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Pet Custody Problem with Ex - I got them and now feel awful. Was I too mean???

1314 Views 11 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  stiletto
I have just had an awful situation involving an ex-boyfriend and 2 dogs. I ended up with the dogs but my ex is crushed and I feel like a horrible person. I would like to hear your opinions. Here's the scoop:

J (the ex) moved in with me right after buying a house. One of the big reasons for the house purchase was so I could get dogs and not have to deal with rental pet issues (we were broken up when I bought the house then got back together). About 3 months later, I took in a dog who was abandoned on my own initiative. I was the primary caretaker and spent about $1000 in vet bills. I love the dog and so did J. She was our little girl. About 4 months later, I decided that dog #1 needed companionship so I found another dog on petfinder. I spoke with J and he was on board but didn't take any initiative in getting the dog. I filled out the application, was interviewed, scheduled meetings, paid the adoption fee, etc... I was the primary caretaker for dogs and financial support for another 4 more months.

J began staying home all day to write his thesis for several months, then for another few months while unemployed. He was at home with dogs all day. We knew it was temporary while he found a job. I was still the responsible party. I made sure they had food, treated, picked up poop, got dog park passes, made sure their care was secured if we were out of town - even though he was home all day and not paying rent or bills.

Eventually, we broke up and he found another place. Personal and domestic (as you may be able to tell, he was on the lazy side) issues were a problem. He wanted to take dog #2. I reluctantly agreed, trying to be fair to J. J found a dog-friendly apartment close to his new job and paid the pet deposit and extra rent money. The apartment was more expensive than others and in a less desirable location. He moved and I kept dog #2 while he got settled. The move-out went smoothly. I even helped him pack up his stuff and carry it out with him and his bro and got him some nice housewarming gifts.

During the time I was watching #2 and he was getting settled, I changed my mind and felt it was in the best interest of the dogs for #2 to stay at home with mom (me) and sister dog. J and I discussed the situation amicably, then argued. He took dog 2 to try it out and see how the dogs would react. I decided I didn't want to split them up or let #2 go and told J to return him and get another dog. He wouldn't budge on bringing him back permanently and instead, wanted to have primary custody of #2 but we would get the dogs together every weekend. Obviously, this isn't healthy for a new break up. I grew upset that J wouldn't bring #2 back and felt he was being selfish. After attempted civil convincing, I lost my temper and did some mean name calling (e.g. selfish, lazy). I threatened to sue and meant it (I'm a lawyer). I told him that I needed to be #2'a primary caretaker but J could see them anytime he wanted. J gave in and brought #2 back and told me he never wanted to speak to me again. He was crying when he brought him back and was saying goodbye to the dogs. It was heart wrenching but I knew there was nothing I could do or say. He hates me now - I understand. I feel like a horrible, horrible person.

What do you all think? Be honest. Thanks for any input you may give.
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Since when are breakups anything but mean? Breakups are inherently selfish.

I do think it was messy to let him have the dog, then take it back. I would have been very hurt by that. Threatening to sue your ex over a dog sounds a bit childish. But your living situation, profession, and writing leads me to assume that you're not a childish person. Which leads me to assume that for you to act that way, you were probably dealing with a pretty childish person. Unfortunately, relationships stoop to the lowest common denominator.

Do I think what you did was mean? Yes. But I don't disagree with your end result. I think you should have ended up with the dogs with no obligation to see your ex ever again if you so choose.

Hindsight is 20/20. It sounds like your only slip was to let him have the dog in the first place. But that doesn't mean you should have just given up and let him have the dog. The consequence of your slip up is that you now feel like a mean person.

But as harsh and horrible as it feels to you, your ex's feelings are no longer your responsibility.

From my perspective, you held composure very well in all other aspects of the breakup. By your description, it sounds like you were patient enough with him so that he could carefully move his things and find a new place. You treated him like a human being. I'm sure as soon as you realized it was over, you probably just wanted him to vanish from your life, along with all his belongings and memories. But you treated him with respect. You didn't have to do that. I know plenty of people that wouldn't have.

You can't change what happened, and the result is one I agree with. If it brings you any peace, you could write him an apology for leading him to believe he could have the dog. Outside of that, I don't think there's much you can/should do.

edit: Also, I'm very sorry to hear about your breakup. I hope you're able to surround yourself with encouraging people. The Ni-Ti and Ni-Fe loops can be painful if left unchecked and unassisted.
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