Is His Relationship With His Dog a Red Flag?



Name: Christine

Question: I’ve been exclusively dating a divorced man in his early 30s for several months now. Things are good for the most part, however, I’m unsure about how I should feel about a particular piece of “baggage” that he has – a co-owned dog. The dog lives with the ex, but she drops it off bi-weekly for an afternoon or overnight so he can have time with it. We’ve talked about it, and he doesn’t think the bi-weekly schedule is “frequent,” but I do. He seems to really care deeply for the dog, so I don’t press the issue. His apartment doesn’t allow pets, which is why he doesn’t have theirs or will buy a new one. He’s also 100% over his ex, and even if she wanted to reconcile, he claimed he would not be interested. According to him, their relationship only consists of text messages about dog pickup coordination, and that’s it. He seems fairly trustworthy in all other areas.

So my question is, do you think this situation is ridiculous, a red flag, and that I should walk? I’m somewhat bothered by it, but have dealt with it…I’m just conflicted because of that nagging feeling that I’m being an overly-trusting idiot.
Age: 32


I think the red flag would be if he wanted nothing to do with the dog. Anybody who could just walk away or otherwise abandon an animal is suspect in my book.

There’s a cat that resides in one of the apartments in the building behind me. Every afternoon and night that cat can be heard meowing and hissing and growling. At first I thought it was an alley cat that prowled the space between two buildings looking for food. As a cat owner, I know the difference between a joyful meow and a cry for help due to fear or pain, and all I hear is the latter. The noise was so frequent and bothered me so much that during another round of the feline’s caterwauling,  I went up and down 83rd Street listening trying to determine the cat’s exact location. It took some time, but I figured out the two brownstones  that were connected by the narrow alley.  First, I called The Center for Pet Control. The came up and took a loom around and didn’t find a cat. Then my friend J. got a friend of hers involved who works for a rescue group. No cat.  One afternoon a few months later I waited on the stoop of one of the buildings until someone was leaving, then walked right in and did some investigating. I passed one resident and asked him about the cat. He said he heard it, too.

“Yeah, it really sounds awful,” he said with a shrug. Cool, bro.

“Can you let me into the basement so I can get out to that alley?” I asked.

Obviously, the guy had valid reason to be suspicious of my request. He turned me down, saying he had to rush to an appointment. I then took things into my own hands, opening one of the windows in the stairwell and poking my head out so I could see into the alley. No cat. I took the super’s number from a sign on the wall and called him. He did some investigating and learned the cat wasn’t in the alley, but was perched on the windowsill inside one of the apartments. The cat’s owner travels frequently, sometimes leaving the cat alone for days at a time. I’m not sure what angered me more: the thought of an abandoned cat or the the thought of dozens of people hearing what I heard and doing nothing to try and help that animal.  Fun fact: I projected a shit ton of my own abandonment issues on that cat. The thought of it being in that apartment alone, its food bowl over turned as the super had said, sitting at that window waiting for its owner to return absolutely wrecked me. To this day, that cat still wails and hisses, and every single time I hear it I feel like someone is stabbing a knife through my heart. Yes, somewhere deep inside my psyche,  I am that abandoned cat.

The point of that sweet little tale is to say that anybody who just leaves an animal to fend for itself or who does not step in when they think the animal is feeling threatened is a bad person. Period. At least in my book. They have failed the animal they promised to care for an protect.

I can’t find fault with a man or woman who wishes to maintain a relationship with an animal to which they’ve grown attached over several years. I think what your guy is doing is admirable. He clearly loves the dog and doesn’t want it to think he turned his back on the canine. I’ve read profiles from men who explicitly state they don’t like dogs or cats. Buh bye. Nope. You have no heart.  While I’m hesitant to date guys who own dogs because of the scheduling conflicts and time constraints involved, I do think it speaks highly of someone if they own a pet.

There are no warning signs here other than you’re guy is a compassionate person who takes his relationships – even ones with animals – seriously. Deal with your insecurity and don’t you dare take it out on that dog.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)





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35 Responses to “Is His Relationship With His Dog a Red Flag?”

  1. fuzzilla Says:

    How can he have the dog every other week if his apartment doesn’t allow pets? They just sneak him in.

