#864: “Neighbor and Animal Welfare Concerns”

Dear Captain Awkward,

Last year, my neighbor and I helped to rescue a small dog from a bad situation (owner got divorced and for whatever reason, just stuck him in her dog-hating father’s backyard, where he may have been abused. I should note that I live in Cancun right now, and he was there for two months with no shelter or love). When I found out, I offered to foster him, and by that time he had a disease from ticks. He ended up staying with me for months, until I started talking about finding him a home. She then adopted him as her own. (I have reasons for not being able to adopt him)

Anyway, all was well and she was very attentive and caring to him and her other pets (extremely attentive) until her husband left her. Not long after that, she told me she had to work a lot for a couple of weeks. I agreed to take him back for that time. Well, two weeks became a month became three months, only one of which she provided some food for him. The rest, I paid for his food and other needs, including the Revolution for ticks. I noticed that she began dressing a lot nicer and wearing make up, causing me to believe that she had started dating again. I don’t judge her for this at all, but she could have been honest with me. I suspect she wasn’t because she knew I’d be upset that she was ignoring her dog so that she could date freely.

He had to go back to her when I recently went on a week’s vacation, and not long before that she told me that her “work” was coming to an end and she could also look after my dog – she was pushy about it, in fact. She also finally fessed up to having a boyfriend, but insisted she’d have the time. I went with my instincts and instead paid for boarding at a vet’s office where the staff are all very fond of my dog and vice versa. I should note that due to the initial arrangement during the rescue, she’s had a key to my house. While I was away, a friend was feeding my cats and called to let me know that little dude was back at the house for a day. This upset me and leads me to believe she only offered to “take care” of my dog so that she could have an excuse to keep him here too.

Well, after my return I gave limits as to when he could be here. She agreed, but I came home from work last Thursday to find him in my living room. When doing my customary post-walk “tick check” on both dogs, I found that he was covered in them. To say I was pissed doesn’t cover it. I ended up paying for a night of boarding and a bath as he couldn’t stay in the house, obviously. When I picked him up the next day, I was told he should see a vet as he was covered in red marks all over his body, only revealed with the hair cut. Yeah, he has yet another tick disease in less than a year. Turns out when he couldn’t stay with me, she sent him to a friend’s house – a house infested with ticks – and she was aware of this when she brought him to my house. I’m extra pissed now.

She is aware that he’s sick again (and yes, I paid about $90 for the vet visit and will need to pay even more for 21 days of pills) yet she hasn’t visited or checked on him. I suspect that she is so wrapped up in this new romance with a guy that seems to not like dogs, that she is putting everything else aside. She was even planning on sending him back to the friend’s tick infested house for her upcoming vacation!

I had the lock changed today, so the key issue is solved. But I’m wondering how to deal with this. I’m planning on telling her that until she has time to properly care for him, he’s staying with me, screw what I said about Monday to Friday. I don’t know if that’s considered pet-napping or not, and if she insists, I’ll probably have to give him back. But hopefully she at least lets him heal before, you know, farming him out to a tick-filled house again. Or maybe she’ll just be relieved that she doesn’t have to fuss with him and can enjoy dating.

I don’t know the state of her other dogs (five indoors and one outdoors that seems mostly OK) but there is little I can do about that. I do know (by her own admission) that her large outdoor dog hasn’t been walked for a long time, possibly two months. And that dog seems desperate for attention when I walk by.

My questions are the following: first, am I wrong to want to insist that little dude stays with me until she sorts her shit out and two, is it inappropriate to somehow bring up the fact that since she started dating again (sorry…working a lot, as she’s again insisting on now that I’m back from vacation) she’s providing sub-par care for little dude (at the very least) and seems to just be farming him to to wherever is convenient. I find her attitude hypocritical as she was very angry at his former owner. Even the vets office has noticed her declining care of her pets and it’s been mentioned more than once that they assumed he was my dog now. Fortunately, they know me and my dog well, so they are letting me make the decisions regarding his care.

I also want to possibly broach the subject of rehoming him, if she is really this uninterested in his well-being and may continue to be if she stays with this guy. I mean, I hate to say this, but I kind of hope this romance doesn’t work out so that she has to give her head a shake and learn for next time about balancing fun and responsibilities. As it stands now, she’s planning on moving to a different city with him, where the dogs will not be allowed in the house. She is Ok with this, which is miles away from how she used to regard her pets.

I should add that the reason my house is a convenient option is that both little dude and my dog have disk degeneration, so my living room is already arranged in such a way that they can’t access the stairs or furniture. Her argument for him not staying at her house has always been that he has to stay in the kitchen when she isn’t there, and he hates solitude (this part is true, he gets sad). Still, it’s all about balance.

I know this may seem like a minor issue, but despite her over-stepping several times (she even borrowed my fan without permission during my vacation) I don’t want to be hurtful or over-step myself. Do you have any scripts or advice for how to handle this? I know a new romance can be powerful, but she is definitely old enough to know better. (she’s at least in her late 40s).

Oh, and while I’d love to get the money back for the vet costs, I know realistically, I probably will not. Since my main concern now is the dog, I’m reluctantly accepting of this. Oddly, when I mentioned him being sick again, she had the nerve to ask what vet I took him to, as she only trusts one vet who is notoriously difficult to get in to see due to her skill. Blood tests were done, so I know the vet I went to (in the same office as the highly skilled one) isn’t just guessing. But her not really caring yet still questioning my choice of vet is very irritating. I suspect she knows that I’ll step up, so she feels liberated from worrying. Ugh.

Confused and concerned animal lover/annoyed neighbor

Dear Confused:

To me this all comes down to “Do you want to be right at her” or “Do you want the dog.” You’ve got to decide what is more important to you, what you are willing to do about it, and then communicate strategically. You say: “(I have reasons for not being able to adopt him)” so, can you have the dog stay with you even temporarily?

One script to start the conversation is:

Hey, here’s a copy of the bill from the vet & his prescriptions. It lists all the stuff going on with Little Buddy.

You may be tempted to verbally chronicle all of his issues but I recommend letting the bill/the notes do the talking for you. You know that she’s neglecting her dog and being a jerk about it, but, do you want to be right or do you want the dog to be okay?

Your neighbor will say some stuff. Maybe stuff about how you should have taken him to other vet or she’ll pay you later or how stressful this all is. It doesn’t 100% matter what she says. What matters is what you want & what you are willing to do.

