Breaking up; who should get the dog?
August 2, 2013 1:25 PM   Subscribe

My relationship has ended quite dramatically and permanently. We need a completely clean break, which is mostly doable. One problem: we have a dog. What should I do?

To make a long story as short as possible, my ex-girlfriend with untreated borderline personality disorder tried to kill herself in our shared apartment after we broke up. She is currently in the hospital on a two-week stay, which thankfully she agrees she needs. I know that for my part, with past experience of BPD and alcoholism, and my condition of well-treated depression, I need to step away completely.

We got our dog as a rescue about two months ago. She wanted one as a therapy dog, so to speak, but also because she is a massive dog person. I was fairly indifferent, mostly just worried about cost, but when she found a dog that needed to be taken in or else go to a kill shelter, I agreed that we could take him.

I knew I'd like him. I did not expect to love him so completely. Yossarian is the best, and we get along incredibly well, to the point where my ex was getting jealous about how he was taking to me instead of her (not actually true, but illustrates the point).

Now her parents, who live an hour away, are taking her in, and her dad is orchestrating a clean break for both of us while she is in the hospital. He believes that Yossi should go with my ex, because of the therapy animal thing, and because getting the dog was her idea, and because she would be devastated to lose him. I want only the best for her and for her to get healthy, so I agree with some of those points. On the other hand, I have paid for everything, I have taken care of him, I wake up to him licking my hand and grinning at me, and I love him to pieces. I know her dad wants what is best for his family and I respect that, but I also know that means that my feelings don't and can't matter to him at all, so the only person in this situation who is looking out for me is me.

If I keep Yossarian, I couldn't deny my ex visits, so the break wouldn't be as complete or as clean as I think I need it to be, for my own health, and I would feel like I was sabotaging her recovery. If I give him up, I know I will probably never see him again, and this is about where I start sobbing uncontrollably. I know I could survive losing him, I'm not sure my ex could, so is it the right thing to do to be "unselfish" and let her have him? Or is that just feeding into her disorder and "rewarding" her behavior? Am I not taking care of myself and my needs if I let her and her parents pressure me into losing my little guy? Am I an asshole if I don't hand him over? I really don't know what to do. Please help.

(I know this thread is useless without pics.)
posted by Errant to Pets & Animals (101 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, god. That's awful. I'm really sorry you're going through that.

I don't feel qualified to tell you what you should do, but I do think that if you DO keep the dog, you should consider making it a clean, visit-free break anyway. It's not her dog of two years, it's your [shared] dog of two months, and both she and the dog will be okay not continuing a, uh, dog-person relationship together, if that's what you decide to do.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:30 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Your ex is currently hospitalized after a suicide attempt? Let her keep the dog. Sounds like she will need the unconditional love.
posted by natasha_k at 1:31 PM on August 2, 2013 [49 favorites]

Best answer: I think you should let him be with her, provided you feel she is capable of caring for him adequately. Take some cute pictures of yourself and Yossi together, and enjoy the memory of the last two months.
posted by Pomo at 1:32 PM on August 2, 2013

It's sad to let a dog go, but she's more emotionally wrapped up in him right now, it seems, and it's been two months. Treat it like a difficult-to-let-go foster care situation, and let her have the dog.
posted by xingcat at 1:32 PM on August 2, 2013

Tough situation for so many reasons. If I were in your shoes (and my husband and I nearly were - it was certainly something we talked about), I'd let her have the dog and ask her dad if he wouldn't mind providing the adoption fee for a new dog for you. I wouldn't push it if he said no. It won't feel "fair" but it sounds like you're more equipped to handle the heartbreak. A new rescue won't be the same, but it'll distract you from the pain a bit and will allow everyone a clean break.
posted by adorap0621 at 1:33 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

When I broke up with my long term boyfriend of ten years, he was devastated. I loved our shared dog very much, but I felt like for him, losing his dog on top of the loss of his long term relationship when he did not want to break up seemed like it would just be a lot of extra pain to bear. I know you love the dog very much and that this break up will be difficult and painful for you, but she is going through an awful lot right now, and with her family there to help make sure the dog is cared for, I think the right thing to do is to let her keep it. Clean break for you.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:33 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

He looks like such a sweetie, but if he will be taken care of properly, I would let her have him. I know it is hard for you, but I think it would be the kindest thing to do.
posted by 2X2LcallingCQ at 1:34 PM on August 2, 2013

Best answer: but I also know that means that my feelings don't and can't matter to him at all, so the only person in this situation who is looking out for me is me.

I don't think this conclusion follows from what comes before it. I think it means that a dog is one of those things that can't be equally divided -- someone gets it (making them happy) and someone doesn't (making them sad) -- and that her father, under these particularly difficult circumstances, feels that you are more capable of dealing with the inevitable sadness of not getting it. Deciding that "my feelings don't matter to him at all" is a narrative that you are injecting into the situation.

That's not to say that I don't sympathize with you -- losing a beloved animal is hard, no matter what -- but rather that I think you need to find a way to reframe this so that you don't feel you're being victimized in some way here.

Sorry about the breakup and the dog (for the record, I think letting her have it would be the most compassionate thing to do).
posted by scody at 1:34 PM on August 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

I say this gently as a dog lover to someone who has gone through a tough time lately... there are many dogs out there who need homes. Ones who will be just as charming as Yossarian. If it was her idea to get a dog for therapy reasons and you are sure that she will be able to take care of him, then I would let him go and then drive straight to your local shelter.
posted by marshmallow peep at 1:34 PM on August 2, 2013 [28 favorites]

Best answer: I would put the dog's needs first. Can she take care of him?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:35 PM on August 2, 2013 [31 favorites]

Even though neither answer is good, and this is SOLELY my gut instinct and only for consideration, I think you should let her have him. I know very well how much love we have for animals, and how hard it is to give them up, but there's another rescue dog out there who needs to be taken in, and you will bond with that one as quickly as you did with beautiful loving Yossarian.

If she were to be living on her own, I would worry about him, but her dad is obviously very hands on and you can make him promise to let you know if Yossarian is suffering in any way because of your ex's problems.

But because you are the stronger person, and because you really will be better off not having any contact with your ex, I think you would do well to let him go. I lost my animals in my divorce, and I missed them like hell, but it was necessary.

Go play with doggies in a shelter and don't try to replace him exactly, but find another, different dog who will love you with that amazing unconditional love they have for you.
posted by janey47 at 1:35 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shit, I'm so sorry. I know a little how shitty it is to break up when beloved pets are involved, but at least the last time I had to go through it, there were no severe mental health issues happening and the breakup was awful but not acrimonious, so some cat visiting was possible.

IANAmentalhealthprofessional, but in an acute crisis like this, the whole "rewarding bad behavior" thing really doesn't come into it, because she's probably so not in control of her feelings and actions that she can't view it that way.

I think I have to go with she gets the dog. I'm sorry; I know this is awful.

And I think that you should get your own dog. Not right away, because giving yourself time to mourn is good, but having a relationship with a dog is clearly beneficial to you, too, and you deserve that. You don't have to "replace" your dog with another one, but you can give a loving home to a dog in need, and receive that kind of loving doggy goodness in return.

I wish we lived closer, but since we don't, I send you internet hugs. Memail me whenever if you want.
posted by rtha at 1:35 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is so sad, and I'm so sorry you have to make this choice.

Part of me says: she can't take care of herself, she can't take care of her dog.
Another part of me says; natasha_k is right, she needs the unconditional love.

I think you should part with Yossarian. I know how fast I fell in love with my puppy, and this is heartbreaking. But I think you should give him up and let your ex keep him. Take photos of the two of you together (you and the dog) and send him on his way. Yossarian will be fine. You will be ok.

I also happen to think you should go out and get a new dog immediately. All dogs are wonderful because they are dogs, and you need a new best little buddy to start helping mend that hole in your heart. Maybe you could name him Milo. You can tell him all about Yossarian and what a great little guy he is, and Milo will listen and love you all the more for it because he's a dog and that's his job.

This is so hard. I'm so sorry. But ultimately I think letting your ex keep Yossarian is the best, way to do it, and will cause the least amount of net hurt.
posted by phunniemee at 1:37 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I should weigh back in and say that my uncertainty about telling you to keep or give up the dog has everything to do with whether she'd be able to care for him right now. IF you think that's not an issue, I agree with the majority on giving him up.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:37 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I say this gently as a dog lover to someone who has gone through a tough time lately... there are many dogs out there who need homes.