    I’m an animal lover, but if he/she has a good home with one partner after a split, the animal isn’t abandoned. Abandonment is leaving them with nothing. When I broke up with my ex- of many years I let him take one of the cats (we had two so I kept one. The two cats hated each other and fought constantly, so it seemed for the best). We stayed friends and visited the respective cats often (we’re still friends but I only visit occasionally now since I moved).

    As far as the OP – yeah, this guy made these arrangements for a reason and apparently it works for him. There don’t seem to be red flags that he’s hung up on the ex-.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      **They just sneak him in.**

      There was supposed to be a question mark, like, “No, really, how does he not get in trouble for that?” Some landlords are less involved than others, I guess.

  2. BostonRobin Says:

    “I think the red flag would be if he wanted nothing to do with the dog.”

    Exactly, and all the rest of this post as well. It speaks to a person’s character, showing that they value relationships of all kinds. Besides, pet co-ownership is the new normal of dating! I did it years ago when I had a sweet dog that everyone loved, so exes always got to hang out with her and would even dog sit for me.

    My SO now does this pet co-parenting thing on alternate weeks with the ex. I asked friends about this in the beginning and lots of them said that’s what people do these days. One friend even said he was doing it with his dog, sharing him with his ex–I had no idea!

  3. Michelle Says:

    Sorry went out with someone same situation I thought it was very honorable as well except it was also a way of not letting go of the past The Ex. Is still a part of his life do u go and pick up the dog with him???? If it were a child this would happen naturallly just saying be careful and u are right to wonder

  4. fuzzilla Says:

    (That’s how I got my cat, BTW. Heard loud meowing outside and opened the door and she just walked in. Glad you contacted the ASPCA).

  5. Nia Says:

    So much this! I have read profiles from guys that say things like “No cat lovers please, y’all are just crazy” (more than one version of this, sadly). That is a huge nope and I’ve even (foolishly I know) written these guys “check yourself” emails that explain how awful that looks to potential mates.
    I’m not comfortable around big dogs, but I’d make it work for someone I loved. Taking care of an animal is a privilege and a delight and I have no respect for people who dump or neglect their pets. It’s okay to evaluate your life and decide you don’t have time/resources to care for a pet. It’s not okay to be all like “I hate animals, don’t have one!” You’re right: no soul.

  6. Dave Says:

    Yipes…the witch hunt has begun. I’ll stick my neck out and defend those of us who aren’t dog lovers. And yes, we have hearts and possibly souls too. Just because we do not have any emotional needs that can be fulfilled by an animal doesn’t mean we are lacking in our humanity. There’s so much more I could say here but I don’t think it would be productive. I know I’m in the minority, and it is what it is.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      I’ve joked in the past about sharing custody of cats after a breakup, but it was just a joke as it seemed like a ridiculous thing to actually do, to me. I mean, I’ll visit the cat ‘cuz I’m friendly with my ex-, but a custody/rotating home schedule? Nah, bro. Everyone else is talking about dogs and not cats, which might make more sense as dogs are more sociable/more work..?

      People are free to not want to be pet owners, but the OP’s guy already has a dog. It sounds like the connection with the ex- is what really bothers her, not the dog.

    • SS Says:

      “Just because we do not have any emotional needs that can be fulfilled by an animal doesn’t mean we are lacking in our humanity.”

      So are you saying that pet owners are emotionally bereft and/or incapable of getting the full spectrum of their emotional needs met without a pet?

    • ATWYSingle Says:

      Dave, there’s a difference between someone who isn’t a dog lover and someone who actively doesn’t like dogs. I don’t exactly love children but I still find young babies and kids kinda cute. If a person can’t at least acknowledge a dog or cat’s loving nature, then there’s something off there.

      • Dave Says:

        I see your point…but that can be a real grey area for some of us. My default is to say I’m not a dog lover…but truth is I am not fond of dogs at all. But my main issue isn’t with the animals themselves (they are innocent) but with irresponsible owners who do not train or curb their dogs and well as the way our society has put them on such a pedestal and labeled people like myself as “bad” for not liking both the dogs and the culture of “furbabies”.

