 AM on May 1, 2012 [31 favorites]

Just because this is based on the life-span of an animal, it doesn't make it an invalid question.

As a pet-owner, I have caught myself asking these questions or making jokes about my pet's lifespan during particularly trying times. And I agree with jph that it's sometimes just a matter of looking practically at one's future. So, this doesn't seem especially nasty to me, out of context. It is not the same as wishing the dog would die, or making threats against the dog.

In fact, if the dog died, I'm willing to bet he'd be a little sad about it. He'd probably be relieved to not have to deal with it day in and day out, but I'm sure he'd be surprised by how used to having her around he'd gotten. This has happened to me when roommates moved out and took their pets with them -- even though I hated having them there, suddenly it's so... quiet.
posted by hermitosis at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is clearly a case of a guy who decided he was going to ignore the other red flags (the dog! and the fact that his girlfriend is a dog lover!) without thinking too carefully about cohabitation and having an adult conversation about it and just moved right in.

I really find the prospect of my clothes and my car being covered in dog hair to be rather upsetting. I'd go so far as to say I'm almost repulsed by the idea. I realize that you will no longer smell the "dog smell" in your home and your furniture after a while, but guests definitely will when they come visit, and the idea of being "the guy with the house that smells like dog" sounds awful to me. The boyfriend isn't a bad person for feeling the same way.

I think he has deeper issues, though. He moved to a new town, moved in with the girlfriend, and figured he could "deal." Or that everything would solve itself once he moved in, but it hasn't, and now Every. Little. Thing. pisses him off. The guy is friendless, moved out to a place he didn't choose, and shares his girlfriend with an animal he doesn't even like.

I like the idea of creating a separate designated "dog space" in their house. If this couple really wants to stay together, they can probably deal with this arrangement. If they can't deal with that kind of arrangement, then they're clearly not capable of compromise.
posted by deanc at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hate dogs. I despise them with every inch of my being. I would probably refer to a dog as "that thing" if I had to live with one. (And dog-hatred does *not* equal child-hatred, and it doesn't equal other-animal-hatred, either, as I have both a child and a cat and love them both very much.)

If I had a significant other who had a dog, and I moved in with him, I would try to suck it up and be compromising; I would move in and grin and bear it to the best of my ability. Why? Because I love that person. I'd be willing to compromise to make it work.

But it wouldn't go away. I'd still cringe at the jumping, the drooling, the walks, the dog crap in the yard, the dog hair, the begging, the sniffing, the barking barking barking, the noise of claws on the floor. The I WANT TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND AND JUMP ON YOU CONSTANTLY. (Yes I know that not all dogs do that. Doesn't matter.) The dog's sniffing my sandwich? How do I know it's not going to bump it with its nose and knock it on the ground? Or spin around and hit it with its tail? I would be constantly on guard against things like that, and not right for someone to have to be on guard all the time in the comfort of their own home.

The perfect opportunity to review and assess the situation arose when the two of them rented a new place together. It was her space *and* his space, and if the only compromise the dog-lover made was to "dearly hop[e] that he would find it easier to live with the dog in a bigger place" that's not fair to him at all.

Set aside one room in which the dog is not allowed at all, so that the dog-hater has a place to escape when the dog-ness of the house gets too much. Vacuum or sweep up the dog hair a little more often.
posted by Lucinda at 8:20 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: From the way you've described it, it does sound like the guy is a controlling freak.

But the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a Metafilter favourite, and points out that lots of successful marriages do have perennial problems that never get worked out or go away. Some successful marriages have heated arguments over them, but the participants just make up afterwards.

Ultimately, it's not your relationship. It's up to them to decide what to do about the problem, and one of the options is just keep having arguments over it.