I agree with this, too. When we had to put our dog to sleep a couple of weeks ago, one thing that got me over the initial hump of making the (agonizing) decision was the thought that saying goodbye to Duncan meant that we would now be able to say hello to a new dog (or two) who needs us just as much as he did.

There won't ever be another Yossi, but there will be another Dog. And it's okay to let yourself grieve as long as you need to till you're ready to find him/her.
posted by scody at 1:38 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you think she can and will take good care of him (or her parents will), then I would also say she should get the dog, since she is likely to be able to handle the emotional devastation nearly as well as you can.

If you find that leaving the dog with her leaves a hole in your heart, you can and should adopt another one.
posted by ethidda at 1:42 PM on August 2, 2013

I think Yossi should go with her, as long as you have her father's guarantee that he will personally be responsible for the dog's safety and well-being, and that if the dog ever has to be re-homed he will communicate with you first and work with you during that process (whether you are able to take the dog or another home has to be found).
posted by Lyn Never at 1:43 PM on August 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You know, your feelings do matter, to you (and to us here). And despite your deep love for such an adorable dog, what I also read about was a kind, compassionate person, who in the struggles of a very difficult breakup, has the wisdom to understand what the dog means to someone who is exiting his life. Because of this, I believe you will choose the hard thing, which the right thing often is, and while you will miss him, you will not regret making maybe one of the kindest decisions of your life. This is what I meant about feelings.

I'm so sorry. It's very hard for you right now.
posted by b33j at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2013 [15 favorites]

I don't think you're doing this and I'm not saying that you are, but I'm worried that you might be tempted to go in this direction so I just wanted to alert you:

Or is that just feeding into her disorder and "rewarding" her behavior?

I think it's very common for people to be be unusually harsh and cruel with the mentally ill, the poor, and people addicted to drugs - way harsher and crueler than they would be to "normal" people under the exact same circumstances - and use this as a justification. People can justify all kinds of harsh decisions, all kinds of withholding of compassion, by telling themselves that kindness towards the person is actually "rewarding" or "enabling" them. This is especially true when the person WANTS to make this harsh decision but would have a hard time justifying it to themselves under normal circumstances.

It's a very, very common thing to do. Please don't give yourself the luxury.
posted by cairdeas at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2013 [16 favorites]

Who's name is on the adoption papers?

If it is yours, alone, tell her dad that you've paid for everything, you have the receipts and the documentation, and the dog is yours. Tell him visitation will NOT be possible, and remind him there are TONS of other rescues out there. She'll bond with a new rescue, no worries.

If her name is on the adoption paperwork you must give her the dog.

I was prepared to tell you to give her the dog until I read the story. Her dad is the asshole here. Sorry you're dealing with this.

Seriously, she'll bond with a new dog that's just hers. If the paperwork is in your name, don't feel guilty.

Stick to no contact after this is decided. No waffling, no matter what!!
posted by jbenben at 1:45 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

Also, she's mentally ill. She has an illness. It's a little bizarre to speak of "rewarding" the behavior that she exhibits as a result of her illness, any more than you would speak of "rewarding" the behavior a person exhibits as a result of any other illness. I mean she didn't say, hey, I'll be mentally ill today because I see all the rewards I get from it! And she would not cease to be mentally ill if she ceased to get "rewards."

I am saying this because you mentioned it as a possible factor in what to do with the dog, it is my way of trying to say it's probably not a good factor to use.
posted by cairdeas at 1:47 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

She had to convince you to get the dog, she's deeply depressed, and you want to keep the dog on the grounds that giving him to her would be "rewarding" the "bad behavior" of suffering a mental illness?

posted by pineappleheart at 1:48 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Dogs are not objects. He has an established, stable relationship with you. If you can take care of him and want to take care of him, keep him and give him a good life. People have a lot of resources that dogs don't; I am inclined to discount anyone's feelings or attachments here and say that the dog should be where he will receive the best quality of life.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:53 PM on August 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think that there would be no harm in her having to be the one to find another dog that needs love and care - as part of her new life/new start; there is a way that it can be viewed as a positive for her. If not, and you do give Yossarian up, I agree with Lyn Never; ask that if he ever needs a new home that they'll contact you first. There's no guarantee they will, but then they just might, too.
posted by lemniskate at 1:53 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

just a small plea to folks to be kind and be careful here traveling down the 'mental illness' path digression - please

Well, you have three options as I see. Give it up, keep it or give it back to the shelter. It is going to be a rough go no matter what. I think, perhaps, the right answer is to let her have the dog. I also think it is fair to ask for some compensation for expenses paid to upkeep the dog, but not to make that a deal breaker.
The whole thing is likely to make you even angrier/upset then you already are. I'm am sorry.
and as others said, go get your own dog to have and to hold.

be well
posted by edgeways at 1:54 PM on August 2, 2013

Her dad is the asshole here.

Seriously? Her dad is an asshole because he's looking out for his child's interests? His child who just recently tried to commit suicide and is now hospitalized? Jbenben, respectfully, I think you're way off base here. That's not my read at all.

Let her have the dog. Since you brought up money, you can ask her father to reimburse you for some of the costs you've incurred through owning the dog if it's that important to you. Getting the dog was her idea; from what you've read she didn't go against your wishes and she didn't force you to pay for him.
posted by pecanpies at 1:54 PM on August 2, 2013 [21 favorites]

It will be heartbreaking to give her the dog, but that's what you should do. Happily, starting up a "rebound relationship" with another dog ends much better than doing so with another human being. (Of course, give yourself a week or so to be sad. And don't feel bad or embarrassed about grieving, every pet owner knows the feeling, it's totally normal and ok.)
posted by chowflap at 1:55 PM on August 2, 2013

Best answer: I think you can bear the extra pain of losing the dog as well as the relationship better than she can right now. Tell her dad that you'll give up the dog on one condition - that he will personally give you his word to make sure that no matter what, he will make sure the dog is well taken care of. And if for any reason she can no longer care for Yossi, that her dad will contact you so that you can have the chance to take him back if you're able to do so.
posted by hazyjane at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have twice now let pets go with my exes. Both times when I knew, at least, that they were going to be adequately cared for and so on. I have regretted it neither time. Not that I don't still miss the cats from time to time, but I know it was the best decision to make in both cases, and I wouldn't have the awesome cats I have now, so how can I regret that?
posted by Sequence at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Although I sympathize with you, I think that if you two got Yossarian because your ex wanted a therapy dog, he belongs with her.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:57 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify a few things:

Yes, I believe her parents at least will take good care of him, and I do think ultimately she could too.

There aren't adoption papers; there was a couple who needed to give their dogs a home ASAP, and so we took one.

I don't really care about the money.

I put "selfish" and "rewarding" in quotes because those are terms her mental heath professionals have used in broad terms (not about this situation) with regard to responding to her behavior. I do not stigmatize her at all; I have had depression for many years and I understand how hellish mental illness is. I'm probably feeling a little sorry for myself, but I know I'm not being victimized, and I did not mean to insinuate that I am thinking of this like a scenario where I am responsible for "punishing" her behavior. I do not think it would be "rewarding" her, but I'm on kind of shaky ground here with regards to terms or specifics, so that's why that part was a question.

tl;dr: if her care provider hadn't suggested "rewarding" as a possible counterproductive response, I wouldn't have said anything like that or thought of things in those terms. I apologize to anyone who felt that I was diminishing their or their loved one's condition.
posted by Errant at 1:58 PM on August 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

OP, you and your ex could both survive losing this dog. The question is who has to survive it now rather than later.

I agree with jbenben. You have made all the financial investment in the dog. I also agree that the dog's best interests should be born in mind. You strike me as the person who is better equipped to care for this dog.

I see talk about a therapy dog but you don't describe that Yossarian is a trained therapy dog but one that you rescued from destruction. Surely another dog can be rescued and up to the therapy tasks. You have not described that Yossarian has any unique therapy skills regarding your ex.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:00 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

Guys, can we please stop beating OP up about using the word "reward" here? It was a poor choice of words, but all we have of the story here is what has happened post-breakup. We have no idea how tumultuous this relationship was prior to their split, and in what capacity the ex's mental illness affected the OP's daily life.

