What to do about an unwanted critter living in our house?
February 7, 2013 9:07 AM   Subscribe

About three years ago, my wife was visiting her mother when they discovered a cute puppy running around on the property. The mother took the puppy home and there was great rejoicing. Flash forward one year.

The puppy was now a big galumphing hyperactive critter (it's a hunting breed) and too much for my mother-in-law to handle. My wife proposed bringing the dog to our home. I told her I did not want another dog, and I believed we couldn't handle a puppy (we live in a one-level slab home with no fenced yard.) When she became insistent, I told her I couldn't force her not to bring it in, but I would have nothing to do with the dog.

We already had two dogs at the time, an elderly Bichon (another Mother-in-Law Legacy) and a sweet middle-aged Beagle, and 3 cats. The Bichon we recently had to put down due to advanced age and illness, and one of the cats died. We still have the Beagle and 2 cats who I love.

I hate this huntin' dog. I hate having her. I still have nothing to do with her if at all possible. My wife has not housebroken this dog and regards walking her as an onerous chore, so she foists its care off onto our daughter (who was not consulted when the dog was brought into the household.) So at any time I'm liable to encounter a pile of dog crap or puddle of pee in the house from dog or dogs unknown. These, I will clean up...I can't bring myself to just ignore/walk around a pile of dog crap in my own home, although that's an inclination I've had to fight.

I have permitted this dynamic to affect my interaction with the Beagle, who I love. Every time I leash up the Beagle, my wife starts a fight about why don't I leash up the Huntin' Dog and take her with me too -- I might as well! Well, the Huntin' Dog is a drag (literally) and Not My Responsibility. So I ignore Beagle's needs, to my shame.

I love my wife and I'm tired of this being an issue between us. Nothing has happened that makes us any more suited to have that dog. It's stressing us all out. I asked our daughter to take the dogs for a walk when we got home last night and she stormed out, saying "YOU never take care of them!" I know I'm setting all kinds of poor examples for her in this situation. But I feel that if I don't stick to my guns about boundaries and whose responsibility this dog is, it'll be just another bad example. I'm considering simply dropping my expectations of my daughter with regard to this dog, and letting my wife manage her expectations of our daughter with regard to Huntin' Dog. I.e. I'd say, "Daughter, please walk Beagle" and let my wife tell her what to do with Huntin' Dog.

My wife asserts that she is looking for another home for Huntin' Dog. I haven't seen any evidence at all of her efforts...and when she is asked about Huntin' Dog by potential rescuers, she gives out false negative indicators like "she goes crazy around cats" (did I mention we had 3? She is playful and sometimes tries to play with a cat that's not in the mood but stops after a gentle nose-swiping...but nothing traumatic for cat or dog.) She will argue me into the ground about how she has to tell people "she goes crazy around cats" as in a spirit of truthfulness.

Should I offer to help her find a new home for Huntin' Dog? My policy has been, "I didn't ask for Huntin' Dog and even though you've amply demonstrated that you don't want her either, I don't want to be The Monster Who Kicked Out Huntin' Dog. You brought her here, she's your responsibility." I fear that my wife will torpedo any success I have with finding the dog a home with her ostentatious "truthfulness" mentioned above.

What are my other options? Accepting Huntin' Dog sometimes seems tempting. How do I do it without surrendering my future expectations of setting boundaries with my wife, who by the way has notable difficulties honoring boundaries in general? Not to mention, I have little doubt that if I were to take on a rational level of responsibility with regard to this dog, my wife would abdicate her responsibility as she's done with many many other things before...her frequently demonstrated capacity for dropping her tools the instant she sees me take up mine is another long-standing issue between us.

(Therapy has failed to change these things. I see no changing any of these things via therapy, either couple or individual. I accept these things about her and don't judge her for them, rather looking to arrange my life so that I don't have to worry about them.)

Other options?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"When she became insistent, I told her I couldn't force her not to bring it in, but I would have nothing to do with the dog."

This and most of what follows indicates to me that the problem here is intra-family negotiation styles, not this dog per se. For example, most people would regard taking on a pet (especially one known to be a handful) as a family decision which all (or at least all adults) should be in agreement on, but somehow that was ignored by your wife and passively defied by you (making it about force/noncompliance). There might have been a third option, like helping to find a new home for the dog while it was still at your mother-in-law's place, but that ship has also sailed.

I think that you need to Talk This Through with wife and possibly daughter. How it makes you feel, how you are being forced into something you didn't want, what your refusal to participate has resuted in, and how nobody in the family (including the other pets) is happy with the result. That Something Must Change, whether that means keeping the Troublesome Dog in an outdoor kennel (I mean, really! poops on the floor?!?), setting a deadline for finding it a new home, or your wife accepting full responsibility for all of its needs rather than letting them fall on the unwilling participants.

