I hate being forced into decisions. Life is already a series of tests; artificially created ones just make it harder to face the real ones.
Back in July, a woman Allison and I both know from theatre work was facing a tough situation. She needed to move to a new place, and since she was pregnant, she was having trouble caring for her Bernese Mountain dog while preparing for the move. My wife, Allison, an experienced animal rescue person, was asked if we could take care of the dog for three weeks — just until after the move.
When Allison discussed the idea with me, I was dead set against it. I wanted to help, don’t get me wrong, but in the first place, we had a new dog in the house already, and the presence of another dog would make it very hard to get him to concentrate on learning the rules. In the second place, I saw it as the potential source of a lot of drama at a time when we didn’t need more drama. We had a fairly ugly argument over it; I lost. So I did my best to accept the situation, and tried to help keep the dog (we’ll call her M) happy and healthy. Eventually I put away my objections because we were doing the good, kind thing for someone who was truly in need.
The drama didn’t take long to surface. M has a terrible allergy to flea dirt, so we needed to get her on flea and tick meds. Allison, who handled all thus, quickly became frustrated. Getting the owner to communicate was like pulling teeth. We’d send a message and hear nothing back for days. But after a lot of wrangling — and paying for it ourselves — we finally got the meds on board.
In the three weeks M was here, the owner never even visited. Her two kids asked about the dog every time they saw me at the theatre, though. They really seemed to miss their dog, and grilled me (in a cute, kid-like way) about how well we were taking care of her.
Three weeks passed. The move happened. After a bit, we inquired as to when the dog might be picked up, and we were informed that there was a small problem there. The owner had signed a lease at her new house that expressly forbade pets. There were various explanations for how such a thing could happen (we were told she didn’t know, somehow), but we were assured that she’d call the landlord and get it worked out.
It took a week before we heard that the landlord had refused to accommodate the owner. She now owned a dog she could not have in her house. She assured us that arrangements would be made.
Again, getting information was difficult. Allison would send messages and get replies days later. There didn’t seem to be any progress in re-homing, boarding, or otherwise semi-permanently lodging M. Friction developed between Allison and the owner, mostly due to the owner’so refusal to keep in touch, and at one point a few weeks ago, I got tired of Allison always being upset. I also found out that the owner had been bad-mouthing Allison to anyone who’d listen. The bickering and public trashing needed to stop, so I stepped in as mediator and point of contact. At this point, Allison was done and just wanted M to go home or go wherever she needed to go, and I was right there with her.
I sent a long, long message to the owner, explaining that she was to deal with me, and that since she and I had had no problems before, I expected that we would handle things within a framework of mutual respect. The reply — a day later — was substantially agreeable. I asked to be kept up to date on the effort to find permanent arrangements for M, and mentioned that sending me a text every couple of days wouldn’t take any more time than I spend giving M a treat every day.
It had now been a month. M was scratching herself raw, so it was clearly time for another dose of the flea and tick meds. I contacted the owner and asked that she make arrangements with her vet. She did, and despite the fact that she only called in one of the two meds, and despite the fact that I had to leave work early to go get it, I was at least a little encouraged.
But the pattern continued. A week later, with ticks becoming a problem, I contacted the owner again and asked that the tick meds be called in. She balked at first, then said she’d call it in on September 15, a week later, when she got paid. At this point we also asked for some help with M’s food, since she is a big dog and eats $75 a month’s worth of dog food. The owner said she’d order M’s special food on the 15th also.
I heard nothing for a week. On the 16th, I asked what was up. She said she’d ordered the food, and that it would arrive in two weeks! She asked the name of the tick meds, and I sent it. There was no reply on that Tuesday, nor the rest of the week. Nothing was called into the vet’s office.
Allison and I had a talk on Saturday and agreed that enough was enough. M’s owner was clearly not going to communicate with us regularly. She’d had weeks to work out arrangements and there’d been no progress. Meanwhile, we were quite literally changing our day-to-day lives to accommodate her dog. At best we were being taken for granted; more realistically, we were being used. The situation was not improving and my communications were being ignored.
I did the only thing I felt I could. I sent a message saying that ignoring our communications did not fall within the framework of respect I’d proposed, and that the arrangement was not going to work. I asked the owner to arrange to pick up M by Saturday, September 27. It was hard to do this, knowing the real victim here is M.
That’s today. There has been NO REPLY at all. None. Indirectly, it has come back to me through the grapevine that the owner was “livid” upon receiving the last message. I’d much rather hear at least an acknowledgement that we’ve taken care of her dog for more than three times the period we agreed to, and that we’ve gone above and beyond the standard of care that any boarding kennel would have provided. We have treated M like a member of our family; she has wanted for nothing. We simply can’t keep taking care of her forever; she isn’t our dog.
I’m sorry to have taken this public. But our line in the sand has apparently been danced across, since if she intended to pick up M today, I’m sure we would have heard. Meanwhile, half the town has probably heard from the owner. I’m pretty tired of her complaints being the only voice heard in this situation. I’d also like to appeal to your excellent judgement. What’s next? A certified letter? It certainly seems to me that after ignoring communications for 10 days or more, she’s essentially abandoned the dog. Let me know, either in the comments or on Facebook, how you would handle such a situation.