        I can tolerate a well behaved dog, and despite my dislike I’m actually quite good with them. This comes from growing up with family dogs and having befriended people who were dog trainers and Cesar Milan aficionados. As a martial artist with very clear personal boundaries I understand how dogs think and act on a primal level which makes it easy for me to interact with them when I want to. It’s one of those things you compromise on when you’re in relationship…the last lady I was seeing got a rescue dog while we were dating and while it bothered me at first, I ended up training the dog (which she didn’t know how or want to do) and tried to show her how giving the pup gentle, yet firm commands so he knew I was an Alpha kept him calm and well behaved. Believe me the last thing I wanted to do was talk him for walks and carry bags of doggie do-do, especially late at night when I was snuggling with my girlfriend, but again, compromise is the key to remember.

        Cats however, I love. I’ve lost count of the number of times a cat owner will say “be careful, my cat is shy, unfriendly, hates men, etc” and within minutes the cat is walking around my legs and purring and the owner is looking at me with a surprised expression. My mom did cat shows and we always had a pack of furry felines in the house growing up and I have been around them most of my life. But as much as love cats, I have no desire to own one as I do not want the responsibility.

        To each their own. But I’ll take the company of my own species any day.

        • SS Says:

          YOU’RE A CAT LOVER??!!!!

          Jeez between you and Jake I’m 7 shades of peed off because I cannot seem to find a man that likes (loves?) cats.

          To backtrack a little (to my comment above): my excuse is that I’m a total affection/cuddle spaz.

          Cat ownership does indeed fulfill a “need” for me – in that my inherent nature is to want to be verbally and physically affectionate on a regular basis. And quite honestly I just *love* to take care of others.

          In my mind (don’t laugh) discharging and or fulfilling my enjoyment for touch and caring can be healthier with pets than being some weird bird that gets arrested for molesting people in the street or hooking up with some rando.

          On reflection it hasn’t mattered overall whether I’m in a relationship or not.. I really just spaz out with excess affection regardless.

          I think what I am trying to say is that I’ll take the company of my own species too. But also pets. I have more than enough love and affection to spread around.

        • fuzzilla Says:

          Yeah, dogs are way more work, with the training, and the making sure they know who’s “alpha,” taking them out two or three times a day and arranging your schedule around them and all that. More work than I want to take on, although I do like dogs.

          I dated a guy with two dogs. They were actually sweet dogs, but they were huge, and he would scream at them when they weren’t doing anything wrong, just chillin’ on the floor sniffing stuff while we watched TV (“but, see, they need to follow my command no matter what! What if I was being attacked?”). Of course, he was just a psycho, period, and he’s the example I always bring up to say, “This was when I knew down to my bones that being single was FAR from the Worst Thing Ever…”

          I haven’t really had problems with guys hating cats, they’d at least tolerate them. Luckily I ended up with one who loves them.

          • fuzzilla Says:

            I asked my BF if he thought sharing custody of pets after a breakup was weird. He said he tried to do that with his ex-wife for a while, but he called it off because she’d just leave the dogs howling alone at her place while she went off to the city to fuck some rando. Point being, I guess that kind of arrangement is more common than I thought.

  7. BTownGirl Says:

    Second all of this! I once lived in an apartment building next door to a couple that kept their golden retriever puppy crated all day and you could hear the poor little thing crying right through their door. Occasionally they would ask me to take him out when they had to work late. I went in on a very hot day to find the crate covered with a blanket (they had cats too, so apparently this was to discourage mischief?) and the air conditioning turned off. I texted them to ask if they wanted me to put the ac on and it was, “No, he’s fine!” The f*ck he is! I always liked them prior to this, but after the way they treated their animals? Nope. No. I also dated a guy that had an English Bulldog (adorable, lovable, but high maintenance dog) and he told me he had to give it to his parents because it was too much work. And, yes, the dude turned out to be a douche. Those, Christine, are animal-related red flags!

    • BostonRobin Says:

      An ex of mine took in a stray kitten who made the mistake of peeing in her bed. One morning I woke up and asked why the window was open. She said it was so he would run away. She was also saying that she might take him to a shelter to get another one. What, after taking him in and making him think he had a home? To abandon him like his other people did? Um, we had a MAJOR discussion about that. It really made me wonder what kind of person she was.

