Should We Stay Together for the Dog?

I've thought about writing this headline for half a year. The answer I keep coming back to is "no."


I sometimes wonder whether it’s my curse to outgrow every person I’ve been in a serious relationship with. Not that I claim to be anything special — let’s make that clear from the start. I often tell friends and family that I hardly consider myself notably intelligent; what’s taken me from one rung to the next of my personal ladder (in my humble opinion, at least) is old-fashioned industriousness.

My most intimate relationships have often been the focus of this same diligence. I study my partners the way a reporter would launch herself at a new beat. I observe and devour until there’s nothing left to learn. And that’s probably where the problems start, because we are finite beings and at some point there IS nothing left to learn. But I’m getting ahead of myself. And there is a dog involved, as promised, and we will absolutely get to that.

As a serial monogamist, I’ve been in three serious, long-term relationships in close succession over the past 12 years. And if I’m completely honest, I can tell you each followed a similar rhythm that would ultimately lead to its demise. First off, all three were likely doomed from the start by design. When you’re a hopeless romantic you can’t be too surprised when you wind up neck-deep in hopeless situations. Find yourself in love with your classmate in a highly conservative all-girls school where just considering pursuing it could get you expelled? Why the heck not?! And what is the Pacific Ocean or a 26-year age gap, while we’re at it, in the name of love? Check, check, and check: the last dozen years at a glance.

But even more damning than the situations themselves, at least from where I’m sitting, were the toxic cycles they fell into at some point. Einstein himself called repetition a crucial component in the definition of insanity. So of COURSE you’re going to get sick of suffocating in the closet and lying to everyone you know to keep the flame alive (relationship 1). And of course a long-distance affair would breed loneliness, suspicion, and doubt for both parties involved (relationship 2). And of course, seven years into your affair with a man 26 years your senior you’re going to wake up and see the writing on the wall (my current conundrum). And who can blame you for moving to end things when you truly are on opposite corners of life, with you just starting to raise hell and him preparing to glide off into the sunset?

The dog can.

Every year for the past three, I’ve walked to the edge of this cliff and contemplated diving off. But then I looked at my little Moxie man sitting across from me on the sofa with those piercing brown eyes and wondered what it would mean for him. People with kids scoff at us pet people for the bonds we make with four-leggers, and I get that Mox didn’t tumble from my loins. But he may as well have, and I know my ex feels the same way. Moxie has been the glue that’s kept us together, the comic relief when there was little to laugh about, the conversation fodder when we ran out of things to say to each other over dinner.

We’ve loved him so completely that imagining life without him takes the heartbreak of this split to a completely new level. I selfishly wish my ex would stay in San Francisco so we could share custody, but it looks like he’ll head to L.A. in the months ahead, and that leaves us with a difficult decision to make. We both are on every bit of paperwork related to Mr. Mox, so it’s not like one of us can pull the rug out from under the other. And though the breakup is sad, it’s not been violent or ugly in any way. In fact, I told my partner that I felt so guilty about dismantling our little family that I would give him the final say on Moxie’s well-being — and that might be the single biggest gift I’ve ever given anyone.

Part of me wants to take it back and fight tooth and nail. When I tell friends about our situation, they look outraged and say “But you’re the editor of Dogster, of COURSE Moxie’s staying with you.” But they only see the sweet articles I’ve written about Mox over the years, and the way he’s the main star of the Dogster instagram.

They don’t see how lovingly Mox’s dad has cooked his meals, picked up his poop, and walked him every day while I’ve slaved away at my desk at HQ. And even if it took six months for my ex to win Moxie over (he was always a mama’s boy), he worked at it until he became Mox’s favorite man. They roughhouse together, and it warms my heart when I see my former partner on the floor clutching our little dog to his chest and whispering in his ear. (We’re still living together until he can find a place in L.A., which is another painful part of the process.) It’s almost enough to make a woman re-evaluate her reasons for the split. But the list of cons have outweighed the pros every way I’ve stacked them. And as much as it sucks, we can’t stay together for Moxie.

Now there’s nothing to do but wait. My ex says there’s a good chance he won’t find a place down south that is dog-friendly. He says he acknowledges that I have more resources and a bigger support group when it comes to caring for Mox. But I also know it would kill him to leave Mox, and he could take him in the end.

I write this not because I need your advice, Dogsters, but because I feel like you would understand. And maybe you’ve gained or lost a dog when a relationship ended. If you have stories to share, it would warm my heart to read them.

About the Author: Janine is your typical annoying Aries overachiever with nine human siblings and a soft spot for sighthounds. She is a tattoo collector, tea drinker, and unabashedly into marshmallows and cheesy musicals. Janine believes responsible breeders exist — her dog is from one. She runs the show as editor-in-chief of Dogster and Catster.

More stories by Janine:

4 thoughts on “Should We Stay Together for the Dog?”

  1. I wish I could have an experience like yours, but unfortunately my significant other is so extremely immature that he would rather resort to cutting me down and refusing to communicate that I feel as though I need to run away and change my name just to get my dog. I hate this so much. It feels hopeless.

  2. I could have written this article, save the first two relationship scenarios, right down to the name of the pup. My Moxxi girl is not my dog. And I, quite literally, Googled : ‘should I stay in a relationship for the dog’ to find an article just right for me. I don’t know how to say it to myself, but the answer is no. I understand this pain.

  3. I could not disagree with this article more. Your dog loves you both, and did not deserve to have one of his two favorite persons torn out from his life. Moxie’s an innocent party in all this, and unlike children who later gain an understanding of the mechanics of divorce and relationships, he doesn’t have the ability to cope with such heartbreak.

    If dog owners want their pets treated with the same respect as children, maybe they should treat their dogs as such. Sometimes, that means casting your own selfish needs aside and doing what’s best for the dog. His time on this planet is short. Do what’s right and make it the best years possible for him. He’s certainly doing all his can to make it great for you.

  4. Along with my son, my two fur babies are the loves of my life, I have stayed in a loveless relationship for them, as I don’t want to seperate them. My X partner and I have decided to have them 50/50, although I am concerned he won’t spend enough time with them and won’t love them like I do….. A lot like our relationship really.
    Time will tell how we get on.

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