Dude is confronting having to give up a dog. Let's please be a little more generous here.
posted by phunniemee at 2:01 PM on August 2, 2013 [16 favorites]

Let me just add one more thing....

Recently, a friend/former friend had a breakdown and was hospitalized. She has two dogs, and their care was clearly overwhelming for her before, during, and after the breakdown. It was hard to watch because owner and pets were suffering.

If this was not a NEW rescue of only 2 months, I'd say give her the dog if she was able to care for it. A 2 week hospitalization is pretty serious, much much much more serious than her 8 week old relationship with this dog.

She's not thinking clearly, her dad's not thinking clearly. The last thing on earth they need right now is the responsibility this rescue dog entails.

If her name is on the adoption papers you'll have to give the dog to her - just want to state that again.

I've just watched it first-hand, and no, pet ownership is not automatically best for someone grappling with mental health issues.
posted by jbenben at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

Best answer: So, many years ago I went through an awful break up with my first husband, and I had a serious depressive episode that was exacerbated by a prescription for the wrong anti-depressant. My serious depressive episode turned into the loony episode. (... I guess something like serotonin syndrome without the seizures and death ...) My ex and I had been living separately for a long time at that point and he had everything from our marriage, all our worldly goods and our beloved cat. He, up until that month, seemed perfectly content with keeping everything. Word got to him about exactly how bad I was doing, and I don't know if a mutual lawyer friend or what got a peek at the draft divorce order and gave him a nudge toward doing the right thing ... but he sent me an email saying that we needed to finalize the divorce for real, and that he wanted me to have the cat. He LOVED the cat. Cat is presently snuggling on my lap. It was really great to have to my cat with me as I got better and moved on with my life. I heard through the grapevine that he got another cat, I don't know for absolute certain but I am sure that he loves that cat, too.

Let her have the dog. She needs the dog love more than you do now. It is one of the kindest and most generous things you could do for her, without endangering your own well-being.
posted by stowaway at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I had two cats (whom I felt it would be awful to separate) when I divorced my ex. I loved them both to bits. So did my ex. We flipped a coin to see who would get them, and I won. He cried, and I thought about it and I honestly thought he had somewhat better circumstances for them, so I let him have them. I had another kitty of my own inside of three months in my new place. I missed my babies, but I loved my new girl. This will happen to you as well if you give Yossi up.

Look in your heart and think about how much you love Yossi. What living situation is best for Yossi? If it is with you, keep Yossi; if it is with her, give Yossi up and find a new friend. If it's 50-50, consider being kind and giving Yossi to your ex. No matter what you choose, best of luck with making this heartbreaking decision.
posted by immlass at 2:10 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

From your description of your circumstances, my gut instinct is that the dog has been a source of consistent, stable love for your ex. She probably needs all the consistent love she can get for the foreseeable future.

If her dad promises to make sure the dog is taken care of--or will call you to take him if for some reason they can't--then I would let him go. It would hurt, but if doggy is in a good home with a familiar face that loves him, and can help her in return, it's a good thing in the end.

Please consider giving another dog a home. My dogs didn't replace my Lily in my heart when she died, but they love me, and they're overjoyed to be in a home instead of a shelter.

Again, I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:10 PM on August 2, 2013

I think what this boils down to is: Can she take care of Yossi? Can her father?

Talk with her dad and try to gauge how much he understands about caring for a dog. Caring for his daughter is going to be no small task. Can he or the other people involved also care for Yossi?

If you think the answer is yes, and you do not worry for Yossi's welfare - I say do the kind, hard thing as b33j so eloquently put it.

I'm thinking about my mentally ill ex. If we had had a dog, I would have left her with him when I left - unless I thought he was going to abuse the dog the way he abused me (but he had a way of being incredibly soft with creatures that were not me, and as awful as he was I don't believe he'd ever hurt an animal). My ex will probably never experience the true wonderful weight of a healthy adult relationship, and I pity him and his sorrow. I think he may have never recovered if I had taken a beloved pet with me when I left. I understand your situation is incredibly different, but for me it boils down to - in both situations, letting the dog go to the person whose struggles are greater is the kind thing to do, and the right thing to do (provided they can care for the dog).

I'm so sorry you're going through this. No matter what happens, take care of yourself. Show yourself some of that kindness that I see throughout your question.
posted by sockermom at 2:14 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think it's fair to consider whether or not she can take good care of him. Do her parents have dogs? Have they had dogs before? Has she ever had a dog before? How did you two split the work of taking care of him when you were together?

It just seems to me that the dog might sort of fall by the wayside if he goes with her, because if she's just tried to commit suicide, then she and her parents are going to have a lot on their plate for the foreseeable future, while they try and help her get better. That is probably going to be a long road and a lot of work. Dogs are also a lot of work, and even if her parents have been helping her take care of him, if they have to prioritize between the dog and their daughter, they're going to choose the dog. I just worry, because dogs aren't just convenient bundles of love; they need to be walked and fed and cleaned up after and they periodically puke on the rug and you can't leave them alone all day, much less for multiple days in a row. That can be sort of tiring even if you're 100% well. So it seems to me like this is a situation where the dog might get his very basic needs met with them, but nothing more. That is, unless they have been totally committed dog people in the past and know what they're signing up for.

If they haven't had dogs in the past (and maybe even if they have) it seems to me that it would be better for you to take this dog with you, and for your girlfriend to wait to get another dog until she was a bit steadier on her feet and was better at taking care of herself first before she adds on another living being.
posted by colfax at 2:22 PM on August 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

The dog is bonded to you. Please keep him as you've just rescued him two months ago and he's probably just now getting settled and bonded with you. Rehoming a dog can be hard on them and if a rehomed dog demonstrates a stronger bond to a single person, that should be given consideration. It could be very hard on him to uproot him again and send him to a new household with new people who have other major life events to prioritize. Let your ex and her family pick a new dog which best suits them in terms of size, type, age, and temperament when they're ready. Her family has to be prepared to take care of the dog if she is unable to, so let them find a perfect match for themselves.

I understand that she wants a therapy animal, but you both have only had him for 2 months, so there isn't a long history with him. You are not stealing her beloved pet who she's had for 10 years. She has some major work and healing to do after she's released from the hospital and the dog is really a minor distraction compared to what's ahead for her and her family. When she's ready for a dog again, she can get one with the help of her family. The dog is not a treasured object, it is a sentient being who has needs and feelings that should be considered.
posted by quince at 2:26 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

If her name is on the adoption papers you'll have to give the dog to her - just want to state that again.

The OP has already explained there were no adoption papers.

She's not thinking clearly, her dad's not thinking clearly. The last thing on earth they need right now is the responsibility this rescue dog entails.

As ill as the OP's ex-girlfriend might be right now, there is absolutely no basis to conclude that her parents are also incapable of taking care of the dog. (The OP even states they could take good care of him.)

This is a woman who just tried to kill herself. It doesn't make her toxic; it makes her in need of compassion.
posted by scody at 2:27 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

Given what you said in your follow-up about her parents' ability to care for the dog, I think the kindest thing would be to let her have the dog. She seems like she needs that love and companionship right now.

I'm sorry you are having to deal with this difficult decision and the possible loss of your dog right now. After everything else you have been through, that sucks.
posted by Area Man at 2:29 PM on August 2, 2013

Best answer: I have to go against a lot of the answers and say you should keep the dog. An animal is a long commitment for care, and she is not even in her own care right now ( I don't mean that as a judgement, it's just fact). Also "therapy dog" and her liking dogs aren't good enough reasons. She has to be in a place to provide care for the life of the dog. I dont see someone with previously untreated serious illmess and a recent suicide attempt as being able to do that.

I don't think it matters if her dad is also claiming he can help - he is also going through something new and stressful with his daughter. It just doesn't seem like it would be a stable environment in the long term for the dog. It seems like you're confident you could provide that environment, and the decision has to be what's best for the dog.

I do agree with jbenben that you should still go no contact. She can get another dog when she is in a better place.
posted by sweetkid at 2:30 PM on August 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

It sounds to me like Yossarian is a faithful and affectionate dog, which is really awesome for severely depressed people.

The daily requirements for action and responsibility are good for depressives, the conversational element to connect with other humans is good for them, and the unconditional affection and constant companionship is immeasurably helpful. I say this as somebody who has watched a lapdog help turn the life of a suicidally depressed person around, partially just because she has to get up out of bed to walk her.