      The kitten ended up not running away and she had a change of heart, at least concerning the kitten. Because nope, her “heart” was the same when she was finished with me. One day she was just done, “I don’t love you anymore,” the end. Gave me no reason, no arguments or issues ahead of time, just done. Can’t say I didn’t see that coming, since she already showed me her character regarding that kitten.

      Let’s consider how a kitten/puppy is about a thousand times cuter than ANY of us. Even an adult cat or dog, they’re awfully cute and lovable. Someone who can dump one of these creatures with barely a shrug is not someone I would suggest entrusting your heart to!

      • BTownGirl Says:

        Agreed! I really think that people who are careless with an animal who’s completely dependent on them are going to be careless with other people’s feelings and I’m sticking to it. Your ex is both an asshole and a prime example…bullet dodged!

      • myself Says:

        YUP! I love this so much.

        And if my dogs don’t like a guy….cya. I dated a guy for a couple years who “didn’t like dogs or cats”. Yeahhhh turns out he’s quite allergic, but didn’t matter, his bestie was one of my dogs – and he couldn’t turf one of my cats that liked him when he decided to sleep on his shoulder, regardless of the allergies.

        He also had a really hard time giving me up as well as his friend my dog :)

  8. dee Says:

    I don’t think either the OP or her boyfriend are in the wrong here, however I wonder if her lack of understanding re: his relationship with his dog might be a core compatibility issue.

    • KK Says:

      Yes. Exactly. To her, the dog staying over evey other week is a frequent visit. No animal person would ever feel this way. It would raise red flags for me if my bf clearly did not understand this bond. Not that the guy is bad or a creep, just that we probably are incompatible, which i think is happening here

  9. Jake Says:

    FIrst, yeah what that cat goes through is shitty. What a douchebag or douchette owner. I have a cat,and when I go out of town I ask my sister to check in on him and feed/give him water on a daily basis. Also, when she is out of of town I return the favor and check in on her dogs. Otherwise, we would pay for someone to come and catsit or dogsit.

    I have also noticed that some women have an issue with me owning a cat. It seems they think all guys should own a dog. Well, the cat isn’t going anywhere. See ya.

    Finally, it amazed me how people need to write in or ask others what they should do regarding a relationship. OP, if you don’t like or can accept the “dog custody” situation just leave. Besides OP, the guy told you he is not over his ex. You are wasting your time.

    • Sara Says:

      She said he IS over the ex…so how is she wasting her time? I agree with a commenter above, it sounds like she’s concerned that maybe the regular visits with the dog indicate some hidden feelings for the ex that he isn’t recognizing.

  10. Missy Says:

    I’m glad you contacted them too but it sounds like the same situation as in my town: if the animal is a pet with a home there’s not much they can do. I called once on a neighbor who was physically (and emotionally) abusing his dog and it was nothing but dead ends. At least where I live, if you have an allowable number of animals you can pretty much treat them however you want.
    I ended up moving to get away from the neighbor but really just wanted to get the dog away from him.
    Poor kitty!

  11. Yvonne Says:

    No one has mentioned it, but I wonder if “bi-weekly” means twice a week or every 2 weeks, because it can mean both. Twice a week does seem like a lot, but every 2 weeks does not.

    I dated a guy whose ex had moved to another state with the dog. The distance was several hours by car. Once a month or so, they coordinated his picking up the pet and keeping it for a weekend. I thought he was over his ex, but still not ready to be in another serious relationship. However, there were other issues with him that made me believe this besides just the dog.

    Probably the reason he is maintaining the contact is because he loves the pet and not the ex, but the continued contact can also make it more difficult for one party to move on. If the boyfriend has not moved on, though, it will be evident in other ways as well. If this is the only issue, it’s probably all about the dog, but again, it depends on how frequent the contact is.

    And that poor cat! It’s cruel to leave a cat alone for days on end. Cats are more independent than dogs, but they also crave companionship, and some are extremely social. Someone should be checking on it daily.

    • KK Says:

      Biweekly means every other week. It does not mean twice a week. Semiweekly means twice a week. Though it js possible that she misused the word.

  12. Katie Says:

    I agree with everyone else, I think the issue isn’t really with the dog, but whether the boyfriend has some feeling left for his ex or vice versa. I guess I would wonder if there is something more to it that is making her wonder, besides the dog? There has to be more to the story we are not getting.