If there are lots of other problems in the relationship you might want to gently advise your friend to think carefully about whether she wants to be with this guy in the long term. But otherwise, it's not really your business to take sides in their rows.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:28 AM on May 1, 2012

I kind of agree with sillyshepard - is the dog ever alone at home with the boyfriend? I don't think he would go out of his way to harm this dog, based on the evidence here, but I also wouldn't want this guy to be the secondary caretaker if I'm gone and my pet has some medical emergency. Maybe you could bring this up to her as well?

I think some of jph's advice above is good - if they haven't discussed how to make life with a dog more bearable, within reason, they could try that.

But I also think she needs to confront him on how he vocalizes disdain. He's allowed to not like dogs. He is not allowed to use kids as a bargaining chip (and if he says that again, she could try countering with more questions - "what about it makes you feel unsafe? What could we do to keep the baby out of dangerous situations?" It will be clear pretty fast if he's actually interested in a solution or just wants to get rid of the dog. If he's willing to use your hypothetical kids to get his way, what kind of behavior will he model to those kids someday?

He is absolutely not allowed to ask, repeatedly, how long before his girlfriend's beloved pet dies (seriously, what the hell?!)

You might also ask if this is the guy she wants to comfort her when the dog does die. When someone's pet dies, their partner is their primary grief counselor. Can she see him setting aside his feelings and willingly taking that on?
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:28 AM on May 1, 2012

The boyfriend has clearly made an effort to tolerate the dog, despite his loathing for it.

Repeatedly asking when "the thing" is going to die is not really making an effort towards tolerance.

the phrase "sniffed his sandwich" is cracking me up far more than it should
posted by elizardbits at 8:28 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify, re: compromises: the dog is currently not allowed in certain parts of the house or on the furniture, the boyfriend is not expected to interact with the dog or participate in dog care in any way, and the dog's owner is the one responsible for vacuuming up the dog hair on a regular basis. Dog doesn't beg, doesn't jump on or lick him, and isn't allowed in his stuff. Short of restricting the dog to a single room or an outside kennel, I doubt there's any further arrangements they could make on those grounds.
posted by Catseye at 8:29 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The boyfriend already has lived with a dog for years. So it's obvious he's lying about whether he's able to do it. As everyone's said, he's a controlling jerk, but it's worth pointing out that he's also denying reality as well.
posted by anildash at 8:36 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Folks let's maybe dial this back and not just repeat "the boyfriend is a jerk" statements or make analogies to children. They're not helping.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:39 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

once the dog does die, will she be okay with never owning another pet for the rest of her life?
ask her that. because it's not just about this dog -- it's about all dogs, ever.
posted by changeling at 9:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: One more suggestion: people sometimes just cannot understand that the other person really loves the thing they love. It just doesn't seem real if you don't value it at all. Can they both sit down and talk about the things they value and see as important part of their lives? Maybe he just doesn't really get that she loves this animal; to him it's a thing and he's waiting for it to die. (I do find it a bit odd that he'd ask repeatedly her when it was going to die. It's not that hard to find out via google how long dogs live.) Can she tie the value she places on this dog to something that he too values, but other people may not? Can she talk about what it means to her? Because it sounds like she's keeping it as far away from him as possible and making concessions and those aren't helping. Short of tying it in the yard forever, or getting rid of it there's not a lot else that she can do. I cannot believe that if he loves her and understands what this animal means to her that he'd push her to do that, because he'd know that it would poison the relationship.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:11 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Seriously, MetaTalk is your option if all you want to do is argue with other commenters.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:11 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It would be one thing if the boyfriend were perfect. But he is adamantly opposed to something that she is very devoted to, which makes him anything but perfect.

Sometimes I think these conflicts happen because the two partners are not confident that they can find someone else. This is a terrible form of settling. Don't settle for someone so opposed to the things you value. To settle in that way is to shoe fundamental disrespect for yourself.
posted by jayder at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This isn't about the dog. Several people have pointed this out. There are plenty of wonderful people who just don't like dogs -- my stepdad is one of them, and he's an incredibly wonderful person and he dealt with the dog we had when my mom met him with kindness. There are plenty of relationships between people who love dogs and people who don't that succeed. So, this isn't an issue about dogs.

