Dear Carolyn: About a year and a half ago my husband and I purchased a dog. She was way too busy for us, so my daughter took her. We helped pay to have the dog spayed, as she was ours to start with.
Anyway, since then, whenever my daughter takes a trip for a weekend or longer, she thinks my husband and I should be the ones to take care of her. Four months ago, we purchased a new, much calmer puppy. We tried taking care of dog No. 1 a few weeks ago for a weekend. It was very difficult for my husband.
So now my daughter wants us to watch dog No. 1 for a week in July. I do not want to, as it was difficult with the two dogs before. I do not know how to turn my daughter down without hurting her feelings or making her mad at me. I do still feel some kind of obligation to her for taking the dog to begin with.
How do I tell my daughter I do not want to do this? I love the dog but she is a bit much. – Dog Grandma
Your daughter did you a favor worth more than a partially-paid-for sterilization that was your responsibility to begin with. So your sense of obligation is appropriately placed.
Paying, or at least splitting, the cost for her to board her (your former) dog at a reputable kennel while she travels would take care of that obligation nicely. If money is an issue or if this seems too open-ended, then settle on a fair limit – say, a flat $X per month that she can put toward the dog’s expenses, to include any kenneling fees.
Since obedience training is a significant element of dog behavior, it sounds as if you’d all benefit – you, husband, daughter, Dog 1, Dog 2 – if Ms. Busy spent this July week at canine charm school. You might have to research it a bit and pay a little extra, but I think you’ll find this service to be one of the great bargains of your lifetime. No exaggeration. The release from guilt alone is worth it.
But that’s a side benefit. “Busy” in dogs tends to mean “anxious,” and “anxious” means “unhappy.” Many dog owners don’t realize it’s not just about sit-stay, but about learning to speak dog. Some good training for the dog followed by some basic training for the owner can turn a miserable dog into a contented one and the chore of caring for her into (mostly) a privilege.
As for how you convey all of this to your daughter, present it as is: You’re in her debt but also just as far in over your heads with this dog as you were before. Arguably more so with the new puppy. So, dog-sitting is out – for now – but you’ll spot her the fees for kennels and charm school.
You can’t curate the way someone will respond to your decisions; your daughter could be hurt or angry no matter what you do. You can only take responsibility for your own actions and respond to others in good faith.
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