Ask Dog Lady: Joint custody of beagle hurting the dog

Monica Collins

Dear Dog Lady,

After I started dating my boyfriend eight months ago, he informed me that he shared joint custody of a beagle named Julie with his ex-girlfriend. This bothers me although I love everything else about him.

His ex was so angry at him she wouldn't let him see Julie for two months after they broke up. He is now very cautious not to upset her. He even avoided telling her that he was dating me because he didn't want her to get mad and take away his dog privileges.

I am bothered by this, but I have noticed that Julie also has a negative reaction to the arrangement. They switch off by one dropping Julie off at daycare and the other picking her up. Oftentimes, when the dog comes home, she is sick to her stomach and has diarrhea or throws up.

I have suggested my boyfriend talk to his ex to make sure they feed Julie the same food, but he doesn't seem to take it seriously. He thinks I am just upset about the situation in general. While I surely am, I have gotten to know the dog and I love her. I am genuinely concerned for her. How can I talk to him about this and get him to take me seriously?


Dear Anne, when an ex-couple shares custody of a dog, the arrangement must be spelled out contractually – the same as for a child. Your boyfriend and his ex have not done the hard work. The slipshod agreement hurts both you and the dog.

Julie does suffer because your boyfriend and his ex have not agreed about what kind of food to give her, what veterinarian to share, licensing, and vaccinations. Julie requires consistent care, not loopy disregard. And you need this spelled out as much as the dog does. With a contract, there is less wiggle room for emotions to intrude and feelings to be hurt.

Continue to stick up for Julie kindly and politely. You’ve grown to love the dog and you make a savvy diagnosis. Her sour stomach is probably caused by constant changes in food. Gently lead your boyfriend around to the conclusion he needs a pact with his ex-girlfriend to care for the dog. Do not burn with jealousy. Encourage him. Arguing with your boyfriend about his ex only pushes him further away from you.

Dear Dog Lady,

When my dog sniffs up and down a tree or lamppost, what does he smell and why does it take him so long to finish? I feel funny standing by like a statue while my dog does his nasal aerobics.


Dear Chester, as your dog carefully sniffs up and down a tree, lamppost, fire hydrant or any vertical object, he inhales heady nosefuls of news. The smells are his newspaper, his home page, his iPhone, his lifeline. He learns the latest neighborhood doggy gossip: who’s fixed, who’s on top, who’s submissive, who’s in heat and who ate what. Your dog leaves his own pee postings and vital stats for other to peruse. Do not tug him away from this daily ritual, which is as important to him as getting the mail, reading e-mail or checking Facebook may be to you.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her Web site is Contact her