This week, we’ve called on our favorite expert pet owners to answer your questions about the unruly critters in your life. Faux Paws is Slate’s pet advice column. Submit questions here.
Dear Faux Paws,
My ex and I broke up during the pandemic. She moved back in with her parents because living together was a mutual misery. Only, her parents refused to let her take her two dogs. I have one myself and I know how upset I would be to lose my baby. My ex drives over three times, give or take, a week to walk and play with all three dogs. She pays for the food and upkeep of hers. I gave her a new key to my place because my work has me going at all crazy hours. Well, I have been dating “Nina” for two months.
She knew I was keeping the dogs for my ex but not how often she came over. We were extremely casual until recently and I meant to tell Nina the truth in full. But work is nuts and I screwed up. I got my days mixed up so when my boss called me to come in at 3 a.m. on my day off, I forgot my ex was coming over to see the dogs. So I told Nina to sleep in. So Nina met my ex while eating cereal in her underwear and watching tv and the door opened. It was as awkward as it sounds. I got an earful from everyone. Nina tried to break up with me, but I begged her to give me another chance. Nina told me she believes me because everyone, including my ex, vouched that we were over except for the dog situation. She still is uncomfortable with how involved I was with my ex. So she told me to figure it out.
I don’t know how. It has been six months. My ex is not closer to finding her own place, let alone a pet-friendly one, than when she moved out. Her parents will not relent. And no luck on fostering. I have offered to take on the cost of care for six months free, but my ex would have to get someone else to deliver the dogs to her. She cried and called me unfair. I haven’t cheated. I have done nothing really wrong. I want a chance with Nina. I love the dogs. I like my ex. Am I the bad guy here?
Dear Hard Rock,
I think you should “figure it out” by telling Nina that this is just what your life looks like. It sounds like your set-up with your ex and the dogs was working for you! Having three dogs, two of whom are financially covered by someone else, sounds like a total blast. And it’s good for the dogs to hang out with each other, and also get attention from someone else while you’re away at work.
Yes, you should have explained to Nina that your ex had a key to the apartment. And you probably should have even instituted a system where she gets a heads-up ahead of the ex stopping by. I can see why she was upset about being surprised. Tell her that if she has any requests or ideas about how to make the setup work better for her, you’ll listen to them.
But she doesn’t get to dictate your whole relationship with your ex (plus you and Nina don’t live together, it’s not her space!). Plenty of people stay friendly with one or more of their exes. Plenty of people raise not dogs but kids with an ex. And plenty of people out there would be excited to be with someone who houses a trio of dogs—and who is emotionally mature enough to have a kind, mutually-beneficial dog set-up with someone they used to date. If Nina isn’t one of them, that’s her choice to make.
More Pet Advice From Slate
After a series of medical emergencies, my 77-year-old mother was no longer able to live alone. About a year and a half ago, I moved her across the country to live with my big sister. My mother had three dogs, and my sister has severe dog allergies. While we were able to take the puppy back to the breeder, my fiancé (who already has two dogs) and I each took one dog to care for, “Jerry” and “Molly.” I decided to keep Jerry, as he settled in with my elderly dog and cat quite well. After the passing of my old guy, I was grateful to have him. But then there’s Molly.