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The Dog Has to Go!

Roger and Linda Dee thought nothing could come between them. Linda's puppy had other ideas.

Linda's Side: Pets are family members

When I met Roger, I was 52 years old and had never been married. We connected instantly—in our interests, values, and most important, our commitment to God. The one glitch in our otherwise easy compatibility was small, white, and furry: my dog, Teddy.

Living as a single for so many years, without a husband or children, my dogs had been my kids. Still an exuberant puppy, Teddy demanded my attention. He'd jump into my lap when Roger and I sat on the couch together, run off with a shoe, or raid the wastebasket if he felt ignored.

"You're too lenient," Roger would tell me after scolding Teddy. "You have to make him mind."

"That doesn't mean you have to yell at him," I'd answer. "He's alone all day while I'm at work; he needs attention."

Things grew only worse once we were married. Roger was adamant that Teddy—who'd always slept with me—be banished not only from the bed but also our room for the night. Though I'd agreed to the new sleeping arrangements, Teddy objected—loudly. Bewildered when we shut him out of the bedroom, he'd bark and whine at the door. I tried everything—caging him in the kitchen, a special collar that would zap him when he barked—but nothing worked.

"I can't even get a decent night's sleep," Roger growled one morning after another night spent with Teddy crying outside our door. "I'm tired of putting up with that dog."

"Calm down; let's talk about it," I urged, not wanting him to leave for work while still angry.

"I'm done talking. I'll see you tonight." He grabbed his coat and stormed out.

I was heartbroken. Why couldn't Roger understand how much Teddy meant to me? Would I have to get rid of Teddy to preserve my marriage?

Roger's Side: It's just a dog

I'll never forget the first time Teddy came between Linda and me. Literally. We were sitting on her couch, deep in conversation, when a white furball launched himself into Linda's lap. Talk about a mood killer!

"I can't believe you let him on the couch," I complained, watching her cuddle him.

"He's alone all day, so he likes to be close to me at night," Linda replied.

"But he's a dog," I said, cringing as Teddy ecstatically licked her face. "Dogs don't belong on the furniture."

By the time we got married, Teddy had become one of the few sources of argument between us. I thought Linda let him get away with murder—unrolling toilet paper, jumping on the furniture, and chewing almost anything he could get his teeth on.

Linda thought I was too impatient and became upset when I lost my temper and yelled. I didn't dislike Teddy; I just don't believe in treating a dog like a person. And I absolutely didn't want him sleeping on my bed!

Our first night together we firmly ushered the dog out of the bedroom and shut the door. We'd barely turned off the light when it began: Teddy whimpered. He cried. He barked. And he kept it up all that night, and every night following.

After a string of sleepless nights, I'd had enough. "I might as well go to work; I certainly can't sleep," I told Linda one morning and stomped out of the house.

As I drove to work, I wavered between anger and regret. I knew Linda was just as frustrated by the situation as I was, but sometimes I felt as if she worried more about Teddy than me!

What They Did

After Roger left, Linda agonized over what to do. "I knew things couldn't continue the way they were," she says. "I started to think of people who might be willing to give Teddy a new home."

When Roger called later to apologize, she burst into tears. "I don't want to lose you because of Teddy," she told him. "I'll give him away, if that's what it takes."

Roger was stunned. "I couldn't believe Linda was willing to give up the dog that meant so much to her," he says. "I assured her that Teddy would always have a place in our home."

That evening they began brainstorming ways to deal with Teddy.

"The problem is that we don't agree on Teddy's place in the family," Linda told Roger. "You see him as just an animal, but he's like my child."

"I don't mind him being part of the family," Roger replied. "But right now I feel like he's running it!"

Linda suggested letting Teddy sleep in their bedroom, but on the floor. They put his bed near theirs and insisted he remain in it.

"It was hard at first," Linda admits. "But once Teddy realized he wasn't going to be allowed on our bed, he settled down and went to sleep. And so did we!"

They also worked out a set of rules they both could live with. For instance, Teddy was allowed on the furniture, but only if he was in Linda's lap. Roger agreed to let Linda deal with most discipline issues, and Linda promised to crack down on Teddy's bad behaviors. In return, Roger spends more time taking Teddy for walks and playing with him.

"Being more involved in Teddy's care has given me more patience with him," Roger says. "We've bonded."

Roger and Linda still have their disagreements regarding the dog, but continue to compromise. "We'll never see Teddy the same way," Linda says. "But we've worked out some boundaries we can all live with—even Teddy. Now if we could just get him to stop snoring …"

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Compromise; Conflict; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Fall, 2005
Posted September 12, 2008

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