If you want the dog:

Howabout I hold onto him for a while/at least the summer? My house is already set up for his disc degeneration issues, my dog loves him, and I love him. Don’t worry about the vet bill! This way you won’t have to board him when you’re out of town, but you can still give him a skritch every now and again.

If you want the dog, present it as a positive request, not a “because you suck” request. If she’s got a big move planned, she might be relieved that you asked and that she didn’t have to ask you. Now, what are you gonna do about this dog that you can’t keep? I don’t know and I can’t begin to solve that for you. I do know that the “I’m starting to look for another home for him” conversation is another conversation for another day.

If you just want to communicate “You are neglecting your animals. Please fix it.” your script might be:

Hey, it really upset me to see Little Buddy all covered in ticks again, and it really upset me that you didn’t notice (because clearly you would not have put a tick-covered dog in my house). What is going on? It is not like you to neglect an animal like this.

If you say this, she is most likely gonna get SUPER-defensive. My sense is: She’s involved with someone who doesn’t love or want animals and she’s choosing that person over her animals, and she feels guilty, but she hasn’t fully reckoned with the consequences or the idea of rehoming all her pets when she moves. People who feel guilty often double down on the bad behavior when they feel defensive. You can’t really do anything about her feelings or behaviors here, just, know that a defensive blurt of some kind coming and she will be unlikely to agree to anything you suggest in that moment. She will also likely avoid you for a while. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be said, it just means, choose: Do you want the dog to live with you? If so, let all the other stuff go. Do you want to call attention to her poor treatment of her animals? If so, say your piece, short and sweet, and be prepared to nope out of any kind of relationship with her in the aftermath.

Do not mention her dating life, unless it’s to ask “Hey, how’s everything going?”

Do not mention her clothing choices, unless it’s to say, “You look great today.”

Most def. leave her age/”Old enough to know better” out of things, as well as her plans for her life in the future. Honestly, while I know you’re worried about them, I would leave her other pets out of it (unless you want to take them all in, too). One issue at a time.

I’m not judging you, but…” = “I am judging the ever-loving heck out of you” 100% of the time. I know on some level what you want is for her to look at her life with some self-awareness and commit to doing right by all of her animals, but you can’t control that. People do not behave well when they are on the defensive and she might say “no” just to spite you.

Can you control what she’ll do? No.

Do you want to have an explosive discussion with her that changes nothing? Probably not.

Focus on this one dog, the one you can do something about right now and keep the conversation as brief as possible. Be simple and focused. You can judge her all you want inside your mind.


87 thoughts on “#864: “Neighbor and Animal Welfare Concerns”

  1. My personal experience with this is that the why – work, new paramour, whatever – is irrelevant and it’s counter-productive to make it part of the dialog. Maybe she has some super-seekret absolutely defensible reason for her actions. Or maybe she’s become a total nihilist. What does it matter? The end result is dog-in-need.

    I’d go even simpler than the Captain in my handling. “Listen, it seems like Little Buddy is one dog too many for you right now. We rescued him to get him a better life, so if that can’t be with you how about I take him?”

    You don’t have to commit to keeping him forever or make it part of the conversation. You don’t bring up what the heck is leading her to behave this way, because what good does that do? Even if you could have a conversation that perfectly fixed the blame and reasons you’d still have the problem at the end of it. Fix the problem, take it as a lesson in how reliable and trustworthy this person is for future reference, and get Lil’ Bud a better situation.

    I’d make the question of her other neglected dogs a matter for another day. You have a clear interest stake in Lil’ Bud. Trying to figure out what to do about these other underloved dogs is something you’ll need another approach for.

    1. Taking the dog in long enough to nurse him back to health and then rehome him was going to be my suggestion. Maybe work with local adoption groups (depending on where you live, of course) to get that done.

      And, once this dog is safe, if you’re still worried about the other animals…. Well, again, that depends on where you live. Where I live, you can report concerns anonymously and officers will look into the situation and if the dogs are in the shape you describe it they will order her to either get them treated or surrender. Other places are different.

      1. I would probably document the situation and report her, but my local animal control is run by a no-kill shelter.

        Once you have the dog and she moves away without him, he will be yours to rehome responsibly without her knowledge.

        1. Yeah, the eventual rehoming seems like it’s the easy piece of this. The neighbor is moving, and there seems to be nothing left of whatever friendship might have existed with her, so there’s no need to keep in touch. On the off chance she asks about Little Buddy a year from now, the LW can just state that she found him a permanent home and leave it at that.

      2. I’d be super cautious about reporting unless you are 100% confident in your local animal control. I’ve had a friend have their animals, including a litter of week-old kittens, seized and euthanized because a ‘concerned’ neighbor reported falsely that the animals were being left home alone during the days, in a household where one member was entirely stay-at-home.

        1. Yeah, reporting was an option mentioned by friends of mine who live around the corner from her and who have noticed some of the same things, but Mexico has a different system for animal protection (which is to say very much still in development). So I’m not sure if they’d be taken to an actual rescue or the hugely overcrowded government one, which probably takes them from the frying pan to the fire. I probably would even let an animal take its chances on the street before sending them there. Plus, the levels of neglect being reported probably have to be more severe than “has a chronic case of ticks and never gets walked/attention”. Very sad about the litter of kittens, I assume the reporting neighbors had a beef with them and did this? 😦

        2. “Left alone during the days…”

          Shit. Is that really considered animal abuse? In my day, as long as the environment was safe, clean, at a good temperature, and always had clean water, and was fed regularly/ adequately, they were fine. (Always assuming they were not making a nuisance of themselves.) How long has the standard been “always have a human in the house”? A lot of animals I know stay home alone while their humans are working to earn kibble. That’s really considered worse than euthanasia?

          1. Yes. Some shelters are getting protective to the point where they will take back an adopted animal if they only feel it might not be in an optimum situation… Even if they are.

            Some shelters, on the other hand, are very quick to euthanize, so that someone showing up to seek a lost pet discovers they were killed on intake.

            The US, despite great strides, are still very much a patchwork, with some highly awesome setups and some that are, IMNSHO, extended animal hoarding situations, where they are loathe to adopt any of their pets.

            It is very important to know the lay of the land when considering a best next move.

          2. “How long has the standard been “always have a human in the house”? A lot of animals I know stay home alone while their humans are working to earn kibble. That’s really considered worse than euthanasia?”

