DEAR KELLY: My boyfriend and I are juniors in high school and want to get a dog together. We’re responsible and pretty good students. My parents are totally against it and don’t get why we want to do it. We both love dogs and plan to rescue a dog from a shelter and give it a good home. We love dogs and we know what goes into having a dog because we’ve both had dogs before, but not for a while. Neither of us are planning to go away to college immediately, so that’s not a problem. Please help me know what to say to my parents to persuade them to let us get a dog. His parents said yes as long as my parents say yes. My parents keep saying no way and don’t seem to be budging. I really want to do this. I think we can help some dog get out of the shelter, so I don’t get why my parents are so against it.
DEAR TRINA: It’s thoughtful and sweet you want to rescue a dog. Lord knows, there are so many dogs in shelters that need good homes, so I applaud you for wanting to do the right thing to help one find a home. But getting a dog is a big commitment and the timing has to be right if you are to give the dog the love, attention and home they deserve. If your parents are not supportive of you getting a dog, and you still live at home (and are planning on for a while), then it’s not the right time.
If your boyfriend’s parents are OK with it, why doesn’t he get a dog? I wouldn’t say it was your dog “together,” but rather his dog and you help. The dog would be his family’s dog and they would be responsible for the dog and all that goes into taking good care of your pet. They would be the rightful owners of the dog and in charge of things like medical care, grooming and basic things like food. If you were to break up, it would be much easier because the dog belongs to him and his family, so there would be no gray area or question with whom the dog stays. Perhaps you need to let go of the idea of sharing a pet and approach the idea as individuals.
Sharing a pet can be tricky. Consistency is key for a well-adjusted and well-behaved pet. Switching back and forth between your two homes could be confusing or upsetting for your dog. Giving the dog a solid home, like your boyfriend’s house, allows the dog to settle in and feel secure.
Even though you are responsible young people, there is so much that goes into owning a pet. Perhaps you start with something easier like a fish or a hamster. Show your parents that you are competent at caring for your pet and prove to them that you take pet ownership seriously. Your parents probably have legitimate concerns about sharing a dog and all that comes with it. Listen to what they are worried about and respect the fact that they don’t want to be responsible (or even half-responsible) for a pet. When you get older and live in your own place, you can fulfill this dream and rescue a dog from a shelter and give it a good and loving home.
No one should be persuaded to get a pet. Animals deserve to be wanted, not part of a bargaining process. If you love animals, offer to pet sit or dog-walk your neighbors’ pets. Start a business and reach out to pet owners in your neighborhood who might need someone to help with their animals. Or go to the local shelter and volunteer to play with or groom animals that are being housed there. Look into fostering a dog and see if your parents would consider that. Together you could learn what it is like to have a dog in your house and if you are ready for all the responsibilities that come with it.
Loving a pet is wonderful but it has to be at the right time to be fair to the animal. A pet is a life, not a toy. Be careful that you aren’t adopting a pet because it seems “fun or cute” to do with your boyfriend. Taking on a pet means caring for it forever and seeing it as a long term commitment to providing the animal with a forever home.