You've doing very hard things as gifts to her, including your plan to break yourself cleanly from her life. Keeping Yossarian for yourself makes that impossible, as you've said.

Go to the pet store and get a new dogtag, with Yossarian's name and her phone number. Clip it on the dog's collar. Drop Yossi off with a bag of kibble.

Drive away. 90% of Metafilter will be saluting you.
posted by Kakkerlak at 2:43 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have to agree I have seen this situation before (someone with serious mental health problems needs to decide if they should keep the pet they are attached to during a crisis) and so far my experience has been that although keeping the pet may be good for the person, it has never been good for the pet. The two week hospitalization may stretch out further, she may need intensive care or other hospitalizations and her parents should be focusing their energy on her. The dog will potentially be with people that do not have the time or energy to properly care for him (because SHOULD prioritise their daughter over a new dog) and meanwhile not be with either of the people he has bonded with. If she wants a therapy dog she should access a programme that will offer her support in caring for the dog's needs as well as her own.
posted by saucysault at 2:47 PM on August 2, 2013 [19 favorites]

Imma add one more thing and then bow out...

I mentioned a friend who had a breakdown in an earlier comment. One of my friend's dogs reacted to her mental instability with aggression. Vets and stitches were involved.

What do your ex's mental health provider's say?

Your ex has known the dog 8 weeks, so, this can be about health and safety first. Consideration of her relationship with the pup can come second.

If Yossi has any training issues, especially aggression around food or other animals, please don't pass that responsibility on to your ex.

For my friend, caring for her dogs added a serious stressor to her situation. Unfortunately, my friend had owned her dogs a long time, and she couldn't see how their care was dragging her under. Plus, as I explained up top,, the larger dog had become dangerous and was freaking everyone out. I kept wishing this woman's mom would step in and re-home the dogs, but that did not happen.

You might also check with the original owner's and see what they advise. If Yossi has issues that might not gel with your ex's condition, they should be able to tell you.

Dogs are a big big responsibility. Often, people are very sentimental and over-look the responsibility part. It's more than just walking and feeding. Dogs can be dangerous - sorry! Somebody had to say it, especially given that your ex sounds like she's prone to violent outbursts. This is not a good mix in most cases.

I doubt your ex is up for this challenge if she's being hospitalized for two weeks. IANAD, but I know that people in crisis are usually not kept that long, so it sounds like your ex's situation is extra serious.

Check with her care givers and the former owners, then decide what is best.

Good luck.

(Upon preview, someone above noted that keeping the pet works out for the person, but usually not the pet. I 100x's Nth this. It's exactly what I just witnessed and have been struggling to convey with my comments.)
posted by jbenben at 2:59 PM on August 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

So it seems to me like this is a situation where the dog might get his very basic needs met with them, but nothing more

Yes, I also agree with this. I really don't feel that the dog will get proper attention and care while the parents are so focused (as they should be) on your ex.
posted by sweetkid at 3:03 PM on August 2, 2013 [12 favorites]

If the dog would choose to be with you, and you love him, then I think you should keep the dog. I don't think visitations are required for a dog, either, particularly since it's only been 2 months since you got him.
posted by spunweb at 3:14 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

No matter how guilty you might feel now, I agree with jbenben and others who have mentioned the dogs needs being a lower priority with your ex and her family than they seem to be with you. You can probably take better care of this dog and give it a more stable happy home right now. You are allowed to be happy and make the decision that seems selfish, but is actually in the best interest of the creature who is unable to express itself and make it's own decisions.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 3:17 PM on August 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You say: "If I keep Yossarian, I couldn't deny my ex visits, so the break wouldn't be as complete or as clean as I think I need it to be."

This part of the equation seems pretty important to me. It sounds like you both need a clean break. Visitations like this are only going to re-open the wounds. I think it would actually be best for YOUR mental health to give her the dog and just. walk. away.
posted by Mender at 3:21 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

know I could survive losing him, I'm not sure my ex could,

That isnt really something in her favour. The inability to put the dog's needs first as a responsible pet owner should could have negative consequences. If the dog needed serious medical attention would she be able to make choices in the dog's best interest, or would she for example find euthanising an extremely ill dog too difficult?

The burden of responsibility for a living creature may actually detract from any positives she gets from the dog, especially if her parents become stressed about caring for the dog and in any way remind her that not only is she a burden but that the dog she can't care for is another burden too. (Not that she is a burden, but it is common to feel that way when fighting mental illness)

I hope the dog helps you with your own depression.
posted by saucysault at 3:21 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think that you have to let her have the dog.

You have no reason to believe that the dog will be mistreated. Rather the opposite, in fact.

One of you is going to lose an awesome puppy-companion and it's going to be tough, but it sounds like you are in a mental and emotional place from where you can deal with it. She isn't. So, she gets the dog.

Sorry about that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:26 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read all the answers first, before I read your question, OP.

I was surprised to read that you both had had the dog for only two months. I was imagining that you had owned the dog for a long, long time. And, this lengthy period of time with your dog would tear both of you apart to lose your beloved companion of many years. Therefore, I was on the side of your ex taking the dog, due to this lengthy history of love, care, and bonding, and this being her time of need (and after a considerable length of time with the dog, she would have proven a reliable and dedicated pet owner, additionally).

But....but...eight weeks. Eight weeks is not enough time for all this to be on the table. I am sure that everyone else in her life at this point, friends and family, are much more familiar and solid source of support than a dog she has known only for a few weeks.

You need to do what is best for the dog, there are too many intangibles in this situation. I would worry that the dog would get lost in the shuffle and chaos of her situation, dogs need a lot of focus and care, especially when this dog has not really had a chance to get settled.

Take the dog. If you can't take the dog, it should go to another household who can demonstrate a more stable circumstance for that dog to be a part of. Dogs first. Dogs can't choose their owners, they can't get a job, they don't even know English. We have to do what is right by them. Dogs are sentient beings, not stuffed animals.

There are many trained therapy dogs around, I am sure someone from the hospital she is at could arrange to have one come for a visit, if that is not already part of their program.

Worst case scenario, which I hope does not happen to your ex again, but I speak as someone who has rescued a scared, hungry pet hiding under a bed after its owner tried to take her life, after firefighters smashed down the door, took her away and left the pet behind for several days. It is such a sad, sad situation.
posted by nanook at 3:27 PM on August 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

My gut is telling me that you should keep your dog. You both have reason to keep him, but I truly feel his needs will be best met with you.
posted by smirkyfodder at 3:27 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you just got out of a relationship with a person who, due to her illness, probably needed a lot from you and was likely unable to give you much in return. I can see why, as you exit it, you would feel extra protective of your self-interests. You are quite probably coming out of a situation in which your needs *have* been neglected in the face of her greater needs-- which unfortunately is a very depressing and demoralizing situation to come out of.

If I were you, I would make this dog your last sacrifice to her needs. Because her needs *are* greater right now, and you are more capable of fulfilling your own -- for example, through the adoption of a new dog. I don't think this is the place to draw your line in the sand. Your line in the sand is getting out of this situation which is bad for you, making a fresh start with a new dog, and making sure your next relationship is with someone who is healthy enough to give you what you need.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 3:34 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

If she has a successful suicide attempt in the future, how would you feel about taking the dog? I do *not* believe that would be your fault, but would you? You seem to think she could not survive the separation. If you really believe that, it seems to be a no-brainer decision to me.

Regardless of your decision (so sorry you have to make it), I would not ask her father for money, either for a reimbursement or towards a new dog. You agreed to pay for the dog while you had him. If you adopt another dog, the cost of adoption is nothing in comparison to the lifelong care of the new dog. I understand that you are probably going through an awful lot. But so is her father. Gaining a small sum of money from her father won't touch that. But being asked for a small sum of money will feel really bad, I think.