This also isn't about the boyfriend. We haven't heard his side. We don't know what he's really like. And, most importantly, he's not the one asking us for advice. There's no real point to us trying to figure out what he's like or what he should do -- there's no point to it. So, this isn't an issue about him.

Catseye, I think you've successfully pointed out a few times what this issue is about: it's about your friend and her difficulty drawing appropriate boundaries in a relationship. It's about how she has so much trouble recognizing her own needs and wants that she ends up in situations like this. It's about how your friend doesn't seem to have the emotional tools necessary to look out for her own needs. That's what this is about.

The same stock answer applies here: she should go to therapy. You should suggest that she goes to therapy. Point out that needing therapy doesn't mean you're somehow deeply broken as a person -- instead, it's just a way for someone to examine their own patterns of behavior and try to find more successful ones. If your friend asks you for advice about The Dog Problem, I think you should try to say variants of this: "This must be really upsetting for you. What worries me is that it sounds like you don't really know what to do--or, even, what you want to do--and that you're just repeating the same awful argument every few months. Have you thought about seeing a therapist? It'll help you figure out what's really going on, and it'll give you some better tools for dealing with this painful issue."

Because, again, this isn't about the dog. Focusing the conversation (and your attempts to advise) on the dog will just lead into irrelevant conversations. This isn't about the boyfriend. He's just this third party out there. This is, instead, about your friend. If she comes to you for help, try to keep the conversation focused on what actually matters: her. If you talk to her about this, keep in mind what what she really needs isn't yet another third party entity telling her what she should/must do -- instead, what she needs is help realizing that she, herself, gets to decide what she wants/needs to do.
posted by meese at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes the boyfriend might be a jerk. But we are only getting one point of view, from someone who loves the dog from puppyhood and who is a supportive friend of the dog owner. So grains of salt and all that.

There are some really not-great dog-owners, who think their dogs can do no wrong, who don't train their dogs, who think it's funny when their dogs eat people's sandwiches, etc. And if the dog owner in this story is, as described, a pleaser, a conflict-avoider, a non-boat-rocker ... then this person also might not be an "alpha" in the world of this particular dog. And the dog might be a lot more annoying than the OP implies.

I love dogs, always have. My until-recently partner has a dog, an adorable, smart, obnoxiously untrained dog. Former partner is a "nice guy" whose passive-aggressive avoidance of conflict ultimately made a grown-up relationship impossible. I love his dog, but she barked all the time, she was in your face and underfoot all the time, she ate people's food all the time, she shed everywhere, every season of the year.

With the tiniest bit of effort, I was able to train the dog to stay out of the kitchen while I was cooking, or to not bark incessantly when random people walked down the street. As I say she is a smart dog. But former partner didn't back me up about the barking or whatever because he didn't want to be "mean" to her by training her. Didn't want to stifle her canine creativity, I guess. So the dog was confused, and even more annoying. Around me she wouldn't bark, around him she would. I trained her to stay off the bed, and when he was home she was allowed on it. Etc. And even though it wasn't her fault, I was annoyed with her for being on the damn bed again.

So yeah, the boyfriend might be a colossal asshole, but on the other hand he might be having his preconceived ideas about dogs confirmed by trying to live with a dog that's (through no fault of its own) a poor example of doghood.

Bottom line is that the girlfriend needs to decide what she wants and be willing to rock the boat with both dogs and people if she's going to get it.
posted by headnsouth at 9:36 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

So I'm like the boyfriend here. His position on dogs pretty neatly encapsulates my own, right down to the belief, that I share, that having a dog in a house with a baby is a very bad idea. I bet that most people are having a really hard time empathizing with his position here. But it's actually pretty easy - read the question again, but every time it says "dog," replace it with "boa constrictor."

