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It's only a dog, but it's ruining our marriage

(6 Posts)
feesh Thu 13-Oct-11 06:34:53

I'll try and keep this short - I'm new to Mumsnet by the way.

We live in the Middle East and took a stray puppy in a few months ago - we didn't want to, but our friends were threatening to put it back out onto the street. They couldn't keep it themselves and all the animal shelters etc were full. So we agreed to take it in and then spent the next 2 months or so trying really hard (and failing) to find a permanent home for it. We only really accepted that we were keeping her when she was about 5 months old.

The reasons for not wanting a puppy were basically that we'd just moved out here and wanted to start settling into our new life and, although we've always wanted a dog, we swore blind that we'd never take on a puppy when the time came to get one.

So the early days were really hard. I had a big shock with how hard it was and DH would often come home from work to find me a sobbing, crumpled mess in the corner of the kitchen. I am not working out here, although I probably would have a job by now, were it not for the puppy!

We have done everything right for the puppy - she has been trained using positive reinforcement, I read all the books such as the Culture Clash and came on here quite a lot to gain a lot of knowledge about how to do things. So she's turned into a lovely 8-month old dog and we love her to bits now. My husband has taken very little active involvement in it all, although to be fair he does work 9-5. I have been nagging him to read the Culture Clash for weeks/months, but it's gathering dust on his bedside table.

Obviously, having a dog in the Middle East is a massive bind - dogs are not welcome here, so you can't take them ANYWHERE and the only place I can walk her is on a remote beach half an hour to an hour's drive from our house. It was particularly challenging over the summer, as you can imagine!

So, that's the background - it's been a tough few months. I often think what my life would be like without her. I try not to leave her alone for too long, so I can only really go out once a day, at most, as she has some Saluki in her and I know she gets pretty depressed when I'm not around (that's a Saluki thing). She is a Saluki/Retriever mix, by the way, possibly with some GSD in there.

Now she's older, I am trying to have more of a life. I signed up for a photography course, which is one evening a week for six weeks. I am also volunteering for a big event, and have told them I can only work evenings because they want to me to do 4 hour shifts, and I don't want to leave the dog alone for that long during the day.

The thing is, this whole situation has brought out the worst in my husband and it's making me question my desire to have kids with him. I came home at 10.30pm last night and he had the right hump that I had been out all evening and 'left him with the dog'. He does adore her and they had been having fun together, but when I pushed him on his exact concerns, he couldn't really be specific. I think he's just bitter that I was out and he was 'stuck home with the dog', but that's kind of how I spend 8 hours a day, so gawd knows what it would be like if I had children to care for. It's not like she is a big hassle to be stuck at home with - these days she is very calm and a joy to be around at home, although you still have to keep a close on eye on her of course.

I don't know what I'm asking really. I just needed to get it off my chest. I am sitting here sobbing and the poor dog is downstairs on her own, so I should go and see her.

Has anyone else found the dog has brought such a massive strain on their relationship, and how did you deal with it? I have heard of couples going through such shifts when the wife takes time out of her career to have kids, but never for dogs.

birdofthenorth Thu 13-Oct-11 06:49:34

It gets better smile

We bought two pups 4 years ago and the first 12 months definitely raised marital stress levels. They destroyed carpets, walls, everything; went beserk if left alone; needed constant excersize or turned insane. Then about a year later they calmed down a LOT, became easier to leave alone, stopped causing havoc, didn't misbehave between excersizing.

Removed a lot of relationship stress when they turned that corner!

Btw, have subsequently had children -they are much easier than a puppy smile

Rindercella Thu 13-Oct-11 07:03:22

Oh you poor thing, you sound so upset. I actually think you should have this thread moved to relationships as it appears to be more about your relationship with your husband than about the dog.

Why would your husband be upset with you going out once a week in the evening? Especially when you are stuck at home alone all day in a strange country? That doesn't sound very considerate or caring to me. I have the feeling this would be the case whether it was a dog or children. Or actually even if you had no dependants I reckon he would still moan about you being out. Imo, that's the bit you need to get to the bottom of.

Your dog sounds lovely. Your husband sounds markedly less so.

feesh Thu 13-Oct-11 07:05:07

Thanks smile
To be honest, I think she's really turned that corner already. She has calmed down a lot over the past couple of months and all the work I put in when she was little has really started to pay off, e.g. I don't give her much attention at home apart from the times I choose to, so she is good at amusing herself. She doesn't chew the furniture. She has her own bedroom with her own private garden(!!) and dog flap, so she's no hassle on the toileting front. She goes to puppy class once a week in a qualified dog trainer's house.

I try to take her down the beach every day, so she's tired enough for us to cope with! That is 3 hours out of my day, every day, which is why I feel a bit resentful towards DH as I work SO hard to make sure the dog is nice and tired for when he comes home in the evenings.

The only way she is a bind is in being left alone really. I have gradually worked up to it since she was little, and I can leave her for a couple of hours in the day, and up to 4 hours in the evening if we have a night out (as long as we try and go later than 8pm as that is her sleepy time anyway).

DH thinks I should leave her alone more often, as she seems OK with it, but I just know through instinct that she gets depressed when alone and I think there would be a possibility of her developing SA if she was pushed, so I manage it as best I can. DH keeps questioning where I get my information from about not leaving them alone too much (mostly from this forum, which doesn't go down to well with him as a viable source!) and wants to know how people cope with going to work and having a dog - I am trying to explain to him that in reality, not many people do and we don't actually KNOW anyone who does this.

So that's what we argue about really. He thinks the dog is too much of a bind and has taken away his freedom, but I think he is being childish and needs to step up to the responsibility of dog ownership and all that brings with it. There is a slight background issue here in that none of his family seemed to be brought up with much 'sense of responsibility', whereas I was, and as a result things often fall onto my shoulders.....

feesh Thu 13-Oct-11 07:06:21

Sorry Rindercella, we cross-posted there. I know you're right, I just don't want to face up to it. We used to have a great relationship, it's just that the dog has brought out a side to him that I don't like.

nooka Thu 13-Oct-11 07:10:47

I think that the issue here is more about your relationship than the dog really, and in some ways you are right it is a little like having a baby with the dependance issue and the resulting lack of freedom (we felt like having a puppy was a sort of cross between having a baby and a toddler at the same time, but on speed dial). Plus you also have the living in a foreign land stuff on top of that (I'm also an emigre, and it can be a relationship maker/breaker too).

I guess the advice would be the same regardless, you need to get talking with your dh about how to manage the challenge together. On the dog front might it be possible to find a sitter for some of the day perhaps? It must be very sad to be a dog owner somewhere where people really don't like dogs.

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