About last night: A doggie dilemma.

Q. Gemma got her Labrador, Arnie, for her 11th birthday. He’s half deaf, has arthritis, and is pretty smelly, but she’s besotted. I get it, but he’s a passion killer. I never sleep at her place because the dog sleeps on her bed, and he snores and farts all night. She’ll come to my place, but won’t sleep over because she won’t leave Arnie alone. We can’t go away for the weekend, or even for a long day trip, because he gets sick in the car. Gemma’s great, but I’m tired of being tied down by a dog.

A. Poor old Arnie is living proof that "a puppy isn’t just for Xmas". As they age, our pets do become more demanding, but it is horribly difficult to decide when the kindest choice is to let them go. If a pet is suffering it would be selfish to keep them alive to spare one’s own feelings, but if Arnie is happy and not in pain, Gemma is bound to want to hold on to a living link with her childhood.

There are two ways of dealing with this situation that are almost guaranteed to backfire. Beware of going into rational, objective mode ("It’s only a dog!") and do not give Gemma an ultimatum ("It’s him, or me"). Nothing good will come of these approaches.

A beloved pet for one person can leave a new partner cold.

A beloved pet for one person can leave a new partner cold.


How serious is this relationship? The reality is that Arnie will not be around forever. If you think you might like a future with Gemma this is an opportunity to show that you can be patient, empathetic and supportive, which will build trust.

If things are pretty casual, you have to decide whether or not you should keep going. If your heart is not in it, do not hang in to avoid looking bad. There is no right or wrong decision here. Many of us have a complex and contradictory attitude towards animals. We eat meat, wear leather, and seem apathetic about Australia’s record rate of mammal extinctions. On the other hand, we anthropomorphise our pets, or "fur babies", and are willing to spend a fortune on their food, health needs and accessories. A lot of this is contextual. A farmer is bound to be more phlegmatic than a crazy cat person.

There are ethical issues that pet owners need to consider. When we had children, we agreed on a limit to the amount of money we would spend on a pet, explaining that it was unethical to spend too much on an animal while there were children without basic healthcare. Mind you, it is not easy. We once paid for tablets for a beloved budgie. He died. Some people are shocked by such "heartlessness", or get defensive, feeling judged.

I certainly do not mention this with a view to suggesting that you take the moral high ground with Gemma. It is important to respect other people’s point of view. If you decide to hang in for the duration, have an honest talk with Gemma about your thoughts and feelings, without blaming, shaming, or expressing self-pity. Be positive. Make it clear that you are not anti-Arnie. Let her know that you love her, would love to be able to spend more time with her, and hope you can share adventures one day.

You might reassure her that you will help her with Arnie during his lifetime, but ask her if she is willing not to replace him straightaway after he is gone. It would be pretty galling to wait patiently, only to have Gemma get a puppy the minute he dies.

When that time comes, you need to let Gemma make that decision. Even if she lets him linger longer than you would, do not hassle her or apply pressure. What you can do is support her, and be her rock. Offer practical help if it is need and a shoulder to cry on. The death of a beloved pet is gutting, and only time can heal that pain. Allow Gemma to go through the grieving process and be sympathetic, even if, in your heart, you feel relieved it is over.

About Last Night

Date: 21-08-2019

About Last Night Blogs are written by Maureen Mathews, published by Fairfax media. Maureen is the original owner of Bliss for Women. The current Bliss Team is excited to Maureen share her knowledge on our new site. It is fantastic to have Maureen as one of our regular expert contributors. If you wish to ask Maureen a question you can can send an email to hello@blissforwomen.com.au using About Last Night in the subject of the email.

We were founded in 1996 by one of Australia’s most respected sex columnists, Maureen Matthews. She wanted to give women of Melbourne a place where they could explore pleasure and sexuality without the sleazy, without the gaze of the male-dominated sex industry of the time. Maureen’s determination for change was inspirational. This drive for change continues today with the new generation at Bliss.

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