It's true that he probably shouldn't have dated her or moved in with her, since this is pretty clearly not the last dog she's going to want. But let's be fair here: she knew how he felt, and she shouldn't have moved in with him either. My experience with dog people leads me to think that she probably assumed that he would grow to love her dog, because dog people always think that. When I say that I don't like dogs, dog people always, always, tell me that I would like their dog.

Honestly, I think people who are saying that this isn't about the dog are wrong. I understand why they're saying this, because if you like dogs it seems like his reaction is over the top. But living in a house with a dog would be hell for me, and it would be a very real and persistent issue. I would probably try really hard to tolerate the dog, as the boyfriend seems to be doing. But I would always be looking forward to the day when I didn't have to live with the dog anymore, and I bet that feeling would slip out occasionally and make itself visible.

I'm honestly not sure what your friend can do about this. This is a really basic compatibility issue. It sounds like she is always going to want a dog, and he is never going to. It would suck to have to break up over this, but staying together means that only one of them can ever be really happy at a time. That seems like a pretty untenable state for a relationship.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:56 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

He's not a jerk because he dislikes dogs and doesn't want to live with one. He's a jerk because he:

1) moved in with her when he knew she had a dog
2) asks her how long the dog will live
3) threatens her with leaving or not having kids with her if she doesn't cave to his manipulations
4) doesn't follow through with his ultimatums
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

I think there are two things going on here. 1) incompatibility and 2) emotional blackmail.

First, I sympathize with not liking dogs. I personally have two dogs that lick, poop, and have hair (and I happen to be a crazy dog lady that stoops down and lets every dog I see on the street lick my face), but I fully recognize how gross the licking, poop, and hair etc is to some people. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to live with a dog, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to live with a dog. This couple has one of each - incompatibility. I couldn't be with a dog-non-lover.

Second, while we have only a sympathetic account of the dog-lover (i.e. we don't know if she actually acts like a jerk about the dog somehow), it sounds like the dog-non-lover is being pretty manipulative in his dog-non-lovingness. If he can't live with the dog, he should have made a true ultimatum and followed through. What he's actually doing is setting himself (and the dog-lover and the dog) to be miserable. He knows the dog is going to do dog stuff, and he knows he'll hate it. Losing his temper, asking when the dog is going to die, is not what any dog-non-lover would do - it's what an emotionally manipulative, immature dog-non-lover would do: staying in the situation and trying to change it through complaining and anger.
posted by Pax at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that the issue isn't that he doesn't like dogs, but how he has approached it. Frankly, his behavior sounds like emotional blackmail and not how a partner should treat anyone over anything. You stated, however, that your friend would probably choose the boyfriend over the dog, so they need to address the larger issues here, which may involve coming to a decision, once and for all, about the dog. I would strongly suggest couples counseling because this is about way more than a dog, and they need to find healthy ways to compromise and deal with other challenging situations if they plan on building a life together. If he refuses to go to couples counseling, that's another red flag, and your friend may need to rethink the relationship. Best of luck to all!
posted by katemcd at 10:20 AM on May 1, 2012

I think that maybe some further clarification is needed.

A lot of the comments that are speculating about the boyfriend's perspective, but that are written by people who do not dislike dogs, are assuming that he doesn't like dogs because dogs are gross. This is possible. But it's more likely that he doesn't like dogs because they make him actively uncomfortable. Like, he can never fully relax around the. Here's another analogy: imagine if you were sitting in a room and a raccoon walked through the room. That's how I feel when a dog walks through the room.

Similarly, I might say something like "I couldn't have kids with a dog in the house." In fact, I have said that, multiple times (my gf does not have a dog, so it's all hypothetical). I don't say this punitively. I say it because if I had a baby in the house with a dog, I would never be able to stop worrying that the dog was going to kill the baby. I know it's very unlikely. But you're talking about an animal that's bigger and stronger than the kid, and its thought processes are a total black box - I have no idea why it does anything or what it's going to do next.

