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Puppy Time! When to Adopt a Pet

Isn’t it about parental guilt? You feel poorly about the separation and impact on the kids. Perhaps a parent often doesn’t show up as planned. Whatever it is, the thought is that maybe a puppy would make the kids feel better.

It certainly is quite a distraction, but is it a replacement?

While I have rarely met a child who didn’t want a puppy, I have also rarely met the child where this compensated for the impact of a parental separation or loss. It is not as if the puppy takes care of the issue. The issue is now the puppy (as well as the stress of what came before). It’s both.

If however you still want a puppy, certainly feel fee to do so, just be careful about believing it relieves other distress.

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Do also remember whether pre or post separation, that puppy is a multi-year expensive commitment. Although intended to bring relief, it may turn into an additional parental responsibility and unaffordable cost. That cost is all yours and likely won’t be compensated through child support. It may also be fought if seeking to claim as a section 7 expense.

I am familiar with all the positives of having a dog. They provide unconditional love and can teach responsibility. The issue then isn’t so much the dog as it is the context.

Puppy Girl

If moving forward with the puppy: please do your homework!

Determine in advance the cost of purchase, annual vet bills a well as the ongoing cost of food. Also factor in the responsibility for training and regular toileting and scooping. Then also figure into the equation the care of the dog when the child is with the other parent.

That seemingly simple solution to feeling better has four legs and can carry you to directions unintended.

Is it guilt you are looking to assuage? Your time and money may be better spent on securing a working relationship with the other parent or addressing the issues therein as best as possible.

Then, once that pressure is off, you may be in a better place to decide. Then the time may be right to get a dog.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 350 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.


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