Do I HAVE to keep this puppy?
June 1, 2012 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Hope us navigate the dangerous waters of puppies and bosses...

Those of you may have read my story regarding our recent experiment in dog-ownership with Martha, over on MeCha. We gave Martha up about two weeks ago now, and life has settled back into our pre-puppy quiet and normalcy.

Until today.

My wife has a wonderful, caring boss. She is always doing things for her employees and is, honestly, one of the best people you could ever work for. Except for those moment when she gets a "brilliant" idea in her head and steamrolls with it. As she did today.

She apparently decided that what my wife needed to cut the stress and get over her mourning for Martha was...another dog! So, at the end of business today, she surprises my wife with...Chip!

Chip is some kind of toy poodle/Chihuahua mix and might weigh all of 2lbs soaking wet. That means that our family cat, Luke, is approximately 8-times larger than Chip. Luke's non-negotiable dislike for Martha is what lead us to surrender her back to the shelter. It was always ugly when they came within spitting distance of each other. Chip will barely make a meal for Luke.

We're beside ourselves about this predicament. We can't keep Chip. We just can't. He's cute, playful, adorable and all that, but we truly do fear for his safety with Luke. Plus, if we were to choose another dog, Chip is not the type of dog we would choose. We really aren't big fans of purse-sized dogs.

My wife cried all the way on her hour commute home, feeling trapped by this quite lavish gift (approx $500 including dog, food, toys, bedding, etc) from a boss who truly does care for her and wants nothing more than my wife to be happy, and sincerely believes this puppy will reduce my wife's stress and bring her joy.

Bottom line...We can't keep Chip. But, how would you navigate rejecting such a heartfelt gift from someone who is genuinely caring? And who happens to be your boss, as well as a longtime friend? Who can, at times, take things very, very wrong, especially if you're rejecting one of her "brilliant" ideas? Like gifting a puppy.

We're stuck with Chip for the weekend. But, we really, really, really need to find a way out of this delicate situation. All suggestions will be appreciated.
posted by Thorzdad to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly? Her boss acted abominably. Who cares what her intentions were? She was incredibly thoughtless, past rude to intrusive and presumptive. She put your family and another living creature in a totally unforgivable situation. I would not be worried about her feelings, I would be livid.

Give the dog back. Say you are not in a place to take it and hope she can find a new home. You don't need to be as strong about it as I would be, but she needs to know that she is not allowed to make semi-permanent life-changing decisions for the home life of one of her employees without consulting the employee first. She has to take it in to work on Monday, and give the dog back. Yes, it will suck, but this woman seriously, seriously needs boundaries.
posted by brainmouse at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2012 [35 favorites]

How do you navigate this, really pretty simple, be honest, return the dog and let her boss figure it out from there. Giving someone else an unsolicited dog is very poor judgement.
posted by HuronBob at 5:35 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree that it was a TERRIBLE decision on your wife's boss's part, but I also guess you need to be somewhat delicate if you want the boss to not retaliate at your wife at work.

Does the boss know that the problem with Martha was your cat? Can you just emphasise the fact that you fear for Chip's safety? Maybe bring Chip back on Monday with a (fictitious, if need be) story that your cat attacked him and you only barely got him away without injury and you are terrified for his safety in future, so you need to return him and keep an eye out for a larger dog that can defend itself. (Or maybe, if you are worried that will mean the boss buys your wife ANOTHER dog, say that you now plan to wait until the cat passes away before considering a dog.)
posted by lollusc at 5:37 PM on June 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

What your wife's boss did was well-intentioned, but completely uncalled-for, and fairly unethical as well. I don't know of any breeders, and very few shelters that will allow you to adopt a dog in order to give it to someone else. I would have your wife sit down with her boss and explain things very simply.