I'm not saying the boyfriend necessarily feels the same way, but we should at least entertain the possibility
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:35 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband was not a fan of dogs when we got together, and I had a 100 lb German Shepherd/Great Dane mix and a 15 lb. Yorkie mix at the time. I was upfront with him and said that if he wanted to be with me, he didn't have to love my dogs, but he couldn't be an asshole about them either. I also told him that I would have dogs for the rest of my life. If he couldn't handle that, he knew where the door was. He accepted my terms, and spent many hours vacuuming up after my dogs with only minimal complaining and cried when the oldest one died in my arms. While I would never describe him as a dog person, he's now dog friendly.

Your friend's dog isn't the one threatening to leave her, her boyfriend is. That would make my choice pretty easy.
posted by crankylex at 10:52 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sympathetic to the dog-hating people responding here, but I think maybe they are not understanding that choosing to live with a dog when they hate dogs that much is still, fundamentally, a poor choice no matter how much they love the person. Because that represents a serious disconnect within the relationship. Replacing "dog" with "boa constrictor" helps the dog-haters understand the question; try replacing "dog" with "child" and you will understand it better from the perspective of many dog-lovers.

The boyfriend made a poor choice to live with this woman when he hates dogs this much. The fact that he continues to do it while offering up verbal abuse of the dog and using the dog as a threat against the relationship makes him a jerk and controlling.

I am with the other posters who suggest that the issue is not the dog, or the boyfriend, the issue is your friend's deep-seated fear of rocking the boat and leaving him and being alone, and being willing to deal with disrespect and fundamental disconnects within the relationship itself as a result. I dunno if you can suggest therapy for that; you seem to be thinking that issue is beyond your ken. But at the very least you should ask her if she thinks the situation is tenable in the long run, whether she thinks his responses are appropriate or respectful to her, and whether she thinks the dog is happy living with someone who behaves like that towards it. She might also want to consider setting up a boundary within herself on how far she'll let the situation go before either getting rid of the dog or the boyfriend, and stick to it.
posted by schroedinger at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

Best answer: It seems that Boyfriend has not suggested any compromise to having a dog in the house. Sure, the dog has been relegated to staying off of him, away from him, away from his things, furniture, and in his general awareness, but he has literally not suggested one thing that would alleviate his contempt of a seemingly harmless dog. The dog, in your post, has never been aggressive towards Boyfriend, and yet Boyfriend asks when the dog will die (seriously, what in the actual fuck?!), and yells at the dog for simply being a dog (hello? I'd sniff a sandwich too if I was a dog). Your friend needs to think long and hard about where she wants her life to go. If she goes down the path with her boyfriend without her dog, or any dog in the future, she must weigh heavily how that would affect her for the rest of her life. Seriously. That's how important this dog is to her life. He doesn't seem to acknowledge or care that this dog is not merely a dog; this dog is a member of her family, her life, who depends on your friend to feed him, house him, play with him, walk him, and most importantly, love him. If your friend goes down the path with Boyfriend without this dog or any future dog, her life will not be as rich as it could be. There are plenty of people in the world who don't like dogs. That's ok. But to be so dense and calloused as to ask when your girlfriend's dog is going to die is fucking sick. Your friend deserves way better than this moron. I hope that your friend can see what life will be like ahead of her if she continues to put up with this bullshit.

My husband what not a dog person when we got together, but now he cannot fathom a life without our two dogs. He's sad when they're not with us. It took a long time to get him to that point, but he is there with me, someone who has never gone more than 3 months in my entire 28 year tenure without a dog.

Please, help your friend puzzle this out. This dog deserves to be loved, and your friend deserves to have someone in her life that will accept the dog. He doesn't have to like it, but he should at least respect and accept that the dog is part of her, and will be part of her until the dog passes. That should be her final, put-her-foot-down, take all of me or don't, play of their "relationship". This issue of the dog is likely a microcosm of their entire relationship. It doesn't have to be. The dog stays, he goes. End of story.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 10:58 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dog doesn't beg, doesn't jump on or lick him, and isn't allowed in his stuff.