    Otherwise I also agree that it isn’t a red flag that he wants to see his old pet and take care of it. If I was dating someone and had a pet with them when we broke up, I’d do the same thing. I can’t imagine saying “see ya” to one of my pets and never seeing them again just cause I broke up with someone, no matter what I felt for the ex.

  13. Noquay Says:

    I have 6 cats, two dogs, a turtle, a snake, a frog and a goldfish in addition to 45 hens. Luckily, I have a large home and acreage so I can support them all. The pets were all discarded by folk for whom they ceased to be”convenient”. I was the end of the line for them. Some of them have serious physical issues; one dog is blind due to neglect. Some have permanent psych issues and will never be totally trusting toward anyone, ever. You take on an animal, you take on the responsibility for its entire life. Period. Anyone that thinks anything living is something to discard at will has no place in my life. A past relationship told me I should put the herd down, quit my job, give up the farm, rent a room like a student so I’d have more time to have fun. End of relationship. I dunno if the OP has cause for worry or not but it cheers me to know he cares for his dog. If he still has feelings for the ex, there are more red flags flapping in the breeze than this one. Pay attention. Good job Moxie, locating that poor cat.

    • SS Says:

      “If he still has feelings for the ex, there are more red flags flapping in the breeze than this one. Pay attention.”

      This is my favourite comment.

      I am an inveterate pet lover and would stab anyone that harmed an animal. Not even mine. Even a random animal. I would literally kick the bejayzuss out of that person.

      That being said – I’ve witnessed too many dysfunctional people saying ..”yeah I need to keep in contact with my ex because….” – with some ridiculous BS reason.

      So for me it’s not about the dog/not dog – it’s about the bigger picture. And her gut.

  14. Judi Says:

    Several years ago I shared custody of two dogs I had while married. I still have one of them btw even tho the ex is long gone! The ex and my former step-daughter had visitation outlined in the divorce papers. I found it heartless to cut the dogs out of their lives because they both really loved them. And I can assure you there were no hidden feelings or agenda for my ex on either part. I agree with the comment that the women writing the letter has some insecurities she needs to deal with. Either she is jealous of the attention the dog is getting or insecure about the ex or both.
    So sorry to hear the cat story! Anyone that treats animal that way is cruel and insensitive. Oh and back when I was online if I saw someone who had any negative comment about animals as pets or pictures of dead animals he shot while hunting I ran for the hills. There is something seriously wrong with someone who mistreats animals e.g. Jeffrey Dahmer. Period end of story.

  15. coffeestop Says:

    I have a dog. If I met a man who for example said he did not like them or was allergic that would be a deal breaker. I have a home so it is not an issue. But my dog went through a painful divorce with me and plenty of other crap and he is happy to see me when I get home so I am 100% committed to him.

  16. Jeff Smith Says:

    “Dogs help humans reduce stress. Studies show that interactions with therapy animals can decrease stress in humans. Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.”
    Just one of many benefits.

  17. Jen Says:

    It’s not necessarily a red flag. This didn’t happened to me, but it happened to a very close friend.

    Her then boyfriend had a similar arrangement with his ex and their three cats that they adopted. The animals and the ex coming over to drop the animals of weren’t a problem. The problem came when the ex decided to be a bitch and refused to continue sharing the custody.

    My friend’s boyfriend was devastated, because he treated them like his kids. They briefly considered taking legal action, but chose not to because the ex’s name was on the adoption paperwork. (And yes, there are attorneys for pet custody.)

    The boyfriend and my friend are now married and have two beautiful daughters. So, in short, the pet custody wasn’t an issue for their relationship.

    If anything, I think a willingness to work out a mutually beneficial situation regard to pets says a lot about my person’s character.

    (Especially since some parents are less mature about kids when it comes to divorce. I worked for a divorce attorney at one point.)

  18. Timothy Horrigan Says:

    The person in this story who raises any red flags in this story is the OP. Her boyfriend and his ex seem to be behaving normally, as is the dog.

  19. TTFK Says:

    My gf has a dog from a previous relationship that was given unasked and unexpected. While I would prefer to not have to deal with the scheduling and cleanup issues, I understand that they are a package deal. I do care about that hyperactive furball, I’m just more of a cat person (which of course she’s allergic to!)

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