1. This was a very thoughtful gift, and we appreciate how much you care.
2. Unfortunately, we're not in a position financially/emotionally/timewise to care for a puppy right now. Additionally, Chip deserves to be in a home where he doesn't have to worry about our cat. [This is the key part. It's not that you dislike the gift or the sentiment behind it, it's that this is a living creature, and it's not fair for him to be in a home that's a bad fit.]
3. So I'm very sorry, but we can't provide a home for Chip.
4. You will need to either return Chip to the breeder/shelter/home where you got him, or you will need to find him another home.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:38 PM on June 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

It isn't clear if you've introduced Chip and Luke yet - theoretically there seems to be a slim chance that they could actually get along, right? If so, would you be interested in keeping it?
posted by jacalata at 5:59 PM on June 1, 2012

I agree with brainmouse, but if you want to spare her feelings, blame the cat. "He's a sweet dog, and you were sweet for thinking of us, but our home is not safe for such a little dog and it wouldn't be right for us to keep him. Please find him a better home. You have such a big heart--I know you'll find the right place for him."
posted by rhythm and booze at 6:24 PM on June 1, 2012

Response by poster: Does the boss know that the problem with Martha was your cat?
Yes. She knows. My wife says that it probably doesn't register with her as a problem because she's not a cat lover at all. Her solution would probably be to find a home for the cat.

She just one of these people who gets it into their head that their idea is perfect and then simply runs with it. It can be very frustrating sometimes. We agree, this is stunningly irresponsible of her.

Even if a miracle happened and Luke actually accepted Chip (and, right now, Luke is sulking and being very "don't talk to me, assholes" toward us. He's had one hissing/growling moment with Chip) we really aren't interested in keeping Chip. He's cute as can be and full of personality, but he's just not our type. And, even if he got a little bigger, I'd be afraid to let him out in the back yard alone. We live in the country. We have hawks. And foxes.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 PM on June 1, 2012

I think you should call your wife's boss TODAY to explain that you won't be able to keep Chip. Otherwise, she'll spend the weekend building up a story in her mind thinking of how happy she made your family, and will feel even more let down when you return the dog. That's how steamroll-y, over-caring, thoughtlessly best-intentioned people work.
posted by acidic at 6:31 PM on June 1, 2012 [21 favorites]

Ok, so don't blame the cat - that leaves it open for her to present you with a new one the day after the cat dies, or pressure you to get rid of the cat. The problem is not the cat, the problem is that you don't want her to give you a dog. You should go with the Miss Manners approach - "It was so thoughtful of you to give us Chip, but I'm afraid it just won't be possible for us to keep him. " Sub that in for item 2 in specialagentweb's discussion. The idea behind this approach is that you don't give them any details to hook into.
posted by jacalata at 6:38 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, we have no problem blaming the cat, rightly or wrongly. Right now, we're just stunned by this predicament. It's so far outside our concept of what people do.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:44 PM on June 1, 2012

I'm saying that blaming the cat will be an ineffective rhetorical technique that may lead to continued argument, and you should not give a reason, to avoid her trying to 'solve' the problem of the cat preventing you from keeping the puppy.
posted by jacalata at 6:49 PM on June 1, 2012

Is it possible that you or your daughter has a previously-unknown allergy to poodle or Chihuahua? And that you'll need to investigate the allergy further before any other dog can enter the household? But you are completely overwhelmed (see, that's true!) with the gift?
posted by Houstonian at 7:09 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give the dog back and tell the boss the gift is not appropriate. If I were your wife I would have refused the dog immediately on the grounds that no dog could replace Martha.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:31 PM on June 1, 2012

Wow, that is horrible, horrible. She made so many assumptions that there is nothing left but ass. Seriously. It seems we all know this, but it bears repeating. And on top of all that, this person has put your wife in such a terrible, awkward and unpleasant predicament. Ugh, I feel terrible for her!