            I’ve seen an alarming number of comments online about how the only people who should have a pet are those who always have someone in the house with them. This would seem to limit suitable pet owners to the unemployed (who likely would have difficulty making ends meet and would have to give up the dog when they get a job) or the independently wealthy.

          3. I’ve seen this more often with rescues than with shelters/animal control, but yeah, some standards are a bit… extreme, and sometimes rescues will reserve the right to reclaim an animal for essentially any reason they choose. In one case with a friend of mine, a rescue threatened to reclaim an animal because the owner chose not to follow a raw food diet (the food she was providing was expensive grain-free premium stuff, but it wasn’t homemade raw food). That was an extreme case–and in that case I think, honestly, that the ‘rescue’ was more of an excuse for animal hoarding; almost no one could live up to their standards, and so they “needed” to keep all the animals “for their own safety”–but it can happen.

            As others have said, it’s really important to know the lay of the land here: it can range from “we will take back the animal for even very minor variances” to “we only really care if the animal is being starved or beaten, and they’ll probably be euthanized because we have no room.” Most rescues and shelters, thankfully, fall somewhere in the sensible middle… but it’s good to know what you’re dealing with.

          4. Week-old kittens probably cannot be left alone for hours. I imagine they have to be hand-fed more often than that, if there’s no mama cat around.

          5. Ah, I could go on such a rant about this. Suffice it to say that millions of animals did in the US not solely due to lack of homes but because shelters are going to great lengths to deny pets to ‘imperfect’ owners. My local shelter kills better than eighty percent of cats that enter and over sixty percent of dogs. You’d think they’d be begging to adopt, yes? But if you work a normal job, can’t afford high end organic food, have too small a yard, rent your place…yeah, they absolutely believe an animal is better off dead then in your hands. It’s a real crisis, and the worst part is they blame the killing on everything but their own flawed policies

    2. This is good, but I might reword it slightly, and maybe fib a bit: “Hey, Little Buddy just seems to be having a rough time of it lately. You know, he gets along so well with [your dog] and since my place is already set up for his back problems, why don’t I take him in? ”

      Or something like that. I always get very leery in any situation like this where you actually comment on the other person’s behavior (“Listen, it seems like Little Buddy is one dog too many for you right now.”) Maybe it comes from having to deal with my self-centered jerk of a sister, but any comment directed at them personally or their behavior is an invitation for them to launch into a poor-pitiful-me rant and how-dare-you-say-I-did-that and so on. All too often things will get taken as a personal attack/criticism and the original point of the conversation just gets left behind like a go-kart at the Indy 500.

      If you keep it about L.B. and his situation, that will do 2 things: 1) Defuse any chance of making it personal, and 2) Actually focus on the main concern, which is always good. Also, for better or worse, it will allow her to pull a slow fade if she wants (which is really where I think this will likely end up). Not an ideal resolution, but maybe the most realistic.

      That’s just my gut feeling, but I can tell you that the tactic of keeping it as impersonal as possible does work pretty well, or at least tends to get things to an amicable resolution a bit faster…

      1. “If you keep it about L.B. and his situation, that will do 2 things: 1) Defuse any chance of making it personal, and 2) Actually focus on the main concern, which is always good. Also, for better or worse, it will allow her to pull a slow fade if she wants (which is really where I think this will likely end up). Not an ideal resolution, but maybe the most realistic.”

        I’m reasonably confident that she could be doing the slow fade on her own, as she’s not made any contact in a week. So the issue may just resolve itself. I really hate confrontation, so it may be all for the best. But I’ve worked out a script (with the assistance of people here) that limits it to at most mentioning that she’s very busy, so I’d like to help out by keeping him at my house, I’ll probably add your suggestion about him being happy with my dog. In the interest of fairness, I plan on a three month holding pattern before opening the discussion of rehoming.

  2. We can help you judge her dog-caring practices over the internet so you don’t have to do it in person. *mentally beams judgement rays*

    This is a crappy situation, I’m sorry that you’re stuck dealing with it and the dog is stuck living in it. At this point it’ll probably be less aggravation for you to take 100% ownership of the dog (including finding a new home if necessary) than to try to continue splitting responsibilities with your neighbor.

  3. All of the above, plus many thanks for caring about the little guy. I’m glad someone does.

  4. Long-time reader, first-time commenter.
    I’m a registered vet tech and yeah…we see this sort of situation from time to time. I second the Captain’s advice: Focus on one thing, in this case, this one dog. If getting the dog out of Neighbor’s less-than-stellar ownership is your goal, tell her that she seems like she has her hands full, and if it would help her out you would love to take on Little Buddy’s care full-time since you two already know each other. Leave everything else out of it – his condition, the condition of the other animals, her life circumstances, etc. Start small or else you are likely to have her putting up every defense she has and you will never have a chance to help her critters again.

    If she declines, don’t push it. Just do what you can when you can, if you wish to do so.

    If she agrees, get it in writing. Just something easy, like “Neighbor is transferring ownership of Little Buddy to OP” and you both sign and date it. Get in contact with the vet and have Little Buddy’s ownership information changed to yours (and if you want, you can also request that they do not disclose ANY of his information to Neighbor; like with people, we’re not supposed to disclose medical info about pets, but the vet world can be a bit more lax than the human world in this regard, so it wouldn’t hurt to specifically ask them to put a notice in his chart to be on the safe side). If Little Buddy has a microchip, call whatever company it’s registered to and get his info changed to yours. Obviously, if he has any collar tags, change the contact info to yours. Basically, you’re covering your butt so that if Neighbor’s life circumstances change again and she decides wants Little Buddy back, YOU have the final, legal word on if she can have him back. I’ve seen ownership battles happen and the person with the best paper trail wins in the eyes of the law.

    Anyway, I hope it goes easily for you, and that Neighbor will take the help offered to her. It can be VERY hard for someone to give up their animals, even if they know it’s in their best interests, and sometimes they just need a gentle nudge from someone they and the pet know to feel okay about it.

  5. I’m really horrified at how she is treating her dogs. But I was also really taken aback by what seemed like the OP’s extreme interest in (and judgment of) her neighbor’s dating life. It is bizarre how much of this letter is about that. Is that really only about the dogs, or is there some other subtext here that we’re not privy to?

