When is it time to let go of a pet?

Dear Nicole:

My husband and I have a 13-year-old dog that we both love dearly. While still relatively healthy, Tink is starting to have some health issues and this is causing a rift in our relationship. My philosophy about pet ownership has always been straightforward. You love them, give them a happy, safe life and when it’s time for them to die you hold them in your arms while the vet helps them slip away peacefully. My husband is so attached to Tink that he can’t bear to think about his death and wants to forestall it for as long as he can even if it means Tink’s quality of life deteriorates. I’m really surprised by this. We agree on practically everything else. I don’t know what to do. I love Tink, too, and I can’t stand the thought of him suffering.

— Pet lover

I have a very vivid memory calling my mom crying from the Brewer vet parking lot when my 16-year-old dog Sadie needed a $12,000 surgery. I was making $12/hour. The surgery would extend her life by 6-12 months but would not change her very poor quality of life. She looked at me with big brown eyes, wincing. I knew what I had to do.

I bought her a steak, I held her a lot, and I put her down less than 48 hours later. I honestly didn’t know to expect that moment of clarity, that moment of knowing this very hard thing was the right thing to do. It was a nice surprise in an otherwise unbearable pain.

I got a card from the vet a few days later. I exhaled, wondering how a vet would judge me for my decision to not have a surgery to keep Sadie alive. Inside was a kind handwritten note telling me I had made the right decision and he knew how much I loved Sadie. He didn’t have to write and I’m sure was squeezed into a very busy schedule. I am crying as I write this, thinking both of losing Sadie and getting that note from the person I thought would judge me harshest telling me I was not a bad person.

When I got Gidget, I decided I wasn’t going to make myself be rational during an irrational time ever again. I have a dollar amount in my mind I am willing to pay if something happens to her. I also have certain things I don’t want her to suffer carefully listed in my head. And even with all this thought, I know in the end I’ll end up going with my gut, the numbers/ideas will just help me back myself up. And in writing this, I realize I haven’t shared my thoughts with my husband. And I should.

It’s time for you and husband to have an honest and open conversation about Tink. Do it before you have to call him crying from a parking lot. And know that in your heart, when it’s time to let Tink go, you’ll both know it’s the right thing to do.

Dear Nicole:

My wife of eight months has started to buy me clothes. I wouldn’t say I was a fashion hound, but I do like my style, and I have received compliments on “my look.” While what she buys me isn’t hideous or anything, I just don’t like them and I really don’t like that she just decided to shop for me. Does she not like my clothes? Or, does she think I don’t shop in the right places? Since this is really the first annoyance in my new marriage I’d like to handle it diplomatically. And in case you think my look is weird, I tend to fitted, straight-leg, dark-colored pants and conservative shirts for going out and clean T-shirts without logos for hanging out.

— Clothes confused

My mom loves shopping for my husband. First of all, he’s a pretty snappy and relatively adventurous dresser for Downeast Maine (he will rock colored pants, for example). She also once said offhandedly, “I miss dressing a man.” (My dad passed away in 2007.) It was an interesting idea.

It’s been the unsaid role of wifehood that you get to dress your man. Maybe that’s why your wife waited until after you were married to do this. It’s old-fashioned, but, like many old-fashioned ideas, still kicks around in some circles.

First of all, I don’t think this is coming from a bad place. I bet it’s her way of trying to take care of you, not trying to change your look. That said, my husband and I know that, each having a personal distinct style, clothes are not the kind of gifts we like to get from each other. We’re much more likely to do an “experience” gift such as a nice dinner or a ski trip. If you reframe it as a you’d rather get electronics/collectible knives/insert-desired-gift-here, that may get you less style and more substance. I bet your wife has no idea your look is your look, but once you tell her, she’ll respect your viewpoint. She did like it enough to marry you after all.

Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]

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