I would consider sniffing my sandwich to be "in my stuff."
posted by Lucinda at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't like dogs. Or at least, I don't like living with dogs. I like visiting with dogs just fine. I like living with cats. And, you know, I thought that maybe I would get to liking living with a dog -- a nice dog, who I generally like and who likes me, and who I had zero responsibility for except to occasionally feed him. And I never did, though I got to the point where I didn't mind it, but I doubt I would be willing to live with another dog. So it's possible that the boyfriend thought, or hoped, that he'd get to like the dog and never did.

What your friend needs to do is figure out her priorities, and discuss the issue calmly (not during one of their arguments). Is she willing to give up the dog, knowing that this relationship might end? Is she willing to not get another dog, but not to give up this dog? What is the boyfriend willing to do, if anything?
posted by jeather at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As previously mentioned, she strongly dislikes rocking the boat in relationships and is very afraid of the boyfriend leaving.

I have never understood people who carry their own eggshells into one relationship after another and then act as though it's the other person who's making them tiptoe around on them.

So while I know what I'd do in her position, telling her "Holy hell, DTMFA" is not going to help her much next time she contacts me upset about this.

"Figure out what you want and what your dealbreakers are, and make your own decisions instead of fearing the decisions that other people may make" is not the same as DTMFA. "I sympathize but your problem will remain until you take action to change it" is also not DTMFA.
posted by headnsouth at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

But it's actually pretty easy - read the question again, but every time it says "dog," replace it with "boa constrictor."

I don't think replacing dog with anything - boa constrictor, pet rats, horse, spiders - makes a difference. What matters is that this dog is something she loves, and (as reported in the question) the boyfriend asks (more than once!) when it is going to die and threatens to leave her over it. But then doesn't. He devalues something she loves and holds his contempt for it over her. He's done this for 18 months. He probably has his reasons, and it's not easy when you're with someone who loves something you don't and you can't share this important chunk of their life. I can understand that, and we all lash out from time to time. *But* if you are a mature and decent person you do not indulge in this behavior. You don't threaten the person with leaving on a repeated basis. You don't ask when what they love is going to die. No matter what that item may be.

I understand that there are people who don't like dogs, who are scared of dogs, who hate them with a fiery passion. And that some dog owners think that everyone should naturally love their dog. But this behavior is not the appropriate reaction to not liking something or even being scared of something. Either she has to find a way to make him see the value of the dog, or if he is unwilling to do that, she has to face that this behavior is likely reoccur when she values something and he does not.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:28 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why on earth do these two have to live together to be in a serious relationship? It was totally silly for dog and boy and girl to all move in together when dog and boy are incompatible. Why can't he get a nice dog-free studio where she visits a few nights a week? Too many people think you have to live together to be in a serious relationship. More people should have separate houses. These two are a perfect example. Be like Spenser and Susan, y'all.

but i mean i pretty much am terrified of dogs and know better than to move in with one, christmas. and spenser and susan shared pearl.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there are compromises in effect about where the dog can and can't go, what the dog can and can't do, how does the girlfriend react when the dog goes where it shouldn't go, or does what it shouldn't do?

If a sandwich-sniffing is met with a "well, that's just what dogs do", I would feel like the dog-lover is not taking my feelings into consideration.

Anyway, advice time: the girlfriend needs to figure out who is her more important family in this scenario - the boyfriend or the dog - and if that family is important enough for it to be okay when the other one is cut loose.
posted by Lucinda at 11:57 AM on May 1, 2012

Ask your friend how she will feel when the dog dies and the boyfriend is happy on one of her saddest day?

I hate, hate, hate football and was ecstatic when my ex-boyfriend's team lost in the playoffs because it meant we wouldn't have to watch more football games that season. Looking back, it was rather mean of me to be happy about that.