Good luck!
posted by pizzazz at 4:04 PM on August 2, 2013

If you truly want to make a clean break, give her the dog. If you have the dog you will feel guilty and she will want to visit.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:28 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Give her the dog- it was her idea to get one in the first place, she needs the dog more than you do, and it sounds like her parents are supportive and stable and will care for the dog if needed. It's tough but it's the right thing to do. After that, give yourself some time to heal and then go get yourself another cute rescue doggie to love.
posted by emd3737 at 4:36 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The dog should be with the person it loves the most, the one it's happiest with. It's a living creature who also has needs and desires. It sounds like the dog loves you best, so the dog should be with you.
posted by windykites at 4:59 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The answer depends on whether you think a dog's purpose is to serve man's needs, or whether a dog is a creature in our care, whose best interests we're morally obligated to consider. Most of the answers here are telling you to give the dog to your girlfriend, because she's vulnerable and the dog could help her through this difficult time; I think those answers mostly view the dog primarily as an instrument in service of the girlfriend's emotional health, and only secondarily consider the wants and needs of the dog. My own view is that dogs help man, but that's not their purpose. In your situation I would be trying to put the best interest of the dog first. That may be with the girlfriend; it may be with you. I don't think we have enough information to say, but I do think that should be your guiding principle.
posted by HotToddy at 5:24 PM on August 2, 2013 [20 favorites]

Best answer: Just my two cents, and I mean this with no ill intent to anyone having personally dealt with BPD or who has a loved one working with it...

But I would give up the dog in a second just to eject from a situation with any of the BPD people I've had in my life. No amount of doggie love is worth the life that drained out of me.

I would write the dog off as part of having a truly clean break, and would be extremely afraid that keeping the dog, and the potential for guilt tripping therein would be her "in" to come kick me when I was down so to speak.

Breakups are hard, especially the clean break variety. and having a weasely entrance to legitimate sounding access to your life can really fuck that up.
posted by emptythought at 6:51 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At eight weeks into an adoption, Yossi may still be on his "best behavior" in his new environment. This is not to disagree that Yossarian is a wonderful dog and a great companion. It is to point out that change is stressful for dogs, and it takes them time to learn the ropes of their new home, settle in, and then start testing limits and let their whole personalities show.

There could be no change from now--or there could be a lot (and those changes can be positive, negative, or--usually--a mixed bag).

I find it concerning that she was already experiencing jealousy issues with regard to the dog's affections. If she's severely ill and her parents are doing most of the caring for the dog, the dog isn't going to be aware that his "job" is to love her best. That's not how dogs work. I have a few very high-functioning people close to me who struggle with borderline traits, specifically w/r/t abandonment and fear of rejection in relationships, and that is a very difficult concept for them to internalize--that the animals they love aren't hurting their feelings on purpose. Dogs don't know whose money bought the food--they know who sets down their bowl every day, who walks them every day, and who is consistent and predictable in their lives.

I myself have severe recurrent depression on top of other chronic health stuff, and my cat and dog sometimes hold me back, much as I love them and am committed to meeting their needs. Even with help from others. Especially the dog--and I rehabbed this dog to the limit of her most unconditionally human-adoring potential. She is a retired laboratory beagle, and they are group of animals literally selected for their ability to unconditionally love humans given any sort of socialization with people. She was (and continues to be) socialized with my friends and coworkers--animal health professionals. To get more concentrated unwavering, unconditional trust in and love for humans in fifteen pounds of mammal you would need a human baby.

And yet it's not enough: she can't fix me--all of that unconditional love can't fill depression. It helps, certainly, much as I know personally and professionally about the value of social animals having companions (and I don't limit species here)....I don't know if there is a right answer here about her providing enough of a therapeutic benefit to me for what the work and commitment have taken out of me.

I don't know if it is fair to cast your dilemma in terms of more or less compassionate choices. All of the options are going to cause disruption and hurt, and all of them would reflect compassion and empathy for creatures (human and non) in unfortunate positions and in pain, or at least in limbo. All of them involve risk.

I know above I sound like I'm saying "you should keep the dog," but partly that's to elaborate more on the complicating factors here.

In truth, I just don't think there's a "right" answer to your question, as much as AskMetaFilter likes it when there is one side or the other that "should" be. (And me, I like that, too.) Whatever decision you make, you made the best decision you could with the information and choices you had available. I don't envy having to make it.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 6:59 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

My instinct is not to give her the dog. I don't see how turning this animal's life upside down to possibly be in a chaotic situation is beneficial for the dog. I don't agree that there aren't care giving concerns to think about. This girl is in crisis and her family is in crisis with her. She isn't in a good place to take care of an animal.

Maybe it would turn out ok, but it's not a chance I'd take on an animal I loved.
posted by amycup at 7:12 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Her suicide attempt is reacting to a loss -- the loss of you, probably. I think another loss (given the dog was her idea, and her choice) would be too much for her.

"The dog will suffer in her care,"

No, I'm not sure it will. Also it depends what you mean by 'suffer' -- will she be incapable of loving it, feeding it, taking it for walks? Will she neglect it? This is a possibility, especially without her parents helping her, but you'll know whether this is true for her or not. As for, "this person can't love x as much as I can!" is almost always false, and almost always just hurt and ego talking.

You know in your heart, I think, that she and her family would treat the dog well and that the dog wouldn't suffer. Perhaps he'd have a 'tumultuous' few weeks -- but beyond waiting for her from the hospital for a bit, it's not like he has to witness all the hurt she's going through, or be scarred by her mental or physical state, like a child would be. Dogs are receptive, yes, and I think the dog will pick up on the discomfort of the situation. But most dogs are very resilient with almost unlimited capacities for unconditional love. Short of abusing it or ignoring it, I think the dog would be very very happy with them.

Besides, the situation has already been chaotic for the dog -- it had a couple it got along with, who fought, broke up, moved out of its home with... and I presume the dog is coping fine. Not to mention, the dog was in a shelter for a while. I really think the dog is going to be fine and that whatever it faces now is going to be way less stressful than what he's been through to date.

I think you shouldn't keep the dog. You shouldn't because you know that you'll recover better than she will, you 'need' him less than she does, you are more resilient than her, it was her idea to get him, she chose him.

And I think that... after 8 weeks, neither of you realize that your attachment to your dog is kind of what the dog represents -- your relationship. You mention sobbing uncontrollably about a pet you've had in your life for two months and the loss being so great, but you don't mention what her loss means to you, and I presume she was in your life more than two months. I think it's really about losing what you two had together, a loss you'll feel more acutely without the dog there, which was the last thing that bonded you as a couple. If she gets the dog-- it's really really it. She's gone. He's gone. Anything that ever tied you to her, (including the apartment) is gone. I think you should explore your sadness as consequence of that loss, not necessarily the loss of the dog.

The thing is, if you keep the dog, you keep all the emotional baggage and the guilt that goes with it. You will feel bad you have it and she's suffering. You will feel bad when she wants to see it. You already do: It won't get better.

Get therapy, cut her off, have a clean break, get a new sweet dog that needs a home and start anew. Really, in the end, giving her the dog benefits you more than it doesn't.
posted by Dimes at 7:33 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you should keep the dog, because getting it used to a new household where she may or may not be present sounds overly tumultuous for a dog who was just rescued.

Borderline is really hard and it sounds like she was already using the dog as a tool of manipulation with the statements about jealousy and all of that so I honestly think you and the dog should make a clean break. Love one another, okay?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:36 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, I think that people who are saying she needs the dog more than you are forgetting that you are feeling triggered by your ex and her suicide attempt. A loved one trying to kill themselves is emotionally traumatizing for everyone involved! Her needs are not more important or greater than yours, because you're both in fragile emotional states. If anything, I'd be less worried about her because she's going to a place where she'll be taken care of by loved ones, and will presumably be monitored by doctors.

So yeah, I think you should keep the dog. I don't think she needs the dog either; I think she (and her dad) want the dog.
posted by spunweb at 7:41 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

You should direct her father towards organizations that provide properly trained therapy dogs. Full stop.

The more I think about this, the more I think you'll be doing best by your ex girlfriend, her family AND Yossi by keeping Yossi in a stable situation with you.

After witnessing what my friend, her mom, and the friend's dogs just went through... Wow. There are just too many variables here and too much instability. Your ex needs to focus on herself. Your ex's parents need to focus on her. This is a terrible time for them to rescue a dog.

A few people mentioned BPD and how your ex might use this to wiggle back into your life. This is only possible if you waiver from "No Contact" if approached by her. I think you can handle this IF you realize (and internalize) that interacting with your ex = hurting her. You dig me on this?

I said I wasn't coming back, but I had to check back in. Before I read the full question, the obvious answer was to give your ex the dog.

After I read that Yossi lost his first family only eight weeks ago, and that your ex has serious health issues that require her and her parent's undivided attention - Yeah, no. The dog can't go to her and her family. No way.