Really, if there's agreement about the need for it to go, then the deadline seems like the most important thing -- if it can't be found a home by you guys in a month or two, then the Humane Society can try to find it one. That might sound heartless, but the current situation is bad for the dog(s), bad for the people, and reinforcing a toxic set of disfunctional relationship dynamics. That can't be sustained.
posted by acm at 9:17 AM on February 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

I get that you're picking your battles with your wife, but the dog in the meantime is not responsible for the state of your marriage and doesn't deserve the treatment it's getting. Call a breed rescue, arrange for them to take and foster the dog. If there isn't one, take the dog to the pound. Even that seems like a better life than it has right now.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on February 7, 2013 [56 favorites]

Well, it sounds to me as if you're being really unnecessarily adversarial. Fine, you hate the dog. And okay, you told your wife you would have nothing to do with the dog. But right now, by your insistence on sticking to these things you said years ago, you're making your own life worse. The notion that bending on this will somehow set you up to be the weak one in your relationship going forward is a little bizarre. You couldn't have known how this would play out when you set those boundaries. Things change in life and in relationships. If you think there is something you can do to make the situation with the dog and your relationship with your wife better, you should do it. Just some ideas I have thought of right now reading through that: You can hire a trainer. You can set a schedule for who walks the dog when. You can talk to local rescue groups and see what they think. Yeah, maybe your wife is being annoying here by not sticking with her end of the deal, but you don't have the power to change her behavior - you can only change yours (and, theoretically, the dog's).

So if you were me: I'd start acting to improve things on my own. And accept that action as part of being in an adult relationship, not as something you can later hold over her head as proof of her own irresponsibility.
posted by something something at 9:18 AM on February 7, 2013 [14 favorites]

First, you really need to step back and look at what you're doing here. Neither of your current dogs are to blame for the situation they're in, and yet it sounds like they are the ones suffering from your need to make some sort of point with your wife. I'm sure you realize how unfair that is.

You need to separate the welfare of these dogs from whatever issues you and your wife have between the two of you. It's certainly understandable that you don't want to take on responsibilities that should be hers, but this isn't finishing up painting the kitchen or following through on a job she took on - this is a life. If you can't set aside the issues with your wife in order to view this dog in a positive light, then yes, you need to step up and help rehome her. Work out your 'Monster Who Kicked Out Huntin' Dog' issues afterwards - just get that dog into a home that wants and loves her, so you can go back to giving your beagle the care she deserves.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2013 [11 favorites]

I really don't understand why people don't like walking their dogs. I love walking my dog. It's easily the best part of the day. I get to hang out with my furry best friend, see the world through his eyes (EVERYTHING IS EXCITING AND SMELLS GOOD!), and get some exercise.

So, why don't you try walking the hunting dog? I wouldn't want a dog in your situation, but it sort of sounds like you're stuck for now, so making sure that someone is walking the dog solves the crazy dog and dog pee in the house issue. Even if a dog is housebroken, it will eventually pee inside if it hasn't had a chance to go outside.

Does hunting dog have a crate? If not, does she have free run of the house? She should have a crate, and she should never have free run of the house.

I have permitted this dynamic to affect my interaction with the Beagle, who I love. Every time I leash up the Beagle, my wife starts a fight about why don't I leash up the Huntin' Dog and take her with me too -- I might as well! Well, the Huntin' Dog is a drag (literally) and Not My Responsibility. So I ignore Beagle's needs, to my shame.

Oh my god, stop this. Stop this right now. You're punishing two dogs out of some petty bullshit with your wife. Leash up both fucking dogs and walk 'em. And then try to rehome the hunting dog if she's still an issue.

Would you rather be right or happy?

And also, please remember that these are helpless animals that are in your care. When my large, sometimes pain-in-the-ass dog is being a pain in the ass, I remember that he is completely dependent on me.

The problems between you and your wife are not your dogs' fault.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2013 [54 favorites]

My policy has been, "I didn't ask for Huntin' Dog and even though you've amply demonstrated that you don't want her either, I don't want to be The Monster Who Kicked Out Huntin' Dog."

Change that to "huntin dog isn't getting what huntin dog needs here and since we all love dogs and we all want what's best for huntin dog, I will find huntin dog a home." And then do it. You're not kicking huntin dog out, you're finding huntin dog a fenced yard and exercise. No negotiations; your wife gave up her right to advocate for the dog when she stopped taking care of the dog.