    1. That stood out to me too. Honestly, if the dog is being neglected, it doesn’t matter all that much why that would be–whether it’s the new boyfriend, busy work, something else. I think (as the Captain say) the LW would be best served by laying aside all that avenue of speculation and focusing on the outcome they want (and that outcome shouldn’t be ‘new boyfriend dumps them,’ but something directly related to the dog).

      1. ” I think (as the Captain say) the LW would be best served by laying aside all that avenue of speculation and focusing on the outcome they want (and that outcome shouldn’t be ‘new boyfriend dumps them,’ but something directly related to the dog).”

        This is a conclusion that I’ve mostly come to over the past few days (once the frustration went down a bit), and though Onyx’s entire statement is correct, I do realize now that it doesn’t really matter why and now know that bringing it up definitely won’t help. I’m planning on sticking to the issue with this dog specifically and that he can just stay with me. Where things go from there, I can’t control.

    2. Not a mind reader, but I didn’t find it out of place. To me it seems like a classic “friend is dating someone who is drastically changing friend’s behavior/sense of responsibility”, which is never fun, and unfortunately that behavior change is directly affecting the dog situation. As an animal lover and rescuer myself, I’d be livid at anyone who agreed to help out a rescue then bailed because they started dating (and lied about it, indicating they know full well they’re behaving in an uncool way). Judgmental? Sure! Out of line? Eh, not to me. People who abandon their pets when they become inconvenient (or neglect their pets’ health–the tick thing, wtf!) are why there are so many orphaned animals in the first place. Maybe LW is a bit stuck on neighbor’s dating life, but only because it’s the one reason LW sees for neighbor’s negligent and manipulative behavior. And “whirlwind romance” is not on the list of defensible reasons for no longer being able to care for a pet.

      1. Exactly. And what seems to have been a lie is part of what bothered me. It’s not like I would have kicked him out had she simply asked for more time to enjoy a social life. I would have only gone as far as asking for her to buy him a bag of food each month to help out. I know it may seem weird, but if she was legitimately working, I’d have taken the view that she could use the easing of a financial burdern for a while. If she wanted more free time, then I think a bag of dog food a month is fair to ask for.

      2. ” And “whirlwind romance” is not on the list of defensible reasons for no longer being able to care for a pet.”

        This is it for me. From the dogs POV it doesn’t matter why she can’t take good care of them, it’s something that needs to be addressed, but from a human POV work is a more forgivable (or at least understandable) reason for neglect because it’s something a person has less control over. Sometimes that happens, where work demands are conflicting with other demands, and you do the best you can. But dating is something you have more control over, which makes this behaviour into more of a choice and is less forgivable. She is not “doing the best she can” between conflicting demands, she is prioritizing something else over her responsibilities to her pets. And even when she offloads those responsibilities to ensure they are taken care of, she is doing so in questionable ways. (As you said–the tick thing, wtf?)

        It doesn’t really change how to address the situation, but I can understand LW being more upset if dating is the reason for this behaviour.

        1. “From the dogs POV it doesn’t matter why she can’t take good care of them, it’s something that needs to be addressed, but from a human POV work is a more forgivable (or at least understandable) reason for neglect because it’s something a person has less control over.”

          Exactly. And all of his snuggly “love me love” behaviour last night confirmed that while I may be frustrated or confused, what he needs from me is affection and care, which I’m happy to provide and am trying to focus on.

    3. I wouldn’t necessarily assume subtext. LW is probably frustrated and looking for a reason or a story that explains their neighbor’s unexpected behavior regarding Little Buddy. Sure, they’re being kinda judgy but I wouldn’t read anything sinister into it.

    4. I agree, OP is a bit overly focused on Neighbor’s dating life — but I think that OP is focused on that because, in part, the reason the dog was *originally* abandoned was because his previous owner got divorced and ditched him. OP may be concerned that Neighbor’s new dating situation shows signs of going in the same direction, which is why it feels relevant.

      Go with the Captain’s script, OP, or with @Don Whiteside’s script — your concern is for the dog, not Neighbor’s personal business.

      Whatever the reason, she is neglecting her pets. This one dog is one that you can save. Please try to focus on that.

    5. I put this below, but to clarify, I don’t care who she is dating. She could date all of the characters from Game of Thrones at the same time and I’d respect that choice. I may have spoken too much about it in my letter, admittedly, and I won’t bring it up in discussion with her. But my concern is for the animals and would be whether she was busy working, dating, surfing, whatever. I guess what stung about it is that this dog is indirectly a victim of a divorce for the second time, and I feel for the little guy. I had time to think about this over the past few days though, and I realized that honestly, my life and his will probably be a lot simpler if she just lets him go as I intend on being firm about him staying with me until/unless she has the time for him. If she questions me on what I mean by that, I plan on sticking to what she is comfortable with, which is that talks about having too much work. Even with the lock change, I plan on making up a story about losing key so as to avoid hurting her. Despite the impression given, I don’t dislike her, I’m concerned for her and her pets.

    6. “or is there some other subtext here that we’re not privy to?”

      I have to say, this part made me laugh and confused me. I’m assuming that you’re reading a few potential subtexts into this letter, so I’ll address the ones my mind leapt to. No snark, just honest interpretations of incorrect subtext you may have read.

      1. That I’m secretly lusting after neighbor and resent the guy for stealing her – nope, I’m fairly close to asexual at this point in my life and if I weren’t I’d be going after a guy. (not a comment on any kind of attraction between consenting adults here, do as makes you happy, please!)

      2. That I want the guy and she stole him – see above about not being interested in any kind of sex (add romance in there, no thanks). Plus, I’ve met the guy in question briefly twice. I don’t even know his name. Having said that, she is free to date and certainly does not require my blessing.

      3. That I side with her husband – nope, he chose to leave for whatever reasons and she actually seemed happy about it. BTW, I sincerely do not believe that she was seeing anyone before he left, this was a “simple” break up of a marriage for reasons that are theirs to worry about.

      4. That I resent her new ability to go out unhindered – given that my friends issued a no-pressure invite to their future housewarming party today, I think it’s safe to say that I’m very much an introverted, stay at home kinda girl. I go out socially on very rare occasions, so I don’t mind being home a lot. Movies are my friends.

      5. That we were best buds and he’s stealing time with my friend – also nope. We occasionally visited outdoor markets together, helped animals and talked when we saw each other, but that was about it. No bar trips, no dinners and no coffees. See number 4 about staying home a lot.