I do think your ex might benefit from interaction with true therapy dogs (one may already regularly visit the hospital ward where she is staying) and pointing her family in that direction is acceptable.

Tell her father that due to the unstable period Yossi has recently been through, moving Yossi to yet another new home with yet more new owners (her parents) will not be possible. Tell him it's unfair to the dog since everyone's attention will be focused on your ex and her care.

If he persists simply repeat, "That won't be possible."

I think it's OK if you point out that Yossi is not a trained therapy dog, but just the average rescue pup, and that it is unfair to place any responsibility for your ex's therapy or wellbeing on a creature going through a tough transition himself.

OK. I'm done for real this time. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 7:51 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

And what happens if Yossi likes her dad more than her? Will she be jealous if the dog doesn't love her the most? She needs a trained therapy dog-- not your dog.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:08 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

The whole thing sucks. You're kind of in a no win situation.

I think it sounds like a nice thing to do to give her the dog, but she isn't able to take care of it. It doesn't seem right that you should rehome the dog with her parents unless you discussed this possibilty beforehand with them or your ex. That's a lot of responsibility to put on someone else on short notice and a lot of change to put on a dog.

If you want to keep the dog I think you're completely in the right: you entered into all of this with full intention of taking care of it and you are still able to do so. Choosing to keep your obligations to your furry friend does not make you a bad person.
posted by grizzly at 8:11 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This is the first time in my 5+ years on AskMe that I have been flabbergasted by the trend of the responses.

If I were you, I would make this dog your last sacrifice to her needs.
Or you could not sacrifice an innocent animal to mental illness. Your ex's BPD is already trying to take her down. It doesn't have to take the dog down, too. At least your ex can work towards health and understand what is happening. The dog can't.

And yet it's not enough: she can't fix me--all of that unconditional love can't fill depression.
When I read your question, my response was "no brainer - the person who didn't try to commit suicide AND who has bonded with the dog takes the dog that has been around for just two months." Dogs - particularly rescue dogs in a new situation - are a lot of damn work. A family in crisis is the wrong place for a new pet.

Uniformitarianism Now! makes a critically important point. This dog cannot fix your ex's illness. He's not magical, he's not even a trained therapy dog. She will still be sick even if she gets the dog. Furthermore, this dog has no responsibility to fix her illness. The whole "therapy dog" thing is a red herring. This dog is just a dog.

The non-disordered response of your ex and her parents to this situation would be "We have a major mental health crisis on our hands. The LAST thing we need to do is add caring for a pet on top of that."

Tell her dad that you're keeping the dog and then keep scrupulously to no-contact.
posted by jeoc at 8:15 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

"And what happens if Yossi likes her dad more than her? Will she be jealous if the dog doesn't love her the most? She needs a trained therapy dog-- not your dog."

- From his pic, Yossi looks like some sort of a pack animal mix who will undoubtedly love whoever the "pack leader" will be, so yeah, probably the dad if the OP rehomes Yossi with them.

"The non-disordered response of your ex and her parents to this situation would be "We have a major mental health crisis on our hands. The LAST thing we need to do is add caring for a pet on top of that."

- If I had been more eloquent, instead of calling her dad an asshole, this is exactly what I would have written in my first comment.
posted by jbenben at 8:23 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This is the first time in my 5+ years on AskMe that I have been flabbergasted by the trend of the responses.

I think your astonishment is predicated on the idea that the original poster would, for some reason, place a dog that he loves in a situation that he could reasonably anticipate being bad for the dog. But because his question does not evince concern for the dog, but rather for what is morally right for him to do, I have to assume that he is not worried about the dog's health or wellbeing in his ex's parent's house because he knows that they will provide the dog with a happy, stable home. Therefore, we, who have no firsthand knowledge of the situation, must take on faith that he would not consider placing a dog that he loves in a situation in which it might receive inferior treatment or have a less happy life than it would with him.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 8:34 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Chiming in just to say:

pocketfullofrye is correct, if I thought there was danger to Yossarian, this would be a very different conversation and one I don't think I'd need AskMe for;

I think other people are correct that I may not have all the information about his prospective environment to be sure of a decision either way;

and that all of you have helped me consider many perspectives that, in my admitted panic, I would not have considered, and so I now at least feel confident that I'll make a rational decision that is best for Yossi and not an inadvertent projection of my feelings regarding the relationship.

I can now think about this without weeping; for that, and much else, I thank you. I haven't made that decision yet, so please, if you have a perspective on the situation, I would find that quite valuable. Thank you all.
posted by Errant at 9:05 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Let the dog go, as part of letting her go. It's sad but life is like that sometimes. The emotional costs of making this a fight are too high.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:20 PM on August 2, 2013

Keep the dog.

I'm perplexed by the people saying that letting your girlfriend have Yossi is "the kindest" "most compassionate" thing to do. Kind for whom? The dog is a living being, not a therapy tool.

Your girlfriend, and her parents, should be focusing on her getting well. All of her attention and energy needs to go towards that. Which means less attention for Yossi -- no matter how well you anticipate he may be treated by her parents. If a dog is really essential to her recovery, she can always get another when she's doing better. Let the woman be responsible for herself first.

I would keep the dog and stay behind the intention to make a clean break -- so no visiting. You seem very afraid of looking like "an asshole," but if you want to keep the dog and you're the best person to provide for it, who cares what people think about you?
posted by Paris Elk at 11:43 PM on August 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

More important than anything else by far is that the dog loves you. The dog has chosen you as its person, and is happy in that. I'm certain that your soon to be ex sweetie is a fine woman and wants to give to an animal, and receive from an animal; there are other dogs "out there" that will bond with her, not even see you, ever, much less see you as an option. She may come out of that scene still pretty shook, and unable to give YoYo the care you have been giving him, and want to continue giving him.

The dog chose you. The dog chose you, straight up. Honor that.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:45 AM on August 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: To me, some of the answers here are strange. For sure, if you thought that Yossi would be unhappy or in danger with your ex and her parents, you shouldn't hand him over. But I don't understand the mindset that says that you might provide a nicer home for him, thus he should live with you. By that logic we would be running around kidnapping dogs so we could deliver them to better families.

I would give the dog to your ex, mostly because of the abstract fairness principle. By your telling, the dog loves and is bonded with both of you. However, she is the one who wanted to get him (which makes me feel like he's a little more her dog than yours), she has more emotional need for him right now (which makes me feel like he should go with her from a general utilitarian maximization-of-happiness principle), and you get to unilaterally make the decision about where he should live (which makes me think that, ethically speaking, if you make a decision it should probably be in her favor).

Even if you find my fairness arguments lacking, though, the clean break thing is CRUCIAL. It would be very bad for both of you to keep seeing one another doing dog visitations or arguing over dog custody. So don't do anything that's going to keep the wound open, OK?

I am so sorry you are in this situation. The whole thing is sad and sucks. You sound like a sweet person and I hope some of this pain lifts soon.
posted by feets at 1:05 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If the dog is more closely bonded to you then I think you should keep him. After all, as others have said, the most important thing isn't which human gets to posess him. Rather it is what is going to make the dog happiest for the rest of his life. As far as I'm concerned when it comes to pets what individuals want always comes last. For instance as someone said above would she be able to make the choice to end his suffering? Or would she make him continue to live in pain?

The dog has only been with you both for 8 weeks. The poor little thing has already lost so much and had his life turned upside down. His new life with your ex will be tumultuous even at the best of times. Dogs are very sensitive to peoples emotions and can get very upset when their people are stressed and upset. You can't explain to them why it's happening to make them feel better. Yes the wife may feel better posessing the dog, but, at the end of the day, this isn't about her or you. It should just come down to the dog's welfare.

If he's already bonded with you and he prefers you then he should stay with you. He's already had the people he loved turn him away. How is he going to feel when the person he's just gotten closer to turns him away and sends him from a stable home into a chaos filled place where he's surrounded by people on an emotional roller coaster? I'm sorry I don't care how good it might be for your ex, it would be horrific for the poor dog. He's not going to know what's happening. He can't leave the house of his own accord to escape from the chaos and highly charged emotions, unlike your ex's parents.