Without knowing the woman in question it's really difficult to know what to do, but your wife will just have to let her know as gently as possible, the following things:
1. It was so very thoughtful and I know your heart was in the right place.
2. A dog is a huge commitment and when the last one didn't work out, my husband and I decided to put off getting a dog again.
3. Choosing a dog is a very big deal and we need to be able to choose a dog that is right for our family when the time is right.
4. Chip is very adorable but we simply cannot keep him and do not want to keep him.
5. I'm sorry about this awkward situation but please try to understand why buying someone a dog is really a bad idea.

Just ugh.
posted by Glinn at 7:38 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The problem with blaming the cat --- "I'm so sorry, but we just can't keep Chip: he's such a tiny lil' puppy that we're worried our cat Luke will hurt him!" --- anyhoo, the problem with that is that I could see Boss Lady replacing teeny-tiny Chip with some much bigger dog: "let's see that dumb cat of yours hurt THIS dog!"

I'd suggest just giving back the dog and all his gear, and telling her simply "thanks, but no thanks." If necessary, since she's your wife's boss not yours, let your wife make you the bad guy and say you insisted on giving the dog back. (She's not YOUR boss, so why would you care about her opinion of you?!?)
posted by easily confused at 7:41 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

It just blows my mind that anyone in their right mind would think this is an acceptable thing to do! Especially to an EMPLOYEE. I agree with easily confused that you should give the poor soul back to her with a firm "thanks but no thanks." No elaborate excuses or hemming and hawing, because this woman needs to realize that what she did was wildly inappropriate and she should NEVER do it again. Seriously, what planet is she from?
posted by désoeuvrée at 7:51 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also DON'T think you should say "it was a thoughtful gift," or anything of the sort, because it absolutely wasn't.
posted by désoeuvrée at 7:53 PM on June 1, 2012

My guess is that someone the boss knew may have had to give Chip up, or he may have been part of someone's unplanned litter (since, as specialagentwebb points out, a shelter or breeder, or indeed any sensible person, is unlikely to approve of an animal being a surprise gift). She may have felt like she had found The Perfect Solution.

I agree with acidic that it is a good idea for you or your wife, or both together, to get in touch with the boss as soon as possible and let her know you can't keep Chip. That way, she has the weekend to start finding him another home.

I wish you both, and Chip, the best of luck.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:17 PM on June 1, 2012

Your wife's boss had her heart in the right place, but her brain was clearly out to lunch.

All of my pets except the fish are rescues, and we are so so very careful about introducing new pets into the household. It's vital, IMO, that pets already in residence meet their potential siblings before money ever changes hands. You have to take the personality of the already resident pets into account, and it sounds like you tried really hard to make things work with Luke and Martha, and Luke just was NOT having any of it. And that's OK! It's not your fault! In my experience, if the already resident pets haven't warmed up to the new sibling in two or three weeks or so, they're not going to.

As Glinn already notes, choosing a dog is a big deal - I couldn't agree more! - and it's important that both the dog AND the timing be right for your family. I would do as easily confused suggests - be the bad guy and tell BossLady "No, Thank You". Explain that you simply can't accept Chip, he is not the right dog and it's not the right time, and then leave it at that.
posted by MissySedai at 8:26 PM on June 1, 2012

Perhaps you should call the boss, tell her your wife feels terrible and is at loss how to confront you (boss), simply put that the dog presents a problem in your home and unfortunately you can't keep it (not negotiable) and the right thing would be to return dog to her. (wife take dog back to work monday) Tell the boss you & your wife are very grateful for boss generosity and good intentions yada yada and doesn't want to upset her etc, then invite boss + partner over for dinner one night and ensure you & wife make an effort to move their professional relationship beyond the dog drama. Of course if your wife can make the phonecall that's also good but one of you has to.

That's how I would do it. It's pretty clear your wife's boss is a unorthodox and this was presumptuous of her but she did it in the best of her intentions and you should try diffuse any issue that may arise from dog exchange by being friendly & courteous in your response a) because she's the boss b) because your wife likes working for her and c) she means well and she just made a mistake.
posted by Under the Sea at 8:26 PM on June 1, 2012

Oooh boy. Well, to add to what everyone else said upthread, I'll add ideas for explanation/angle that might make sense to your wife's boss. Leave the cat or any other practical specifics out of this, bosslady will never get it.