And then no more dogs. No more mother-in-law rescues. No more critters unless everyone is fully on board with the responsibility of caring for said critters.
posted by headnsouth at 9:20 AM on February 7, 2013 [28 favorites]

Yes, everyone involved should be trying everything possible to find a happy home for the dog. This should be Priority Number One. After that's settled, you can work on the communication issues in your household. You may not have asked for Huntin' Dog, but Huntin' Dog didn't ask for what sounds like a terrible situation either.
posted by payoto at 9:21 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Should I offer to help her find a new home for Huntin' Dog?

Yes, of course! This one is simple. Stop making it Time to Take A Stand. You missed that opportunity this time around. Help the dog out and then work things out with your communications problems later.
posted by Miko at 9:28 AM on February 7, 2013 [10 favorites]

Many hunting hounds have "failed" a trial in urban/suburban homes because the family couldn't deal with them. Of course, the dog is being itself, it is that the people are not right for that dog rather than that dog not being right for those people. It sounds like the people who have expressed interest in taking the dog are people who have similar situations to yours (dog lives inside, cats live inside, dog-cat comments). Maybe your wife doesn't want the dog to end up in a similar situation, "failing", with accompanying marital discord and family disharmony.

Hunting hounds do well in the country. They don't mind living in dog houses outside or in the barn where the barn cats will enforce their boundaries. You can take the lead here. Find a rescue or find an individual in the country who can offer this dog a good life.
posted by artdesk at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2013

This is not a problem with your dog: this is a problem with your wife.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:32 AM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I know these are pets and not children, but if they were children, would your position on therapy be the same if, say, your daughter's immediate needs were not being addressed? Also, the message that your daughter may be receiving is that it's okay to neglect the immediate needs of others. Does that change the calculus?

If your wife is playing games with the well being of others, and you through, I don't know, inertia, are too, well, I think all the animals are at risk.

Why don't you find a rescue home? If your wife objects, maybe a sentence with neglect and a call to the ASPCA is in order?

I'm sorry you are caught up in this, but you know that this is a crazy sitch and animals are suffering, yeah? So do what you can to stop the suffering.
posted by angrycat at 9:35 AM on February 7, 2013

When she became insistent, I told her I couldn't force her not to bring it in

Where did you get this idea? This is where you made your mistake. If I need to say "no" to my wife, I say it even if she becomes insistent.

I suspect that what you call your wife's problems in "not respecting boundaries" is really your being a bit of a pushover. She didn't disrespect a boundary when she brought Hunting Dog into the house. You said, "I can't stop you" and she said, "great!"

So, you need to take it upon yourself to get rid of Hunting Dog on your own with no involvement from your wife whatsoever. Adopt the dog away responsibility. Make sure it is fixed and up to date with shots.

However, Hunting Dog is a proxy and symptom of the larger issues you have with your wife. Take charge. So long as you "arrange my life so that I don't have to worry about [my wife's behavioral problems]", you will be back here before long with another question about your wife's latest hijinks. Stop walking on eggshells.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:36 AM on February 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

Your poor daughter. You've put her entirely in the middle, you AND your wife have made your daughter responsible for both of your choices - your wife's choice to rescue a puppy no one else wanted, and your choice not to have your "boundaries violated."

This is an unacceptable way to show love and care for your daughter, it's frightful parenting on every level.

All of the pets are suffering, too. There is animal feces in your house on a regular basis. Your family is miserable.

Sir, this is not about your boundaries. Please drop this particular position, at once.

To your wife, in writing preferably, to give her space to accept your proposal and to help you avoid saying anything harsh that might provoke a fight:

"Wife, I love you and I am tired of our pets coming between us. We have been unfair to Daughter. The animals are housed, but they suffer and are not well cared for. We must solve this issue as a Family. I have made an appointment with a Family Counselor to help us discuss this issue without blame so that we may come to solutions that benefit all of us, including the pets.

I hope you and Daughter will join me at this appointment.

I love you, Husband"

You guys need professional guidance, a counselor to act as a mediator, ASAP.
posted by jbenben at 9:36 AM on February 7, 2013 [51 favorites]

Find a home for the dog, or start taking care of it. Do something, because you are not being good dog owners. And don't get any more dogs.
posted by BibiRose at 9:39 AM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

find the poor dog a new home so everyone can be happier. honestly, you sound like you are being very stubborn about this situation to the detriment of everyone in your household, including both dogs. take initiative in finding a new home for the dog: volunteer to handle some of the communication with prospective new homes, write up a flyer about the dog to post around town, research breed-specific rescues and offer to call them.

in the meantime, if the huntin' dog is a literally drag while on a walk, maybe look into getting a gentle leader for it so you can walk both dogs at once? one of my dogs was the WORST about pulling pulling pulling while on walks, but a gentle leader corrected her walking behavior so well that i can handle both big dogs by myself without any problems.
posted by marshmallow peep at 9:40 AM on February 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

I see no changing any of these things via therapy, either couple or individual. I accept these things about her and don't judge her for them, rather looking to arrange my life so that I don't have to worry about them.