      I’m mainly posting this because to be honest, I felt a bit attacked, like the overall belief is that I was going after the dog thing because of unresolved relationship issues when that that is not the case, beyond the current situation. Now obviously, nobody here knows me from Bob or Sue, so I don’t expect anyone to automatically realize the background, hence this answer. Again, no snark or sarcasm has been used here, just simple truth.

      1. Wow, I really was not thinking any of those things; I was just puzzled by the focus on her dating life, which in your original letter read to me as something you took sort of personally, and I was wondering why. I’m sorry that my post made you feel attacked. I realize that short letters are a tiny window into somebody’s life and thoughts and that many of the ways we will fill in the rest will be wrong.

        1. “Wow, I really was not thinking any of those things; I was just puzzled by the focus on her dating life”

          OK..well, I guess I’m extra confused as to what subtext you were possibly reading then, genuinely, not giving any sort of attitude towards this answer. I was trying to cut down on possible confusion and these things were what my brain went to as possible ideas you had about where I was coming from.

          I do tend to overthink things and as a result, tend to want to know the why and resolve it completely, it’s a flaw that I have and acknowledge. (I don’t mean “resolve” in the sense of “neighbor, please break up with this new guy” but rather talk to her directly and nothing more) Obviously now, I’m not going to bring up to her what I think are the reasons and stick to what she said, which is that she’s always working and thus has no time. If that isn’t the reason, that’s up to her to sort out in her mind. I also have a brain that doesn’t shut up, so yeah, it got stuck on the relationship seems to have lead to neglect thing and that came across too strongly in the letter, I suspect. But I really have no issues with anyone dating or finding someone post-separation. Life is short, live it.

          I agree with the Captain’s answer, that if it is related to the relationship she’s feeling conflict and guilt and that’s why she’s sticking to the work excuse. If that makes her more comfortable, OK. We can discuss the neglect without going any further on that.

          I also thought it may be coming across that I’m judging the guy for not liking dogs. I wouldn’t do that, as honestly, if a guy I liked had a tarantula collection, I’d be pretty darn hesitant about moving in with him. Not everyone likes every animal, and that’s OK.

          1. I think you’ve answered everything that can be answered about this – let’s move on!

    7. I dunno. If my friend’s participation in Activity X directly coincided with her neglect of a previously well-cared-for dog, I’d probably be looking side-eyed at her behavior regardless of whether Activity X involved dating, rock climbing, or writing the great American novel.

  6. I was in a similar-ish situation when in undergrad. My roommate and I adopted a dog together with the intent that when one of us moved out, we would determine who was better able to provide the pup with a good home and he would go with them.
    When we moved out, she was moving to a stable job with a fiancee and a child. I was moving to a different house in town and then years of bouncing around the country working field research positions when I finished my BS degree. Clearly, she was better fit to have a dog, on paper. However, her fiancee was a mean nasty arsehole who had once chained the dog to a tree and beat him. (Because he left the dog loose in the house for ten hours without checking on him, and pup chewed a pair of boots. I informed her I would be moving out and started looking for new houses and never left my dog alone with him as soon as I saw the welts on my lovely boy’s flanks.)
    I decided to phrase it as “I will take the dog and provide good care for him. He loves car rides and hiking and camping with me, and you and fiancee and baby are going to be super busy!”

    Now my pup is my mother’s MS therapy dog and keeps her so safe and takes good care of her when I can’t, and I am so glad I kept my mouth shut about my feelings about her shitty fiancee and just did what I needed to do to get myself and my boy out.

  7. I’m so confused as to how this woman who apparently owns SIX DOGS ALREADY is dating a dude who doesn’t like dogs and is apparently fine with moving to a place where the dogs won’t be able to live indoors. Like, even besides the dog she rescued with LW, this is mind-boggling to me. I get that she’s probably lonely and might think this dude is her one second chance at love, but I kind of wish she had written in so the Captain could be like “FIND A DIFFERENT DUDE.”

    1. This baffles me as well, but despite my frustration and wanting her to see the whole picture, I left it to a quick question of “but the dogs would have shelter outside, right?”. I wouldn’t tell her to dump the dude and yeah, my comment about their relationship ending (in my letter) was mean spirited, but it came from a place of helpless frustration on behalf of the animals.

    2. This. I’m getting a niggling feeling that this narration has been abridged by LW. It just seems a bit fragmented, if that makes sense.

      1. I was trying to be good with the character limit. 😦

      2. I get the sense that English is not the LW’s first language, and I believe that may be contributing to how fragmented the narrative feels at times.

        1. I’m not sure if this will show up, but yes, I’m Canadian. I speak fluent English. I do have a habit of occasionally typing casually without always using pronouns (it’s a Spanish thing) and I may have done that in this situation. It may seem fragmented due to cutting out some of the relevant details in an attempt to limit characters. Plus, I was upset.

          1. My apologies! I think I picked up on a few missing pronouns, combined that with the mention of being in Cancun, and made a bad assumption. Strike my original comment from the record, y’all!

        2. Darn….can’t put it below your apology. But no worries. I know that when not writing for my job, my brain sometimes defaults to a Spanish style of thinking. My mother pointed it out to me as well. 🙂

          1. The way our brains work between and among multiple languages is so fascinating! I’ve let my Spanish skills slip considerably, but I remember the first time I thought “in Spanish”…and then immediately reverted to thinking in English as my brain went HOLY SHIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED DID ANYONE ELSE SEE THAT???!!

        3. LOL..I even once forgot the word “kibble” when talking to my mother. I had to settle for “dry dog food” because I could only think of the Spanish word for it.

          1. Playing Scrabble with my family during my three year stay in Netherlands was hell. A word would get lodged in my brain and I wouldn’t be able to see anything else I could play… except I couldn’t play that word because it was Dutch.

    3. Where’s she going to live that she has a yard big enough for six outside dogs?? I know it’s not really relevant to the #1 problem of what to do about *this* dog, it just sticks out to me. My flatmate has a pretty decent sized back yard and two medium sized dogs. Sometimes they have visits from friends, one or two at a time, and it seems like there’s dogs underfoot everywhere.

      1. She told me they’d be in a covered front patio, though I assume she meant they’d look for a place with a covered front patio. Five of the dogs are chihuahuas and one is a medium sized dog. Little Dude (if she takes him) is obviously little as well. Room still seems like it would be at a premium, but that’s probably no different than her current apartment. (I’ve only seen her kitchen)

    4. I’m thinking that the dude might be a bit of a red herring. I’m guessing he probably isn’t thrilled that his new partner has seven dogs, but it sounds like the neighbor may have been content spending her evenings at home and her money on pet care when she was married, but wants to spend her time socializing away from home and her money on other things now that she’s no longer in that relationship. I suspect she’d be taking this same slow path toward rehoming some or all of her pets even if she hadn’t met this particular guy.

