Dear Prudence

Help! I Finally Got the Dog I Desperately Wanted. It’s Not What I Expected.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A woman and dog looking at one another.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Nothing like I expected: I recently adopted a 13-month-old, mixed breed, 60-pound dog. My husband and I have both wanted a dog for a long time, and the circumstances we needed to feel ready were finally here (finances, fenced yard, house not condo, and I will be permanently hybrid-working). I found the perfect rescue listing (medium-size, good with kids, other dogs, and cats) and applied. The timing could have been better; my husband is still studying for his exams and won’t be done for probably four more months, leaving a lot of the extra housework and most of the training/researching to me, but I knew that going into this and am okay with it (he supported me during my exams).

We’ve had the dog for four weeks. I…don’t love her. I assumed I would, and that all the normal annoying things that dogs do would be at least somewhat tolerable. She is a GREAT dog as far as baseline dog behavior goes—she’s super smart and is doing well with training, and I don’t mind the extra work that goes into owning a dog (walks, poop pickup, extra vacuuming, occasional accidents, etc.). I don’t mean to say she’s perfectly behaved—she’s certainly not—but it could easily be much, much worse.

On the other hand, I hate that my house is upside down, I hate that I can’t leave her alone uncrated for more than two minutes without worrying she’ll get into something or chew the furniture, I hate that she barks like crazy at my cat because she wants to play, I hate that I haven’t felt relaxed in my own house since we got her. Never in my wildest imagination would I think that I would adopt ANY pet, and then not want it. I love animals; my cat makes my heart leap with joy just looking at her, and I love other people’s dogs.

Worse, I get the sense that my husband feels the same way, or at least he also hasn’t bonded to her the way I imagined we would, which makes me feel bad because I had hoped this dog would make him happy, since the cat is “mine” and I would love for him to have the same bond I have with the cat. We are also trying to get pregnant and have been for a while, and my periodic deep misery I have around this dog is making me question whether I even want to be a mother. I resent the dog for making me feel that way, which as I’m typing this, I know is ridiculous.

My mom keeps happy-go-luckily telling me that this is great practice. Well frankly, I hate “this.” What if we have a baby and I don’t love the baby? A baby is so much more work and sacrifice than a dog is. What is wrong with me? I don’t know what to do. I spend every minute I’m home just praying I did enough to make her tired so she can go to sleep. The dog is my responsibility. I made a commitment. Is this going to get easier and I just need to ride it out?

A: You don’t love your dog because she is making you miserable, and she’s making you miserable because she’s not actually trained! You say she’s great as far as baseline behavior, but that doesn’t line up with her barking all day and chewing up the furniture at the first opportunity. You made a commitment when you adopted her and that commitment should include seriously dedicating yourself to a real training regimen (maybe try a different trainer than the one you’re currently working with, or a different technique, or more frequent sessions) for several months before you decide that she’s a bad fit.

I don’t love comparing pets and human infants, but your mom may be on to something here. Showing some discipline and being confident enough in your plan to stick with the program and push through a difficult phase where you’re not getting a lot in return (not to mention, being able to love a relatively helpless creature who makes your life hard in developmentally normal ways) is something that might come in handy during the period of time when your baby does nothing but cry and poop.

Classic Prudie

My brother and I were roommates with a dog (his) and a cat (mine) when he died unexpectedly eight months ago. Since then, the care of his dog has fallen to me. While I like his dog, who’s an 11-year-old terrier mix I’ll call “Bert,” I’ve never been a dog person.

Things are coming to a head now. Bert has started making messes on the floor, and the vet thinks that it’s a permanent medical issue that may get worse. He can only wait six hours between going outside, so I’m waking up in the night to take him out and asking a neighbor to do so when I can’t get back from work on my lunch break.  It would be reprehensible to take Bert to the shelter because he’s so old, and I can’t do something like that to my brother’s dog. What are my options here? I don’t feel like I can do this much longer.