See the problem is that you knew your wife would not take responsibility for the dog and yet you brought it into your house. Your house is filling with crap and your relationship with your daughter is breaking down.

Your responsibility is to get rid of the dog asap, either to a pound or a responsible owner, then set about fixing things.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:41 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I accept these things about her and don't judge her for them

Also, as others are noting maybe your future therapy appointments could focus on you, not your acceptance of your wife, or maybe you could make some solo appointments. It sounds like you really need some better strategies for boundaries and decisionmaking yourself.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please rehome the hunting dog. The dog hasn't done anything wrong - he deserves to be trained, loved, and cared for. It doesn't even really matter whose fault it is that the situation is how it is; it just needs to change immediately. Immediately, like you should resarch and call a rescue right now, and see if they can pick up the dog today.

If you post the dog's breed and your general location, I'm sure someone will be able to help you locate a good rescue org.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:49 AM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Call a breed rescue and see if they can help. Start looking for the dog a home in the mean time. You are going to have to do this without your wife- stop letting her talk to people about it if you know she's being misleading.

And until the poor animal is our of your house, don't take out your frustration about an inability to stand up to your wife with shameful mistreatment of two animals that, like it or not, are BOTH in your care.

I know exactly how annoying it is to have pets you dislike foisted on you - my ex was the male version of a crazy cat lady and I don't care for cats as a pet for myself. But I shoveled litter and took care of them and when they did the horrible things cats do, like pee and claw on every surface they can reach and many I'd've thought they couldn't, I didn't take it out on them. It wasn't their fault. It's not this dog's fault.
posted by winna at 9:51 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seriously, why do you hate the dog? Why are you punishing the dog (and now, by proxy, also the other dog that you chose and wanted and actually like?) The hunting dog did nothing to deserve this situation. The problem you have is not with the dog. The problem you have is with your wife.

You have a living creature in your home and you are choosing not to take proper care of it just to make a point to your wife. This is not the way to make a point to your wife. The way to make a point to your wife is to speak to her. If she took this dog in against your wishes then you have a serious relationship issue, but that issue is not the fault of the dog. Argue with your wife about this. Do not take it out on the dog.

Most of the time it irks me when people equate animals to children, but seriously, I think it's appropriate as a thought exercise here: replace "unwanted dog" in your scenario with "unwanted child" and ask yourself whether neglecting a child you didn't particularly like and didn't want to have staying in your household would be okay.

(The answer is NO.)

If your wife won't take proper care of the dog, then go ahead and walk the dog and housetrain the dog and work on finding the dog a new home and tell your wife that you are very angry with her for taking the dog in and for not taking care of the dog herself. And then do whatever it is you need to do -- marriage counseling, whatever -- to fix your relationship problems, which are not based on the dog.
posted by BlueJae at 9:54 AM on February 7, 2013 [21 favorites]

Well, the Huntin' Dog is a drag (literally) and Not My Responsibility.

Does the Huntin' Dog pull you and fail to heel? I can see how this would be annoying and not fun at all.

I think you should definitely look for a home for the dog. If the wife is not actively looking, why shouldn't you? You'll be a lot happier when it's gone. Who cares how it gets done.

Does your wife walk the dog? When you're both home, maybe you can walk together and wife can be in charge of walking the huntin' dog. Does your wife love this dog? Did your wife take it off your MIL's hands because she liked and wanted the dog, or because she felt a sense of obligation to unburden her mother? I would have a heart to heart with your wife and let her know how much responsibility this dog is and how it is making you unhappy. It's not productive to participate in a tit for tat game or a power struggle.

I think in the future it's perfectly reasonable to put your foot down on an issue like this. A dog is like another kid. You should both be 100% on board before a living thing enters your house.
posted by Fairchild at 9:56 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, you say it's your wife who is pushing off responsibility for the dog onto your daughter, but if you are not caring for the dog at all yourself, you are BOTH pushing responsibility off onto your daughter, which is why your daughter yelled at you and stormed off after you told her to walk the dog.