      1. That sounds like (and is) a logical way to look at it, But initially when her soon-to-be-ex left, she was upset because he wanted some of the dogs, so I’m not sure if that’s the case. She’s since changed her mind and told me that he is taking 3 or 4 of them. Not sure if that’s gone down yet or not, but not my monkey, not my circus. 🙂

        1. I’ve seen that situation before. I used to do a lot of dog rescue and saw many situations where there was a divorce or breakup with two or more dogs in the middle. There were several times where one person wanted all the dogs and were adamant that the ex not take any. Then a few months later, the reality of doing all the care for all the dogs sank in and the person with custody felt stuck.

          They didn’t want to admit that X number of dogs was just too many for them to care for, sometimes because that was an old argument with the ex. They definitely didn’t want the ex to have any of the dogs because of lingering rancour over the breakup.

          In a way, it was easier for me to deal with because my only goal was the best interests of the dog(s). If that meant schmoozing and sympathising with someone who was doing not very nice things to the dog(s) they claimed to love, I schmoozed and sympathised. If that meant agreeing the ex (who I’d never met) was a gigantic jerk who didn’t deserve to have a pet, hey, I could do that as well. I wasn’t there to show anyone the way they ‘ought to’ do anything or conduct their life, I was there because there was a dog that needed me.

          I am still so grateful to all those rescue dogs. They came, they stayed in my home and they turned me from a dog owner into a real dog trainer. Sure, I made sure they had everything they needed and a lot of what they wanted and that they ended up with forever homes but they gave me my life’s direction. I definitely got the better end of that bargain with those dogs.

          So, my once and forever dogs, thank you very much.

          1. Duly, it sounds like you have something there about divorce cases. and I’ll try to take a lesson from you in regards to doing what needs to be for the dog, no matter how I feel about the possible reason behind it. It’s a great lesson. Thank you. I guess I can’t help but still be upset about what seems to be the reason because so many great dogs lose out because of it, all the time. Breaks my heart to see it happen in front of me. However I will set that aside in my dealings with her and see if there is a way to at least maintain a polite and at-a-distance friendship. She may need it in the future, as someone else pointed out. My intent in talking to her was never to hurt, and I’m sorry if it came across that way.

            And yes, rescue dogs can inspire gratitude towards them, even this cute little beastie that I swear has pica (thing on floor = eat, you can imagine that their area is kept very clear of things. Honestly, what’s tempting about a ribbon accidentally dropped on the floor?) The “brother” of his that I mentioned was only with me for 3 days, but given that he is so endearing even that amount of time was enough to be sad at his departure. I’ve had other rescue dogs, two that a rescue was able to take in and a beautifully tempered one that friends adopted and love very much. It can be a rewarding but painful and sometimes expensive experience.

          2. “Honestly, what’s tempting about a ribbon accidentally dropped on the floor?”

            I know this is a bit of a tangent, but I have wanted to ask my cat that SO many times. She in particular thinks that plastic bags are an important part of a balanced feline diet, and no matter how many conversations we have about this she refuses to change her mind! Sometimes I can manage to hide them from her, but cats get into EVERYTHING and she always finds them again. (And sometimes she has turned up her nose at the kitty kibble I just gave her, or yummy wet cat food, to go eat the plastic bag. Seriously?!?)

          3. Out of nesting, but reply to the tangent:
            My cat likes to lick my keyboard. I have a clear plastic spill-proof cover on it so it’s not like he’s hurting the keyboard or in danger of swallowing a key, but WHYY cat

          4. Nanani, my dog once licked pickle juice after I’d spilled some while opening the jar. This was after sniffing it, which you’d think would have been enough for her to know it was a bad idea. Afterwards, she looked at me like I’d betrayed her.

          5. Nesting mismatch: PICA question

            Plastic gives off pheromone-like smells which attracts cats. I once had a case where a woman got new shower curtains and her cat seemed to “go crazy.” I advised her to air them outside for a few days, as it was the powerful scent that was having that effect on her cat.

            I have found help with pica by turning to hyper-nutrition: drop the dry and feed only canned, add dry gelatin and Brewers Yeast to food, coconut oil for good fats, ask the vet about a mineral supplement as deficiencies in micronutrients can often trigger pica behavior.

            The animal’s body is asking for nutrients, and they are eating odd things out of this compulsion.

          6. Nesting issues for me as well, this is to WayofCats.

            “The animal’s body is asking for nutrients, and they are eating odd things out of this compulsion.”

            Many thanks for this. I’m going to start with checking at the vets for the supplements and I can add more canned food to his diet. He’s currently eating Nupec as opposed to a cheap store brand food, but additional supplements couldn’t hurt. The difficulty is in testing if it’s successful, as he has enough restraint to not go after non-food items when I’m in the house. So it may be a combo of behaviour issues and dietary issues, especially considering his past neglect. I do exercise caution in not leaving their toys with them when I’m not around. Sounds mean, but I think it’s safer.

          7. Out of nesting – but re: animals EATING EVERYTHING.

            It isn’t always a vitamin deficiency; if an animal’s come from a situation where they had little food and had to fight for what they did have, they will eat…well, everything. I have got a nine year old Maine Coon who was owned by a hoarder, along with thirty other cats, not a one fixed so they were constantly breeding. She was four and a half pounds when I got her and was literally being suckled to death by her litter of just-born kittens when the rescue I got her from was able to pull her out. (The kittens, sadly, did not make it. Nowhere near ready to wean, no other mama cat available to nurse them, no way for the rescue lady to bottlefeed.)

            She’s now a comfortable ten pounds – yes, she’s a small Coon – and has been given access to adequate food for almost two years now, but she still tries to eat anything she thinks might be remotely edible. Including anything my fat tortoiseshell cat’s stomach, um, rejects. It’s habit, and I don’t think she’ll ever be rid of that habit.