I can't imagine how your friend would feel when her boyfriend is joyous over the death of her dog.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:45 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was once engaged to somebody who had a dog. I am not a dog person, at all. Before my ex-fiance and I moved in together, he offered to find a new home for the dog if it turned out I was unhappy having the dog in our home once we had a place together. I never would have asked him to do this; he offered.

Well, we moved in together, and I was unhappy with the dog, chiefly because the dog was allowed to sleep in bed, which I just hated. The dog was either there while we were having sex, or if we locked her out, she would cry loudly the whole time.

My ex probably didn't think I would take him up on his offer to find a new home for the dog, but after trying my hardest to like the poor thing, I finally asked him to give the dog away. He gave the dog away to his ex-girlfriend, with whom he'd originally purchased the dog, and who owned the dog's brother, so at least it went to a good home. He was miserable, though. He and that dog had a real bond, and it really, really hurt both of them to separate.

And then what happened? Well, a year or two after the dog was gone, I left him anyway.

I regret a lot of things about that relationship, but more than anything, I regret making him give up his dog.

My point is, a dog is automatically a more loyal companion than any human ever will be. Even though I'm very much not a dog person, I recognize this to be true about dogs. It is a bad risk to give up a loyal animal companion for a human who may turn out to be a big jerk and with whom things might not work out anyway.

My second point is that some of us are just not "dog people," and this is, IMO, as big a determinant of relationship compatibility as similar big issues, like religion, or whether you're a smoker, or politics. Maybe more so, because owning a dog is a big responsibility -- both a practical and an emotional responsibility -- that will affect your daily life in myriad ways.
posted by spacewaitress at 1:59 PM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

You don't say if the dog is large, small, energetic, couch potato, etc. I love dogs, but some dogs are harder to live with. Asking someone to live with a well-behaved, medium-sized mutt what doesn't drool a lot, and doesn't shed huge quantities is different than asking someone to live with a farting, yapping shih-poo-yorkie or slobbering hound that eats shoes. It seems fair for a dog lover/owner to make sure the dog's less lovable traits are managed well. The dog should have a bed of its own, and really good training. Many dog owners (me, for example) believe their sweet little feller is just adorable, and, hey, he's a pretty good dog. But non-dog-lovers do not want to accept the slobber rubber ball and throw it. 75 times.

If the dog is well-trained, and the dog's role in the household is well-defined and not too intrusive, then the guy should accept that the dog is a member of the family, to whom the dog lover has made a serious commitment. Those ASPCA ads about the pet being a forever friend? They're right. The dog owner is bound to honor the commitment.

If you don't like dogs, and you're in a relationship with someone who has a dog, you get to ask that the dog be properly trained, and that there are some good boundaries/rules (the dog doesn't sleep with you), but otherwise, you accept the dog, or move on.

Also, BF doesn't sound like he's very nice to you. Not a good sign.
posted by theora55 at 6:22 PM on May 1, 2012

I'm on the dogs-are-gross end of the spectrum, but my take on dogs isn't important. What's important is that this guy knew the dog was a dealbreaker but went ahead with the relationship anyway, and just keeps on demanding that the girlfriend give up the dog. If a pre-existing condition of a potential lover is a dealbreaker for you, and you go ahead anyway, it's on you to make whatever compromises need to happen not to break the deal. (I wouldn't ever have dated a smoker, because that's a dealbreaker for me - but if I had, I would keep my mouth shut about it.)(Unless the smoker was so desperate to quit smoking that my dealbreakerness could be an incentive, but even then, gee, that's pretty sick.)
posted by gingerest at 1:10 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

When friend A met friend B at a party, they clicked immediately and went out on a date. Date was going well until B said, "I hate cats!" Friend A went home crying because she'd met someone she really liked, but now she'd have to break it off with him. Because she had a cat, and she was NOT giving it up.

They're happily married now, with five cats. Why? Because B put his dislike for cats behind his love of A and his want to see her happy. You friend's boyfriend is not doing that. She should move on and find someone that wants to see her happy.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:49 PM on June 12, 2012

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