Does your daughter have to pick up the slack in those other scenarios you've mentioned where your wife abdicates responsibility, too? Are you forcing your daughter to pick up the slack in these situations by "taking a stand" and refusing to do the work yourself after your wife won't do it? This sounds like a very unhealthy dynamic for your kid to have to deal with.

Please, rethink your behavior and try to put the innocent people and animals in this situation first.
posted by BlueJae at 10:03 AM on February 7, 2013 [23 favorites]

You need to house train the dog. You do not want to take responsibility for the dog (and I don't blame you) but you have ended up being responsible for cleaning up its waste. Housetraining it sounds like responsibility (and it is) but by doing so you relieve yourself of regular horrible surprises and foul jobs. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face by not housetraining - separate this issue from the rest of this.
posted by biffa at 10:04 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

If nothing else, you've taken on responsibility for its crap and its pee inside the house. If it were me, I'd at least put the effort in to house train the poor thing. Look at this way, the dog will be a lot easier to place if you can honestly say that it's housebroken.
posted by bananafish at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dismissing a lot of (unfortunate) things as sunk costs, I can only see two options: 1- re-home the dog, and deal with whatever hit to your relationship with your wife that will entail, and 2- Give in, take responsibility for the dog, and spend the time to properly train and exercise him.

Neither option is great, and which is best depends on the expected size of the hit to the relationship. My best guess is that I would choose #2 in your situation. You're clearly a dog person, even if this fellow is unwelcome, which means that you are capable of properly training and exercising him, and yes, learning to like each other, it will help your other dogs relative to the status quo, and it's a good example for your daughter, on several levels.

The status quo seems like a very distant third place. Sorry about what's clearly a difficult and unfortunate situation.
posted by deadweightloss at 10:23 AM on February 7, 2013

It sounds like the issue is not taking the dog in but your wife's habit of foisting her responsibilities off on you. She's doing this because she's lazy, and because you let her get away with it. Letting her take the dog in and seething quietly while abdicating all responsibility for care of the dog (including the parenting role involved in letting her recruit your daughter) is, in fact, taking on the weak role and letting her get away with it. "FINE, it's YOUR dog, it's YOUR fault it's suffering" is passive-aggressive and clearly not getting through to her. Your wife clearly does not respond to passive-aggression or discussion. You are not going to talk her into being more responsible. You need to act.

As the other adult in this situation, you are the only one who will enforce the rules that enable your family and the dog to have a better quality of life. Yes, it sucks to have to take on the bad guy role in order to fix a mess your wife started, but you're at the point where you're turning into the bad guy anyway.

Put your foot down and send the dog to a rescue. Your wife brought the dog in and has demonstrated that she can't care for it. She messed up. Call her out on it, with actions backing up your words. Call rescues and actively search for a home for the dog. There will be a lot of unpleasantness in the interim, but I think it will be healthy for your relationship in the future if you show that you're going to make her accountable for her responsibilities.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:26 AM on February 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

Everyone who is blithely saying, "Send the dog to a rescue!" may not realize that rescues are not able to take all dogs, and not immediately. The most they would be able to do would enlist the OP's family as a foster, put up a courtesy listing, and help send some potential adopters their way.

No-kill shelters and rescue groups are bandied about on AskMe as if they are easy options, but trust me, re-homing a dog is hard. Doesn't mean you shouldn't try, but it's not that easy.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:33 AM on February 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

Stop dragging your daughter into your mess.

Stop asking her to walk the dog that you don't want to walk. At least you got asked if you wanted the dog. You caved and said yes, when you meant no. She didn't even get the chance. Take some responsibility for that by taking on the responsibility of finding the dog a new home. jbenben's language is great.

The way you 'arrange your life' to work around your boundaries is some solo therapy to get continual support around the language and strategies you need to withstand being 'worn down' or 'outtalked' into doing things you don't want to do, and aren't your responsibility. Because the strategies you used here: Saying no, letting your wife ignore your no rather than standing your ground, not understanding how your decision to 'make her responsible' would affect that dog, your beagle, and your daughter, and now getting your self so trapped that you're already doing things you don't want to do, and talking yourself out of doing the things that actually could help you (finding a new home for the dog) based on the principles that she will undermine you and about will have failed to set a precident.... all suggest you have not yet mastered the strategies yet.

They could include anything from...

...saying no, and repeating that initial no when she kept asking.

OR using the 'here's my best offer' approach, by saying no, but offering to help your mom in law and your wife rehome the dog.

OR using 'a probation yes', by 'seeing how it goes' and reviewing together after month, negotiating that either of you had veto power.

OR using a 'polling the people' approach by actually asking your daughter if she wanted a new dog, or seeing how the new dog interacted with your current pets.