  8. I don’t know the state of her other dogs (five indoors and one outdoors that seems mostly OK)

    I can understand LW’s worry (though, like Elizabeth above, not zir fixation on zir neighbor’s dating life) – a single person working full-time (or more) caring for seven dogs strikes me as deeply irresponsible on its face (even without especially hectic work schedules or a time-consuming dating life or anything else in that vein), as dogs generally require a significant amount of care, attention, and interaction to be happy and healthy. Households with multiple people to share the labor can struggle to care for a smaller number of dogs.

    I advise going the route of initially focusing on getting this one dog settled at a different house with people who are in a position to care for it. If you want to try to help the other animals after that, LW, you can, but definitely start with the one to which you have some kind of personal connection and get that resolved first.

    1. I know that in Mexico there is a different attitude towards animals, but this woman is verging on hoarding behaviour. Too bad LW isn’t in some place where the SPCA could be contacted. In Cancun there are likely so many street dogs that even if they had such a thing, they probably wouldn’t have the resources to deal with dogs that appear to be actually living with someone and getting at least a modicum of care.

    2. That many dogs in the town where I live would be considered a hoarding situation. I think you need a permit for more than 3.

      1. “That many dogs in the town where I live would be considered a hoarding situation. I think you need a permit for more than 3.”

        LOL…six dogs is nothing. The first place I lived here was with a lady who had more than 30 cats – all rescues but still. She has a big big heart and is a lovely lady, but alas, garden space is at a premium and the house smelled…interesting. I felt bad moving out, but was happy I did at the same time.

        1. My one kitty came from a situation like that, and it took me about 2 years to get her to act normal. Poor thing was terrified of all other humans. She’s still better at hiding than any cat I’ve ever seen.

          1. Yeah, my “LOL” wasn’t really a suitable thing to type, but sometimes it’s laugh or cry. I saw the situations some of those cats were in, despite the efforts the lady went to. She was just too overwhelmed and still took in more. Some of those cats were in rough shape and she put off euthanizing one for so long (it was in bad bad shape) that I ended up doing it when she was on vacation. I made the call for the cat’s sake and it broke my heart. I still talk to her and she was actually grateful I did it, but I moved out not long after that. My own cats lived there as long as I did (kittens from the street) and one of them ripped out the fur from her lower back from stress.

            All is well now though, my cats shed like they are trying to make a third cat. Now if only Little Dude could leave them alone more often…we could all share the living room.

      2. yeah, my town has a six pet limit, and pets that qualify are dogs, cats, and chickens. (unless you get a farm permit, and then chickens are not-pets and subject to different limits. but without a permit you can have them as long as they don’t tip you over the pet limit.)

      3. This is off topic but years ago, the town I was living in considered doing that. Since I owned 6 dogs (2 retirees, 2 working dogs and 2 young dogs who were not ready for real work) and fostered rescues while I re-trained them for their forever homes, I would definitely be affected.

        So several of us who owned more than 3 dogs got together and combed over 10 years’ worth of police reports and animal control reports. It turned out that the most complaints were in regard to single dog households, second highest was two dog households and there were exactly zilch complaints about households with 4 or more dogs.

        We presented this report to the city council with the tongue in cheek recommendation: dog owners should be required to have 4 or more dogs at all times.

        Didn’t pass and in the 20 years since it came up, there still haven’t been any complaints involving households with 4 or more dogs.

  9. it sounds like the neighbor’s life is in a major transition right now. Her husband left her, she’s got all the pets to care for alone now, work is crazy, and she’s dating someone new who isn’t an animal fan. This is a lot.

    I agree with everyone here about focusing on the dog you are invested in. But try to keep in mind that your neighbor didn’t end up with 7 dogs as a single person, that was not the plan. (and it is kinda a terrible plan.) On some level she knows she has taken on too much, and she’s trying to hide it from you.

    Sometimes we get into a spot where we have taken on too much through no fault of our own and don’t know how to get out. I think helping her with the little guy is a great start, that might help her realize she needs more help to manage her situation. You are absolutely right to worry about the animals as they are the victims here.

    But she probably deserves your concern too, if she’s so willing after such a short time to give up important parts of her life and identity for a guy.

    1. “But she probably deserves your concern too, if she’s so willing after such a short time to give up important parts of her life and identity for a guy.”

      She does and she has it, mixed in with the frustration. Actually I should say that’s part of the frustration. I know for a fact how much she loves those dogs, and the thought of her having regrets later on does make me hurt for her, if that makes any sense.

  10. LW here, I can clear up some of the questions/concerns.

    The first concern that I’m worried about her dating life isn’t true, though I can see where that may have come across, it was more of a “she’s seemingly only focusing on her dating life to the detriment of her pets” situation. I’ve no feelings either way on her soon to be ex husband (other than the fact that he always treated me and my little dog well and I appreciated that) so this isn’t a situation of me not liking the new guy. If it weren’t for the pet situation, I’d be very happy for her as she is likely out having stress-free fun for the first time in a long time.

    I simply am upset by the neglect. Even if the neglect was due to her working, I’d want to call her out on it. (the neglect, not the working) and find out what kind of arrangements we could make that were beneficial for all. But I don’t judge people’s dating preferences. We’re all adults here. My concern is legitimately for the animals. (I saw clusters of large ticks on her outdoor dog’s ears the other day, as an example)

    Onyx summed up my feelings nicely on that aspect of it with this “friend is dating someone who is drastically changing friend’s behavior/sense of responsibility” And believe me when I say that this woman used to be incredibly dedicated to her pets, made them chicken and rice everyday etc. I wouldn’t expect her to be able to continue that level of care when suddenly single and working more/dating again, I simply ask for basic responsibility or admitting she needs help in rehoming some of them, painful as it may be. I don’t know if this helps to explain my frustration, but during the times she talked about how much she was working, it was a constant stream of “I’m done all that work next week and will have a lot more time so I’ll come and get him”. Probably being, I heard that line every week and quickly stopped believing it. Which is how two weeks became three months. He only ended up going back to her because of my vacation.

    Also of note, I never once asked her about if she was dating, she told me after a couple of months (in a very happy way) and my only response was “that’s cool, congrats”. As to her dressing up more, again, only complimentary and genuine “I love your dress” comments. Because she did really look good and her dresses were lovely. So I think more is being read into my theory as to what his behind the neglect then there is. Again, I think Onyx explained it better than I can.

