June 23, 2018
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What’s it going to be, me or the dog?

Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Slate

Dear Prudence,

I have a 9-year-old cocker spaniel. I’ve raised him since he was a puppy and I think of him as my four-legged son. However, my boyfriend of 10 months is allergic to dogs. He also dislikes them. He was attacked by one as a child and now won’t go near dogs at all. As such, he almost never comes to my place. We are very committed to each other and wish to get married soon.

But the problem is that I can’t allow myself to give my beloved doggy away to another family. He has a few medical problems related to age and the vet has told me he will probably live another two years or so, although of course nobody knows for sure. I’ve asked my boyfriend if we could delay our marriage until my dog dies, and he thinks I’m crazy. We both want to have kids soon, but considering I’m now 34 and he’s 40, my boyfriend doesn’t want to wait another two years.

He understands that I love my dog, but he thinks marriage is more important and I should just find another loving family for him. I feel heartbroken at the very idea. Am I really nuts for putting my furry baby ahead of human babies?

— Delay for the dog?

Dear Delay,

Your boyfriend sounds as if he’s being overly dogmatic. If I were you, I’d like some more confirmation that your boyfriend is actually allergic to dogs. If he was attacked as a child and has avoided them for the rest of his life, I’m wondering if he truly knows he has allergies, or that is just a more convincing way of keeping dogs at bay than saying he was traumatized as a kid and has never gotten over it. However, your plan to wait until your beloved pooch dies before you move on with your reproductive plans is ill-conceived.

You’d be astounded, with medical advances and the potential of large veterinary bills, how much life can be eked out of an ailing, aging dog_and 9 is not that old. As your dog is declining, so is your fertility. You might easily be able to have children in your later 30s, but if you know you want them now and you’ve found the partner you want them with, it’s not a good idea to wait.

Perhaps you can have your dog bathed and then the three of you can go for a walk. He’ll see how unthreatening your baby is, and maybe he won’t start wheezing. Perhaps if you move in together, your dog can be limited to certain areas of the house. Possibly your boyfriend can investigate allergy shots (if he really is allergic). I think he owes you the opportunity to have it all — his love, your children, and your short-timer of a cocker spaniel.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I am a recent college graduate, and I was lucky enough to find a job before graduation. I will be teaching in a middle school and am very excited. As many people know, teachers do not get paid a whole lot in comparison to a lot of other degrees. That’s where my family comes in. My cousin graduated a few years ago and has landed a wonderful job making $80,000 a year and she is only 24. I, however, am 22 and am making about $30,000 a year.

My aunt and uncle constantly tell people how disappointed they were because I “only” became a teacher when I “had potential for so much more.” They also love to brag about how their daughter makes so much money and she’s barely out of college.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and I know this is the career path I want to take, but how do I deal with these snide remarks from my aunt and uncle? I’ve tried the whole “this is what I love” thing and they just brush me off. It hurts deeply to be compared based solely on the fact of how much money I make (and I’ve only been out of college for a month!).

— Teach

Dear Teach,

If your aunt and uncle are going around bragging about their daughter’s salary and disparaging yours, you don’t have to do anything because they are making fools of themselves. When they bring this up to you at family events, just say, “Interesting. Excuse me while I get something to eat.” If you’re going to be a middle-school teacher, you’re going to need to gracefully handle people who have no idea how to behave!

Dear Prudence,

Several months ago my husband turned into an unrecognizable person. He began snapping at me and our kids, then quickly became cruel toward us. He openly began sleeping with a woman half our age. He left our family to be with her and we have been going through a hellacious divorce.

Not long ago he discovered that he had a sizeable brain tumor, which apparently affected his behavior. He has had the brain tumor removed and is undergoing chemotherapy. He is also racked with guilt and can see how awfully he behaved; he has shown me true remorse.

My husband wants to give our marriage another go and has cited the brain tumor as the reason he behaved how he did. I cannot bring myself to forgive him, though, even if he’s not entirely responsible for his recent behavior. Should I give our marriage time, or am I justified in pursuing my divorce?

— Wounded Wife

Dear Wounded,

This is the reason I so often say that when someone has a gradual, or sudden, change in character or personality, a complete physical and mental evaluation is called for. I think “The brain tumor made me do it” is a pretty compelling excuse.

Of course it doesn’t undo the pain that was caused, but it does explain your husband was not in his right mind. If, no matter what the cause, you are done with your marriage, then I don’t see how you return to it. If you can get some distance from your pain and see that a medical crisis was causing his behavior, perhaps there’s hope.

In any case, your kids have been through an awful trauma. Their father turned into someone else, and now he’s very ill. Please get some counseling for the whole family. You don’t have to decide what you want the outcome of this to be. But having a safe place for all of you to express your pain and your fears will at least allow you to go forward with everyone’s best interests in focus.

— Prudie

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.

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