OR a 'standing your ground on ALL points and holding people consistently accountable' approach: choosing not to clean up the dog poo and actually requiring your wife to do it, and calling her on it every single time.

AND avoiding a 'sharing the pain' approach, but not making your daughter an accomplice by asking her to do that which you didn't want to do and dragging her into it.

OR repeating to your wife every time she asked you to take out the dog when you were taking out the beagle that is isn't the 'ease' of a thing that matters, it's the responsibility, and leaving without the dog, or asking her to come along with you and walking the dogs together

AND/OR the 'ending the standoff' approach by dealing with whatever feelings you have about 'being the bad guy' and rehoming the dog, because it really, really is okay for you to not want this dog under these circumstances.

It's not clear from your question, but you seem to have stepped into every puddle, by trying to 'arrange your life around' this rather than accept that it might help to 'figure out how to handle straight on' your wife's problem. You without realizing it, got outmaneuvered and sucked into the weakest position. One where absolutely no one is happy.

And your goal about handling this issue with your wife in a way where you 'don't have to worry about it' sounds a little like 'I want to avoid the arguments and conflicts' would be your preferred go-to strategy about how to maintain harmony (well, I can't stop you from bring the dog in the house, and I don't want to be the bad guy, etc.). But all of those strategies I mentioned would have meant you addressing the issue head on rather than trying to 'work around the conflict'. Stop wondering about 'caving' on the dog because of what it will mean precedent-wise. You already set that precedent when you let the dog in your house. Or more to the point, you're not being the bad guy if you rehome the dog, but you can't stop your wife from deciding the call you the bad guy, because that's part of her MO. Maybe you could talk about why you're thinking, or she's thinking, or she's got you thinking that maintaining your boundaries makes you some sort of bad guy? Because as soon as you accept the premises and definitions of the person you are negotiating with (You're the bad guy for getting rid of the nice dog RATHER than You're the responsible one for putting the dog in a home that is best for everyone involved), you are often on the road to acquiescing to something you probably don't want.

The other way this would have worked is having a go to phrase that you probably would be using for months every time your wife complained that the dog wasn't in your home, like "I can see that you're upset, but rehoming the dog was the best solution and I was happy to help you do that. Perhaps you can reflect on why you're still struggling with this since the dog is happy?", and repeat as necessary.

Bonus is that it might help your daughter as well. I can only imagine how hard it must be for a girl to live in a situation where her mom keeps blowing through the boundaries of everyone around her, but add to that a dad who doesn't know how to maintain his boundaries and then drags her into it by asking her to take on that responsibility in some way? That's hard.
posted by anitanita at 10:39 AM on February 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

My dad used to do this thing where there were shared responsibilities in the household and we all had things to do, but a lot of his job appeared to be overseeing the things everyone else would do. This meant that he was the ultimate arbiter of all things in some ways. He could have used this to be helpful "Oh hey, you missed a spot" but instead he seemed to want to use this to teach people lessons about how he was better at things that they were and that's why he got to be in charge. I sort of gained perspective on this process when we were on a family vacation and doing laundry while having dinner. There was some clank-clank-clanking from the laundry and we were all like "huh, I wonder what that is?" while my dad stayed silent and gave us knowing looks. After a while he said "I know what it is." and made us play a guessing game with him. Long story short(er) it turned out that he'd left his watch in the pocket of some pair of pants and was just listening to it make noises and getting angrier and angrier that his girlfriend hadn't cleaned it out before she did the laundry and ultimately wanted to be righteous more than he wanted a functioning watch. It was a terrible toxic situation and being a kid stuck in that situation sucked. That is my baggage. Here are my suggestions.

So. You have a few problems. The elephant in the room is that you and your wife have a problematic relationship and some unresolved issues. This is manifesting itself right now in this dog which you have. Problem number one is getting to dog to a place where it is being well taken care of. That appears to not be your home, but that is up to you as the person who is aware of the problem. You can help housetrain the dog. You can hire a dog walker. You can hire a housecleaner. Please handle this. This has very little to do with your wife except that she appears to not be helping you. So, on to step two.

Problem number two is the situation between you and your wife (with your daughter tucked in there) where there is some sort of power struggle and you seem to have a situation where your wife does what she wants, you grouse about it, and there is a sort of non-stop low level argument about all situations as seen through the view of any specific situation. If you'd like this to stop you should consider therapy (or some change of scenery/lifestyle) option for yourself and probably couples therapy for you and your wife, although this is if you want to work things out. You probably need to seriously consider whether you want ot work things out. You don't sound like you want to in this post.