Besides lets face it, eight weeks is nothing. She wanted him as a therapy dog. So she was already suffering from mental instability when she decided to get the dog. Taking on the ownership of an animal isn't something that should be taken lightly, and in my opinion, not when you're emotionally unstable. Also as stated the dog is not a trained therapy dog. She needs a trained therapy dog, not a lonely, upset rescue who's world has been turned upside down. It's like expecting an individual who's just survived a traumatic ordeal to counsel someone else and rescue the other person when they're still coming to grips with what's happened to them.

It amazed me how many people who replied have managed to completely lose sight of the dog's needs and desires. Dog's don't just need food and walking. They need stability, love, companionship and positive interactions. I'm sorry but in a home where someone has just had a break down ALL of the focus is going to be on the person who's ill. Poor little Yossi will end up falling by the way side and just become an after thought. That is not ok. If you can provide the love, stability and everything else he needs then the best thing is to keep him with you so he can have a stable and happy life. He should not be placed in a situation that will cause him more mental distress.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 1:39 AM on August 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm on the "you keep the dog" side. The poor thing has already been moved once in the last couple of months, and to move him again, even to a very good home, would be unfair to him and to you. If your ex does need ongoing treatment for her illness, she might not even be there. Yossarian will not understand why that is happening, he will know only that once again, both people he bonded with have left him.

Your ex does deserve compassion over her illness, and it sounds like she is getting that, from her family, and from you. In that way, she is a very lucky woman. But compassion is not a zero-sum game and you have also been through a big loss. It is okay to show a little to yourself, and to Yossarian.
posted by rpfields at 2:34 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think people citing the ex's emotional needs are thinking about the regular emotional needs of a person without a major mental illness.

If I'm a healthy person who had a bad day at work or an argument with a loved one, the warmth and love of a pet can be really reassuring and supportive.

If I have BPD, and I'm engaging in splitting/black and white thinking, the dog is likely to get caught up in those disordered ways of viewing relationships. I might perceive the dog as comforting, but I might also perceive the dog's behavior as "against me" or as abandonment or betrayal.

I'm not saying this means the dog would have a bad life, but that the dog is not necessarily going to be a comfort to her.
posted by jeoc at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

I agree that people are viewing the ex's emotional needs through the lens of Depression/Suicide, and they likely might not understand at all how Personality Disorders work.

BPD is really great at creating lots of distracting drama. The idea of trying to take in a rescue dog while caring for your daughter in the wake of a suicide attempt and a BPD diagnosis is the definition of distracting drama.

I'll repeat jeoc's first comment in this thread because it was insightful and succinct:

"The non-disordered response of your ex and her parents to this situation would be "We have a major mental health crisis on our hands. The LAST thing we need to do is add caring for a pet on top of that." "

And also, with added emphasis by me on the last point...

"Tell her dad that you're keeping the dog and then keep scrupulously to no-contact"

I really feel for the OP because the suicide attempt alone must have been horrendous and traumatic.

It's not just that asking for the dog under these circumstances is inappropriate if everyone's top priority is recovery and treatment, it's that asking for the dog is exactly the sort of twisted, over-dramatic, distracting, and re-traumatizing action that BPD creates.

It' unfortunate the dad still doesn't have a good grasp of what's going on with his daughter and I hope the mental health professionals involved are effective in their role with this family.

That said, I firmly believe it's time for the OP to extricate himself and dog from the cycle of trauma and drama that is BPD.

Personality Disorders are best treated by specialized mental health professionals. Rescue animals deserve stable homes.

Only the drama BPD generates could seem to make these two things even remotely related.
posted by jbenben at 9:30 AM on August 3, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I guess I have a different point of view from many here, and feel that it would probably be better for Yossarian to stay with you, and probably objectively better for your ex, when she's ready and able, to get a dog that will not be doubly (or triply) displaced and grieving for you after having been cut off from his first family.

Some thoughts (many of which have been mentioned):
  • A Therapy Dog is a very specifically and intensively trained dog, and not every random dog will necessarily function well in the role just by virtue of being cast into a situation with a person who is at risk... especially if the dog is displaced, afraid, bewildered, and once again separated from the person they have been bonding with.
  • A dog that has been rescued/rehomed is also suffering ongoing trauma, and it requires a not-insignificant period of time for them to adjust and become themselves; rescue organizations try really hard to prevent exactly the sort of scenario we are talking about here (rehoming, then disruption of that, and another separation and rehoming), because results become worse with repeated rehoming.
  • It usually takes a lot of attention, training, and calm consistency for the rescued dog to find his/her role as a relaxed, well-behaved and happy member of the household. If that doesn't happen, destructive, misbehaving, neurotic, or aggressive (or overly timid/submissive) behavior can be the result. The idea of a confident, loving and attentive dog as solace for your ex is nice, but not necessarily how the scenario would play out.
  • A dog doesn't necessarily automatically dispense unconditional love to an assigned person. In other words, Yossarian might have bonded more with you (you must try to be the objective judge of that), and might eventually bond more with one of your ex's parents or another family member, roommate or partner. Yossarian may never perform as the source of perfect, undemanding, unconditional and absolute love for your ex that is being required/expected.
  • If the dog was rehomed to be with your ex and her parents, and he was grieving for you instead of being happy and excited to be with her, would this be a further blow for your ex?
Obviously, many of these concerns would be different, or moot or mitigated or already resolved if you had both lived together with the dog for a significant period, or if the dog had really been "her dog" as opposed to "her idea," but that is not exactly the situation.

(I do agree that if Yossarian is equally or more attached to your ex, and you think that he would be well cared for, secure and happy with her and her parents, then the sacrifice on your end is the better choice.)

Ultimately, any of us here can only offer our own thoughts and biases which may not necessarily reflect the true situation, so I'll just wish the very best for you, your ex, and your dog whatever you choose. Hugs to you all.
posted by taz at 11:05 AM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Apparently, she's getting out of the hospital tomorrow, not two weeks from now, and they want to pick him up tomorrow. This became urgent rather suddenly.
posted by Errant at 1:07 PM on August 3, 2013

You don't need to make this decision immediately. You can tell your ex's father that you're not available tomorrow and you will be available on X day to finalize everything.
posted by cairdeas at 1:14 PM on August 3, 2013 [13 favorites]

Agreed. This is not urgent just because they are trying to make it urgent, and is frankly manipulative on the father's part. Don't let them control you. The agreed upon time frame was two weeks, you don't have to make a decision yet.
posted by windykites at 1:22 PM on August 3, 2013 [14 favorites]

As others have said, the dog is a sentient being with interests. He's a completely innocent bystander who's dependent on human beings for daily care. It sounds like you have been the one and only human being who's reliable and unwavering in caring for the dog. She hasn't been unwaveringly reliable at caring for the dog every day. She was willing to abandon her responsibility for the dog. So if you want to focus on the dog's interests, you should get the dog.
posted by John Cohen at 1:24 PM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Anytime someone tries to pressure you into making a decision fast, I find that they are usually hoping to manipulate you in some way. In my experience, they are either hoping that you will miss something important (in the case of contracts, big purchases) or that you will simply panic and make a rushed decision that they think will benefit them more than you.

This is not actually an urgent situation. Don't let her dad make you think it is. I still think you should keep the dog, but even if you give him to her, it won't have done anyone any harm if you keep him for a couple more days while she gets settled back at home and you think about this decision a bit more.
posted by colfax at 2:29 PM on August 3, 2013 [16 favorites]

Your ex's borderline personality disorder will likely result in the disease symptom of having an out-of-proportion and dramatic fixation the the dog issue. This may result in her parents also fixating on the dog as a quasi-magical fix for their daughter's pain. This is an illusion caused by her disorder. Please don't feel pressured to rush your decision to satisfy the new timeline of her being released from the hospital.
posted by quince at 2:54 PM on August 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

Look at it this way, would any reasonable person accede to a request to immediately hand over custody of a child to a person who was just released from the hospital following a suicide attempt? No? Why not?

posted by HotToddy at 2:58 PM on August 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I'm really sorry you are going through this. If I were you, I would take yourself and dear Yossi out to some place awesome tomorrow -- some place where you can get a break from this. I'd also like for you to read

1. How to Keep Someone with You Forever

2. Qualities that Keep You in a Sick System

3. The Tenacity of Sick Systems

These were really helpful for me to read when a former partner attempted suicide, because there's a lot of guilt and emotional contorting that happens in the weeks immediately following a suicide attempt. You want to help, I know, but you cannot put your own mental and emotional wellbeing at stake, because you are a valuable person and you deserve to be safe and to feel taken care of and prioritized. The thing is, poor planning on your ex' and her family's part (the shortened hospital stay and the sudden need to get the dog RIGHT NOW) is not an emergency on your part. Take as much time as you need to figure out if YOU want to keep this dog.