Wife can explain to her boss that yes, she is mourning Martha in the short term, but the thing that's truly making her sad is that the initial misgivings about being dog owners turned out to be right. It's painful to have to be the responsible grownup and fix a mistake and deal with the consequences, even when it's totally the right thing to do.

And that having Chip around is too upsetting and that it's just keeping the wound fresh.

Hopefully, the boss will get the BRILLIANT idea to solve this problem by keeping Chip herself.
posted by desuetude at 10:33 PM on June 1, 2012

Agree with all the other responses -- that this "gift" is incredibly inappropriate.

I would NOT return the dog to this woman. She has already treated the dog like an object, not like a creature with its own needs and feelings. What would she do with him? Would she be willing and able to find him an appropriate and loving home? If you surrender him to a reputable shelter, a little dog like that would soon be properly adopted. If you want to do more, post a craigslist ad with Chip's photo and direct people to the shelter.

I would take him to the shelter this weekend. If you take him on Saturday, he will likely be adopted on Sunday.

On Monday, tell the boss that you had to re-home Chip. The new dog caused too much stress in your home and you are confident that he is happier elsewhere. You can ask the boss if she would like to take back all the toys and gear. Don't give her the poor dog. He is not a football.

You can tell her: "I recognize and appreciate that you were trying to make me feel better. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. Husband and I are the kind of people who need to choose our own pets. When we are ready, we will choose our own dog. It means so much to me that you are concerned. Someday, when we get a new dog, you will be the first to meet him. "

Good luck.
posted by valannc at 12:46 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry you have to go through this. I'd ask her where she got the dog and let him know you are going to take him back there yourself. It's been a couple of days.

Next I/your wife would sit down with the boss and say you want to make sure the relationship is OK and explain your point of view. You just had a failed dog adoption and you're very cut up about it and you don't want another dog at all. Not down the road-- period, right? Without placing blame on her, I would try to convey just how seriously you take something like this. Hopefully she'll get at least a glimmer of what a big deal it was to put you and the dog in this position.
posted by BibiRose at 4:02 AM on June 2, 2012

Response by poster: Filling-in some blanks...

• She's not YOUR boss, so why would you care about her opinion of you?!?
While not my boss, per-se, she is an important client of mine. In fact, she's my main client. I manage their website and design marketing materials for them. This makes this situation pretty touchy.

• My guess is that someone the boss knew may have had to give Chip up, or he may have been part of someone's unplanned litter...
Chip's backstory...This office (it's a small office. About 8 employees. All women. All very close.) is very open and homey. People regularly bring their kids and dogs to work. My wife took Martha to work with her, in fact.

One of the other women in the office recently bought one of Chip's litter-mates and brought it to the office one day. Of course my wife, being a dog lover, played with it and stuff. It's a cute dog. But not, as I said, a dog she would ever own. It became known to the boss that Chip was still available from the litter. Seeing how much my wife enjoyed the litter-mate apparently hatched a plan in the boss' head.

• I would NOT return the dog to this woman. She has already treated the dog like an object, not like a creature with its own needs and feelings.
Chip would definitely go back to the woman who sold him to the boss. I don't think she's the actual breeder, but it seems that the regularly sells these dogs. Or something. It's kind of confusing.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 AM on June 2, 2012

Response by poster: Update...
Chip went back to the boss this morning. My wife stuck to the truth about the cat not being friendly toward Chip. Boss seemed understanding. She took him home with her tonight and might actually keep him herself.

It was bring your dog day at the office and Chip's littermate was there. They had a grand time wrestling around with each other.

Thanks all for the great advice!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:39 PM on June 4, 2012

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