Problem number three is working things out with your daughter and moving forward with some acceptable roles and responsibilities for pets in your household. You are taking out your dissatisfaction about this situation (which, I am right there with you, sounds unpleasant) on your daughter and on your dog.

Ignoring everyone else, the things you can at least deal with are

- the dogs' presence in your house and whether they are well taken care of
- your own responses and reactions to people
- the way you manage making plans moving forward from now and what you will and will not accept

So I don't know about you, but in my mind living in a house with a dog that craps everywhere is a Dealbreaker. Meaning something dramatically would need to change or I would move out. Do you have dealbreakers? Or is the deal that everyone just sort of suffers in angry silence and assumes that's the best it gets. It can get better, for you, the dogs, your wife and your daughter, but someone's got to start the process.
posted by jessamyn at 10:41 AM on February 7, 2013 [38 favorites]

It is not Huntin' dogs fault. You can't seem to force your wife to do what she should to keep the dog well cared for and she seems to be dragging her heels in finding a new home. It's time for you to take the only option avalable to you (other than leave your wife and take your beagle).

Take responsiblitly for finding a new home for Huntin' Dog and make sure he is taken care of until you do.

you can't just let the poor thing rot because your wife is being irresponsible. What exactly are you two teaching your child about caring for the helpless? "hey, it's not MY problem."
posted by Blisterlips at 10:41 AM on February 7, 2013

Taking a dog you don't really want, on the condition that someone else in the household will care for it, is always lose-lose. I speak from experience. That ship has sailed, however.

Tell your wife that you will take full responsibility for re-homing the dog, and get it out of your house.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:43 AM on February 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mod note: find constructive ways to answer the question, or feel free to not answer if you can not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2013

Please thank your daughter for the compassion she has shown Huntin' Dog, and acknowledge that she's a good person for having done what she's done so far in spite of not being consulted prior. Sometimes, creatures who need love and attention just happen into our lives, through no fault of their own, and we have to decide how much we can afford to give them. Maybe it's not much, but we give what we can, changing their fate from one of sadness, suffering, and neglect to a slightly happier one.

We can't all do everything, and even your daughter doesn't have infinite time and patience, but what she has done has helped not only the dog, but also you and your wife.

Of course you all three feel guilty, and that's hard for everyone, but the bits of help that come from each of you make a difficult situation better.
posted by amtho at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Consider whether you really want to make this dog your hill to die on.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:27 AM on February 7, 2013

Your wife's ostentatious "truthfulness" sounds like it is a BS cover story for her actually wanting to keep the animal. Nevertheless, it is a BS cover story you can turn to your advantage. Imagine the joyful surprise your wife will have to fake when she comes home from getting a haircut and discovers the dog missing, because you have secretly been making phone calls for months to find it a new home, and finally dropped it off while she was away - "because you know how hard she's been working to find the dog a new home, and you wanted to take that burden off her hands." After all, it's easy for your wife to use her "truthfulness" to sabotage the adoption process midway, but once the dog is already gone, it's a fait accompli.

This will eliminate the problem of the dog and position you as a caring husband, while teaching your wife to be more honest about her agenda. And hopefully you will learn from this experience and set stronger boundaries going forward. The way you passively allowed your wife to trample over your wishes when first adopting this animal is... problematic, to say the least.

Also, I think you owe your daughter an apology. This should never have been her burden to carry.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:45 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
many thanks to all who responded, please mark the question answered...I can now see my way clear to find a new home for Huntin' Dog without worrying that I'm doing the Worst Possible Thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:50 AM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm rather shocked that a grown man would act so childishly. I'm also shocked that your wife would disregard your wishes so thoroughly. You have a seriously dysfunctional relationship and your animals and your child is suffering.

1. Get counseling for yourself. A counselor can give you strategies for dealing effectively with your wife.

2. Ask your wife point-blank, "Do you want to keep huntin' dog, or do you earnestly want to place her in a home where she'll be loved and taken care of? The reason I'm asking is because you don't seem to be taking any responsibility for the dog's care, nor are you making any real effort to re-home her. This is cruel to the dog and it's really unfair for me and our daughter. Your decisions don't just affect you, they affect the family. What are we going to do about the dog?" Then, no matter how much it pisses you off, listen to what she says, without judging or commenting or sighing. Just listen.

3. Apologize to your daughter. "I'm apologizing for my childish behavior. It wasn't fair for us to put you in the middle or to make the care of Huntin' Dog your responsibility. I'm sorry."

