My Husband Said No More Rescue Dogs. He Didn't Mean It.
You know those cute memes on Facebook that show a house full of animals with captions that humorously advise your spouse how you've manage to sneak another animal into your home? I used to like them, too. That is until it became a source of contention between me and my husband.
I had two dogs when I first met my husband, Scott. As a couple, I begged him to let me take a look at a co-worker's kittens and pick one. I chose two. While at the vet's office getting them checked out, I spotted a kitten for adoption in the waiting room and suddenly, we had three. He was not pleased, but basically everything was blissful until I began working in the animal field. I was around so many dogs I began to jones for another dog. I learned about a breeder in an adjoining county being forced to thin out her herd by Animal Control. I was also an Animal Control Officer and my lieutenant told me she had an older dog and wouldn't it be great if I rescued an older dog? I begged my husband and he gave in. We promptly brought home Cisco, a 9-year old rat terrier who had been used as a breeding dog and discarded into an overgrown pasture. Now we had three dogs and three cats. Scott said, "no more" and I agreed. Six animals were enough, especially since we were renters. I knew it wouldn't last.
Soon after, through work, I came across a tiny Boston terrier / miniature pinscher mix that a breeder couldn't get rid of. I decided it was the shelter or me, so I went with "me." I called Scott on the way home and told him we needed to talk. He responded solemnly and I began to feel guilty. When Scott got home I turned to him, Murphy in hand, and said, "Look!" He was silent for a moment before he said, "So what's its name?" Bam! Four dogs just like that. I later learned that Scott thought our need to talk was because I was leaving. Was he kidding? I had the best husband who let me bring home dogs without complaining!
Between the four dogs and the three cats, we were constantly tripping over animals in our small rental. Our newly rescued rat terrier had never lived indoors and he was constantly getting into pissing matches with my other male dog. Scott said, "No more animals." and I was fine with that. Well, not really.
I remained fine with that until I laid eyes on Cuda. By this time we had bought a house and I felt that without a landlord to say "no," we could keep on going. I texted Scott and he wrote back, "No. We already have four dogs". I texted him repeatedly that he didn't understand and that I had to take this dog to keep her from going to the shelter. After about 15 minutes of texting, he relented and texted the words, "Do what you're gonna do because you're (expletive) gonna do it anyway." Of course he fell in love with Cuda, just as he had with the two other dogs I finagled into our house. I kept ignoring his frustration.
Things escalated when Cuda was diagnosed with diabetes. I started getting reminders that we couldn't go anywhere because we had five dogs. We had to plan our days around 6 a.m and 6 p.m. for Cuda's insulin. Still, he took impeccable care of the animals and cooed to them daily.
When we sold our house it was hard to find a rental with five dogs and three cats. We found one with a high monthly fee but I was glad that I wasn't being reminded how hard it would be to find a rental with five dogs and three cats! Then I took a job at a shelter and started bringing dogs home temporarily. They would stay for a night or a week so I could evaluate them in the home and then I would send them off to be adopted. No harm in that, right? Not until I started hinting that I wanted each dog that I brought home. He would say "no" and I would impress him with my amazing willpower and bring the dog back to the shelter. I really thought I was being cute but I later learned he took me quite seriously.
Eventually, our old man Cisco, the discarded breeder dog, passed away from old age. We were now down to four dogs. One of our cats passed away and we were down to four dogs and two cats. I made arrangements to "foster fail" a puppy and after hammering Scott with my pleas, he gave up saying "no." Something was different because he didn't fall in love with the puppy. I ended up backing out and felt like crap. I saw that as compromising and giving in although I complained about it a lot and how much I wanted another dog. Scott finally blew his top, revealing that he felt disrespected, unheard, walked on and placed behind the dogs in the order of importance in the house. I asked him why he said "yes" each time and he told me that he felt he had no choice and that a happy wife meant a happy life but he couldn't take it anymore. I grew resentful because after all, he knew I loved animals when he met me. I became so resentful I tried to picture myself living alone with the animals and wondered who would help me with their care. I love Scott and didn't want to leave and didn't want him to leave me. I stopped, thought about it and finally realized that sneaking dogs into the house in a cutesy way did not make it cute or okay.
Adopting animals must be a partnership and both parties must be included in the decision. A little cajoling is okay but if one party is adamantly against it, problems will arise. Scott wasn't asking me to give up our animals; he was asking for a reprieve from me begging him for more. He needed me to stop showing him posts of dogs on Facebook and complaining how all of my other friends' husbands let them bring animals home without complaining. I didn't really know that, but it made for good defense. Once we started talking about it, Scott revealed that he was hurt that I didn't take his opinions about it into consideration and that he didn't even get to be part of the decision since I already made it.
Once I took a step back from spiraling into a potential hoarder with no concern for anything but having another animal, our relationship improved.
Last year I lost one of the two dogs I had when I met Scott, to old age. Scott spotted a dog being shared online and told me to go get her. That's how Maggie joined us. He named her and he accepted her, just as he had the other animals but with time to mentally prepare for her.
We are currently at four dogs and two cats. I still long for another dog and I still show Scott all the cute dogs being shared on Facebook. Then I see that look on his face that I failed to recognize before and I know I must take his feelings into consideration.
Relationships can crumble over a lack of agreement over furniture, children, hobbies and yes, animals. Before sneaking that adorable rescue into the house, check in with your partner. Really check in with your partner. It truly has to be a mutual decision or the next meme you post will be that cute one about choosing your dog over your spouse. My husband loves our animals unconditionally and they love him back. I totally accept that he doesn't want me to bring another dog home. For now.