Dear Rene…

Help! I’m struggling with an incredibly tough, emotional decision.

My 8-year-old daughter has been begging us for three years for a puppy. Finally, my husband and I agreed that she’s responsible enough and deserving, of a dog. Two days later, we all selected the puppy and brought her home. My daughter was thrilled and instantly in love.

The problem is I realize now how much I am NOT a dog person. I am in a total funk over this. I feel trapped by this little dog, and I just didn’t expect that. I can’t explain how every fiber of my being does not want to come home and have to spend all of my free moments with this dog. Plus, I am a stay-at-home mom, so that’s a lot of time.

I know I’m going to catch flack for that one but I am paralyzed here, which I realize sounds crazy. I would never put my feelings above my child’s, but in the three weeks that we’ve had this dog I have not been myself. My kids know it, my husband knows it, and I know it. My daughter sees my stress and that can’t be good for her either.

When I’ve brought up the subject of finding the dog a new home, she cries and says she’s not giving away her puppy. Would she ever forgive me if I told her how truly sorry I am, but this is not working for me? On the other hand, maybe she would be more resilient than I give her credit for. The thought of coming home to a dog for the next 12-15 years makes me want to jump out of my skin. However, I don’t want to be the first person to break my daughter’s heart either. Help.

Signed, Pet Peeved

Oh Pet Peeved:

You are in a pickle my dear and the stakes are high. I honestly think you have the answer within you, you just don’t want to or cannot admit it.

Here’s the deal; you and your husband agreed that your daughter was mature enough to handle the puppy. You gave your word and your word is your bond. If you get rid of the dog, you’re gonna send two messages; one that she was actually not mature enough to handle the dog (even if you tell her that’s not the reason) and you’ll be undermining your word now and in the future.

Let me don my amateur psychology hat and go out on a limb here; I don’t think this is about the dog, rather that the dog is a symptom of something else going on in your life. You see, puppies are like babies; yes they require a lot of love and attention to ensure their basic needs are met. Yes, there are accidents in the house, dog hair, slobber and so on. But in exchange for all that they give love, and a lot of it, unconditionally. .

I hear frustration, resentment even anger in your letter. Why is that? Cleaning up and training a puppy is no joke but for most people it’s generally more of a nuisance. You make is sound like you’re raising Cujo over there. What’s really going on? You mentioned you are a stay at home mom. Are you happy doing that? Are you fulfilled in your life as a wife and mother or do you long for more?  Were you going to try to go back to work and now feel you can’t do that because of the dog? Perhaps you were fearful of taking that step and projecting some of that onto the dog?

You asked for my advice so here it is. You CANNOT get rid of the dog. It would break your daughter’s heart and while kids are resilient and she would ultimately get over it, she will always remember that her mother and father told her she could have a dog, helped her pick it out and then gave it away because mom couldn’t handle it.

You have some work to do here, both easy and practical and deep and potentially difficult. With the puppy I’m going to suggest some obedience training. Since your daughter is at school during the day and your husband no doubt works, this will fall to you. But you and the dog will learn to communicate with one another and I predict will develop a deeply enriching relationship with one another.

This next part of the solution is going to be much harder than teaching the dog to stop peeing in the house.  You’re going to have to get real with yourself; shine a bright spotlight into your soul and figure out what you want and need at this time in your life. What can you do to continue to learn and grow? Is it a job? Volunteer work? Does your marriage need work? Do you need to get away with girlfriends? Do you need to get some girlfriends? Whatever it is, be truthful and then get busy. Stop blaming the puppy; you alone are responsible for your happiness.

Let me know what you decide – and good luck!

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