4. Train Huntin' Dog. No matter what, the longer the dog goes untrained, the harder it will be to train her in the future and the harder it will be to find her a home. Also, it will get easier on you. Force your wife to come with you to dog training. Ask your daughter if she would be interested in coming too.

5. Find out specifically what Huntin' Dog needs. If your home is no appropriate for Huntin' Dog, then find her one that IS. Your wife shouldn't be so childish to insist upon having a dog that will be made miserable by its surroundings.

You certainly didn't ask for any of this, and you have a right to be resentful and unhappy about it, but neither did the dog, and it can't help itself.

PLEASE for the love of all that is holy and for the sake of the animals, DEAL with this appropriately.

Clearly your wife isn't learning a lesson here and stubbornly digging in your heels is helping NOTHING.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:03 PM on February 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

So first of all, I really understand where you're coming from on this. I don't like dogs at all, and I can't imagine how miserable I'd be if I was responsible for the care and feeding of a dog that I did not like and did not want in the first place. Absolutely your first step should be finding a new home for the dog.

But I'd like to offer another, more general piece of advice. When you find something in your environment that is not the way you'd like it to be, you will make yourself crazy if you get hung up on whose job it is to fix the problem. In the long run, you will be so, so much happier if you just do things that need to be done, and don't worry about who is supposed to be doing those things. This is so much easier to say than it is to do, but it's really worth trying.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Apologize to your daughter, whatever else you decide. Poor kid. She wasn't the one who tacitly permitted the dog into the house. Not saying this to be mean, but: if dealing with this dog is so unpleasant that you avoid it at the cost of disserving your beagle that you love, why are you letting your wife force your kid to deal with it? Your wife is a little bonkers when it comes to dogs, apparently; and you have a responsibility to your kid to stand up for her.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:02 PM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

My wife asserts that she is looking for another home for Huntin' Dog. I haven't seen any evidence at all of her efforts...and when she is asked about Huntin' Dog by potential rescuers...

So you do it. Hell, you can even do it when she's not around. It will cause a fight, but that one day of arguing will totally make up for the countless days of freedom from the dog everybody hates.

That poor dog :(
posted by Circumstands at 5:47 PM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree with finding the dog another home yourself or through a breed rescue. Try to avoid the pound if possible. In the meantime, definitely look into a Gentle Leader or, if Huntin' Dog won't tolerate it on his face, a Sporn no-pull harness. If you haven't tried one of these, you won't believe how much easier they make walking the dogs.
posted by walla at 9:06 PM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Your wife's ostentatious "truthfulness" sounds like it is a BS cover story for her actually wanting to keep the animal. Nevertheless, it is a BS cover story you can turn to your advantage. Imagine the joyful surprise your wife will have to fake when she comes home from getting a haircut and discovers the dog missing, because you have secretly been making phone calls for months to find it a new home, and finally dropped it off while she was away - "because you know how hard she's been working to find the dog a new home, and you wanted to take that burden off her hands." After all, it's easy for your wife to use her "truthfulness" to sabotage the adoption process midway, but once the dog is already gone, it's a fait accompli.

This will eliminate the problem of the dog and position you as a caring husband, while teaching your wife to be more honest about her agenda.

Jesus, what a passive-aggressive and twisted strategy for an already passive-aggressive and twisted situation. OP, take this route if you have no interest in improving your relationship with your wife and prefer to approach all situations as an opportunity to gain points on each other.

Certainly take the lead on finding rescues and foster situations for this dog. But be honest about what you're doing. You cannot fight passive-aggressiveness with more passive-aggressiveness.

And please, for the love of God, walk and train it in the meantime for your own sanity (and your daughter's). it takes time and work to find a rescue situation and you need to live in your own home. It is not about "winning". It is about finding the best situation for all of you, and a miserable untrained dog that shits and pees in the house and an unhappy, resentful child are not the answers. As others have said, your current behavior punishes them, and they've done nothing to you.
posted by Anonymous at 10:13 PM on February 7, 2013

A well-trained dog is MUCH easier to find a new home for.

Op, can we maybe get an update?
posted by jbenben at 9:29 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Since the day of this thread I have done the following:

1. Posted at a rescue site (the site gives my name and phone number and email in plain text -- I hate that but I decided to put up with that),
2. Started taking part in the day-to-day care of all the dogs,
3. Apologized to my daughter for dragging her into this situation, and modulated my expectations of her with regard to their care, and
4. Started dialogue with my wife & daughter about what will actually happen with regard to our continued ownership of this dog.

I think we all feel a lot better. Thanks to all who replied, including those who took the time to reply only to find themselves moderated. I read most of those too and found nuggets of truth there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:17 AM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

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