Plus, realtalk: how the shit would participating in this BS crisis actually help your ex? She won't magically stop being bipolar if she gets the dog tomorrow, next week, or in Nebraska.
posted by spunweb at 4:05 PM on August 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

I wonder if it would be helpful for you to have someone calm and level-headed on your side be the contact person with her father on your behalf. Rather than having an emotionally difficult conversation with her father (who, as you noticed is of course prioritizing his daughter over you or the dog) the person could have that conversation with him and just relay the facts to both sides. "It is not possible to hand over the dog tomorrow; here is my contact information, please do not contact Errant directly. I will be in contact with you on [date] with Errant's decision." Then if the father wants to vent at that person, he can, but you won't have to deal with it or respond. If you can't think of anyone in your friend group you can always hire a social worker with experience in mediation to be the contact person (or your existing therapist?). My gut is telling that the non-stop crisis' from this family are unconsciously designed to bully you into decisions you may not have made in a calm mood. Your ex and her family may also make different decisions with a few days to collect themselves. Your dog deserves a chance for you to make the best decision for him in a reasoned manner.
posted by saucysault at 4:26 PM on August 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: One, those sick system articles are uncanny. Two, I've told them that tomorrow isn't going to happen, and that I'm thinking about what will be best for Yossarian. They are somewhat displeased with me, but I can see, now that I'm out of it, how my ex is turning them in circles the way she did with me. So I am going to take a few days and make a rational decision, hopefully unskewed by my increasing dislike for everyone else involved.
posted by Errant at 5:53 PM on August 3, 2013 [15 favorites]

I'm with those who question if custody of Yossi is really going to have a therapeutic effect on your ex. I recently had a breakdown due to depression - at some point, when I'm able, I need to have the relationship talk with my partner. There's a good chance we'll have to call it quits and figure out custody of the cat.

He's said repeatedly he wants me to have custody, which is lovely of him, but despite loving the cat to bits I'm terrified I'd wake up each day with the cat reminding me about how life was before the breakup. And then the grief will begin all over again.

I wish I could tell you which decision to make, but I suspect that (heartbreakingly, I know) neither decision may feel right for quite some time. So all I want for you to know is, that if you DO decide to keep Yossi and then find yourself feeling guilty afterwards (as kind people tend to do).... go easy on yourself, because custody for your ex may come with a whole lot of heartbreak her folks may not be considering.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 7:11 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Errant what is your living situation like? Is your ex on the lease? Does she have a lot of personal items to move out besides the dog? Do they have keys to the current locks at your place.

Where does this all stand from a legal standpoint?

Nthing that when someone is trying to rush you, they're usually up to no good.

I'm not trying to freak you out, yo, but you might want to brush up on what access they legally have to your (formerly?) shared space at this point.

WORSE CASE - If they stop by while you're out, and/or take Yossi or material possessions that are yours, do you have a plan regarding how you want to handle that?

I'm so so sorry. This all sounds super awful.
posted by jbenben at 9:31 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

jbenben brings up a great point that i didn't even cover because i blasted my post out really quickly.

Her, or someone on "her team" like one of her parents/relatives stopping by and taking the dog AND some of your stuff seems imminently likely to me here. The most recent BPD person in my life situation ended exactly that way.

If she's trying to rush you, and her family is backing her up they're likely to move on to just forcing the outcome they want when you don't give it to them when they ask nicely.

If she still has physical access to your house via keys you need to change that, i'd also be questioning who else has access and might be sympathetic or easily swayed to her side if she goes shopping some kind of you're neglecting the dog/you stole her dog/etc story to try and get someone to help her(or her parent) steal the dog.

This isn't hyperbole, it's a pretty damn small leap from the moment and situation you're currently at. And these situations seem to have a way of only rolling downhill towards the "more drama" end of the spectrum in ridiculous ways.
posted by emptythought at 10:28 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No one has keys to the apartment but me (she left hers behind) and my name is the only one on the lease. I do have a fair amount of her stuff, which will go to her storage space shortly, but legally I think I'm fine, and I'd prefer not to turn this post into a general "oh fuck now what" thread. While I definitely feel like that, and maybe there's an Ask post in waiting, this is about the dog and I think we should stick to that. Thank you so much for your concern, though, and please don't take that to mean that I don't appreciate your advice and worries, because I do.
posted by Errant at 10:36 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

In most jurisdictions, your ex can get a police escort to collect her things, including the dog*. She could legally move back in if she wanted, too.

The law is heavily weighted towards making sure no one gets kicked out of where they live, regardless of a lease, and it protects their possessions from being stolen or thrown away by any landlord or roommate.

I've worked in apartment management and been a landlord, these are familiar issues I've routinely had to navigate.

*The police usually won't mediate pet ownership, but there's no guarantee. More of a concern is if your ex has a license or other significant paperwork with her name and your address, because then a locksmith could legally drill your locks and grant her access.

I doubt any of this will happen, but you should know it's legally possible until her material possessions are picked up and voluntarily removed by her from the property.
posted by jbenben at 5:24 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So, the plan was to wait a few days and think about things. But I spent most of yesterday with Yossarian, and I kept noticing that he wasn't really eating, that he had started sleeping under the bed instead of on it, that he was acting fairly lethargic and not really smiling anymore, except when we went for walks.

I'm pretty good at spotting signs of depression. Maybe it's because he misses my ex. Maybe it's because, between work and social commitments, I end up having to leave him alone in the apartment a lot over the past week, which isn't a great situation for someone who's had so much recent upheaval. But, in short, it was clear that he was becoming very unhappy.

My ex's parents basically live outdoors, with a mom who stays home all the time and two other dogs, one of whom is the other rescue dog from Yossi's old house. They can give him freedom, family, and companionship. I live in a one-bedroom apartment in the middle of the city by myself. I can't give him those things.

So we slept in today, went to the dog park, ran around for a while, ate some treats together, and then I packed up his stuff and handed him off to her parents about ten minutes ago. I think he was suffering, and I'm not going to wait around and cause him more pain. I have her father's word, which I believe, that if things are not going well there, he will call me and we will figure out what to do. But I genuinely hope I don't get that phone call, because this is the best shot I can give him at having a rich and fulfilled life, and I want him to take it.

Now I would like to drink my body weight in whiskey, but I have to go to work in a couple hours, which I guess makes the point as clearly as possible.

I want to thank all of you for helping me reframe the situation into doing what is best for Yossarian and helping me to consider all the possibilities. I believe that, as painful as it is for me personally, this is the right decision for everyone and especially for him. I appreciate your counsel and sympathy very, very much. Thank you.
posted by Errant at 8:20 PM on August 4, 2013 [31 favorites]

It sounds like you made a very good decision in a very good way. And I really admire you for doing your best to figure out what would lead to the greatest happiness for him, and then putting his happiness before yours. I also know very well how terrible it is to lose a pet, you have my sympathies.
posted by cairdeas at 8:45 PM on August 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'll be keeping you and Yossi in my thoughts, too, Errant. Be gentle with yourself.
posted by scody at 11:29 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read the second comment before the post, and thought to myself "Unless the ex has BPD of course, because that'd just be a clusterfuck of drama for the poor, damned, dog".

If her parents will care for the dog, and definitely WANT to own the dog (and unhealthy systems often arise from childhoods in unhealthy systems - not always the parents, I had an acquaintance with chronic illness as a child which sure would have *felt* like abuse by the adults around her, even if it was well intentioned), then ok, sure. But check with the mother AND the father that they are committed dog owners.

Just... if she's already determined that the dog will LOVE her, and it fails to live up to her expectations? That is not a good environment for a dog.

I mean, honestly, I don't equate dogs with children, but there ain't no body that would support a child going back home with her, so keep that in mind.

And yes, you will survive the breakup without the dog. Honestly - is a part of you wanting to keep it so you have an excuse to break the no-contact?
Because - no. C'mon. You know that's unhealthy.
You have to do no-contact either way. Don't compromise on that. You'll survive, and so will Yossi.
posted by Elysum at 7:27 PM on August 7, 2013

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