Carolyn Hax: Advice

Bro’s dog shows signs of neglect

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn: My brother-in-law recently lost his apartment, so my husband and I offered to watch his dog while he finds a new place (he is staying with his girlfriend, whose complex prohibits dogs).

The dog is so skinny you can clearly see his ribs and his hip bones. I’ve heard about this dog being neglected, so this is not the first time. We gave him food and water and he ate and drank a ton.

We were given the dog crate, but there was no bedding – apparently the dog stays on the hard metal floor of the crate for long hours. He isn’t given any exercise, and has accidents because he isn’t properly housebroken or taken outside.

These things, to me, are unacceptable. We have three rescue dogs, so I know neglect when I see it! Our initial reaction is to find a new home for the dog, but this is family so it’s a sensitive topic. Is there a good way to approach yet another conversation with my brother-in-law or should we just find the dog a new home?

A.

Humans don’t deserve dogs, do we?

Just finding the little dude a “foster home” (less provocative) has an interesting benefit, besides putting a stop to his torture: It makes you the bad guys and therefore allows your brother-in-law (“Bill”), who I’m guessing is in general disarray, to save face and grieve his dog while being secretly relieved he’s gone. The calculation there is that anyone who neglects a pet doesn’t really want the pet.

In that calculation, though, lies enough of an opening for you to rescue the dog and navigate sensitivities. Instead of going straight to the nuclear option, you and your husband (right, he’s on board here?) say to Bill kindly: “It looks like Dogster needs more care than you can give him right now. We’d like to find a new home for him.” See how Bill responds.

If he balks, then say the dog was emaciated and you’re not comfortable giving him back. A strain on the family, perhaps, but morally apt. Again see what he says. Talk toward a plan you all (Dogster especially) can live with.

Remember, the nuclear option remains available as long as you host this dog, buying you time to try better ways.

Hi, Carolyn! How do you suggest dealing with the silent treatment from a friend? She has always been rather presumptuous, but I like her and I’m kind of a pushover so I just roll with it.

This time, however, she assumed I would do her a rather significant favor that I simply cannot. I offered other solutions and ways I could help. She has not returned my texts or calls since. I really do treasure her as a friend, so what do I do now?

Anonymous

Define “treasure.”

OK, OK. To get back on reasonable terms with the unreasonable, you can either grovel or wait forgivingly till she’s over it. That’s about it. Neither is ideal because both grant her the reins, but that’s the point of high-maintenance behavior, right? Control?

If that’s not her intent, then she’ll respond to Option 3, where you ask what you’ve done wrong and whether you can make it right. Good luck.

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