    RSVP’s comments about the animal situation in Cancun are accurate. There is one government run “shelter”, but they get at least 20 dogs a day and their methods of killing the dogs that aren’t adopted out is horrible. There are unofficial rescues but they are always full. It’s a very sad and tragic situation here. Mexico (or at least Cancun) doesn’t have any kind of formal “this is my dog” paperwork etc, part of the reason there are so many street dogs and people can’t be punished for abandoning them. But I will look into some kind of official non-official way to indicate that she’s transferred ownership of the dog to me (thanks vet tech) so that I can find him a good home. I believe that Little Dude’s awesome vet may be able to help with that.

    The reason I can’t keep little dude permanantly is that I already have two rescue cats and dog, and I do plan on returning home in a couple of years. Transporting an additional animal and finding an apartment that will take two dogs and two cats may be difficult and expensive. Still, Little Dude can stay with me until I find a suitable and very loving home for him.

    As to the hoarding concerns, the number of pets they had always struck me as high, but in the past they were well looked after, so I saw no issue with it. I think only now that she’s on her own is it a problem, though she mentioned that her ex might be taking 3 or 4 of the indoor dogs. That may help.

    I will keep the focus on LIttle Dude as really, he’s the only one I can help with anyway. The other dogs were mentioned simply as added background to the situation. I do wonder if it’ll even be an issue as I’ve not heard a peep from her anyway, and it’s been several days since I told her he was sick. I’m kind of operating under the tentative belief that she’s not too interested in the dog at the moment.

    I hope that clears some of it up.

  11. This is a pretty nuclear option – you’re not going to be on friendly terms with Neighbour afterwards – but you may want to consult with the vet about this:

    In many countries, a vet is empowered to seize an animal who in their opinion has been abused or neglected. They usually have to notify the local Humane Society and explain why they did it. This MAY lead to Neighbour being investigated and fined and/or the other animals being seized.

    If this is legal in Cancun, the vet who you’ve been taking the dog to has seen the dog enough times that they should be able to decide if they’re comfortable taking that step.

    It’s a big step to take, but I think at this point you should at least find out if it’s an option.

    1. PS My sister in BC has a rescue dog who was originally a stray in Cancun, and somehow made it to Canada for adoption. I have reached out to her for details and if she knows and angle I am willing to help facilitate rehoming. I can’t take a dog either 😦 but I’ll help all I can …

      1. Thanks, Marna! 🙂 I don’t yet have a set time to speak to Awesome Vet, but I do plan on talking to her at some point. Little Dude had a “brother” that was stuck with him in that garden, and he found a home after just three days with me. He now lives with a friend of Vet. Getting Little Dude to my house for fostering took a month and a bit, for some reason. I first took his “brother” because I was the one to find the dog and allowed the original owner to adopt him, so when I heard what happened I felt responsible for putting him in that situation. I then realized that Little Dude (though I hadn’t met him yet) deserved no less consideration if I could help.

        1. I have an email address for the person who rescued Miss Molly, if you need it. She’s apparently actually closer to Mexico City, but has a network. You can email me at Marna At Marna Dot See Eh if things go such that you want the address.

      2. Please do some reading on rescues that import dogs before you hand a dog over to one or adopt a dog from one of them. Definitely do not foster for one of those rescues unless you are able to manage a dog being dumped on you for months and months by said rescue, because that is DEFINITELY a possible outcome.

        Rescue for profit has become a thing, and it is not awesome.

    2. PPS – I’m scatty today – the vet doesn’t have to surrender a seized animal to the InHumane Society, they can release them to you for fostering.

  12. If it was me, which it isn’t, but if it was, I’d treat the vet treatment as a loan to her, present her with a bill and offer her the alternative of signing the dog over to me and we could forget the bill. If she doesn’t want to pay the bill, small claims court will hear these cases for very low cost here.

    This is how our local shelter gets dogs away from people who can’t take care of them. It can be pretty high-handed, but if the dog’s safety comes first, it may be your only choice.

  13. “I’d treat the vet treatment as a loan to her, present her with a bill and offer her the alternative of signing the dog over to me and we could forget the bill. If she doesn’t want to pay the bill, small claims court will hear these cases for very low cost here. ”

    I’ve been mulling that option over as well, though small claims here in Mexico isn’t much of an option (the idea of the paper work here is a nightmare and probably not worth the 1,000 pesos) While obviously everyone would prefer to have money paid back, I’m at peace with the idea of not getting it so long as Dude gets better – and he is, the skin leisons are clearing up beautifully.

    I’ll have to look into the laws here on this sort of thing, but I’ll have to be here if she wants to come get him now, at least. Plus, my house is fully mine again. (lock change was for the second reason, not the first)

    Thanks! 🙂

  14. Just for my 2 cents, I’d be very wary of doing something like taking the dog and then soon after rehoming it. Therein lies the route to Judge Judy -land.
    I think if you take the dog in you need to assume that it is forever, or at least a year, and it needs to be legally yours 100% without argument. Giving away someone else’s dog, no matter how warranted and even if they have moved away is a huge potential for problems down the line I think. Make sure it’s 100% yours and you have a long stretch of plausibility of ownership before taking that route.

    1. Yes, we’re definitely in a holding pattern right now. I’m certainly not sure of the legalities in this situation.

  15. I attempted to do a little basic search for applicable laws and came up with pretty much zero that would come into play for this exact situation, but if you’d like to know what the laws are regarding leaving or entering Mexico with a dog, I can totally help with that. 😛 It appears that there’s also not much in the way of animal cruelty laws in Mexico, so reporting would require first finding the appropriate entity to take such a report and hope they can do something about it that won’t be worse for the dog(s).

    You can call me “The lawyer who tried” (but failed, sorry – I practice family law) at least for a short while. 😉

    The main focus is to get the one dog help. I do recommend a written agreement that transfers ownership from your neighbor to you and state that the neighbor acknowledges that signing means they agree to cessation of all rights or claim to the dog.

    1. “but if you’d like to know what the laws are regarding leaving or entering Mexico with a dog, I can totally help with that”

      Actually, I’d very interested in that! As I said somewhere, I do eventually plan on returning to Canada. Probably not a converation for the board though. Is there any way to PM?

      “You can call me “The lawyer who tried” (but failed, sorry – I practice family law) at least for a short while”

      I greatly appreciate your efforts though. I’m going to ask around here, but beyond that written statement, there probably isn’t much that can be done on even a semi-official level. I can check with the vets office as well. They recently opened up services for reporting animal neglect/abuse, but it’s so much in its infancy, I wouldn’t trust it yet. 😦

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