Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: New pet


Dear Virginia,

My partner wants to give our son a puppy for Christmas. He's only seven but longs for a dog. I feel he's too young and the walking and feeding will all be down to me, as I work part-time. They promise they'll look after it, but we live in a flat and I dread it becoming lonely and unwanted after the puppy stage. I have no interest in animals – but I'm not cruel. I fear it's just a craze that my son and his dad share. How can I dissuade my partner from getting him one?

Yours sincerely, Susie

I have to say I can't imagine how you've even got to the point of discussing this. The moment the subject was broached, you should have put your hands over your ears and just screamed: "No! No! No!" Normally I'm all for rational argument, but yours will only be met with promises of things in the future that will never get carried out. Heavens, even if your son and partner did take over all the walking and feeding and taking to the vet – which is highly unlikely – the dog would still have a miserable life, stuck on its own most of the day in a flat, with only someone indifferent to animals for company part of the time.

And we still haven't addressed all the other problems – what would happen if it had a road accident, or, heaven forbid, snapped at someone else's child, all quite likely to happen now and again in a dog's long lifetime? Some dogs, you might point out, live for around 15 years, by which time your son would be 22. I doubt if he'll be returning from university daily to care for his dog, however much he loves him.

If I were you, I'd turn the argument around and say, simply, that to have a dog would be cruel to the dog. Not only that, but it would be pretty cruel to you, too. A loved dog becomes a member of a family, and when it dies most people go into full-blown mourning. You are a member of that family and you don't want a dog living in your home. Your partner might as well suggest his sweet but smelly jobless brother comes to live with you. You just don't want him in your living space. And make no mistake, a dog, unless you find one the size of a matchbox, will take up an enormous amount of room in your flat. It'll bark, it will always be bumbling around, sniffing at you and shoving into you in the corridor, trying to get on your bed. A dog is a major presence in anyone's life, not just an accessory. It's a family member, not a new suit.

Not only that, a dog is expensive. It's worth working out exactly how much it might cost you each year, not only in dog food, but vet's bills and kennelling if you ever want to go away and leave your pet behind. It's estimated a dog costs around £20,000 during its lifetime.

If I were you I'd compromise. Say you might consider a puppy but only once your partner and son have proved themselves with, say, a hamster. If, after a year, you've seen that they take responsibility for everything, including cleaning its cage out every single week (again, highly unlikely) and letting it have a proper run about the house every day so that it's not just confined to its cage, then you might think again.

With any luck, they'll either have realised what a tie and drain having a pet is – any kind of pet. Or they'll have changed to wanting something different. Hopefully, it won't be a crocodile.



Wait until he's older

I know how Susie feels, as I had the same problem many years ago. I told my husband and daughter they should wait till she was old enough to take responsibility for the dog herself. We got her a puppy when she was 12 and she looked after him very well. When she went away to college I had to take over, but by this time I had got very fond of him! He lived for 17 years.

Pam Cohen

By email



Borrow a dog

Your local cat and dog shelter will have lots of dogs that need walking on a regular basis. Most shelters welcome volunteers for this, and signing up is relatively easy. Why not suggest that your partner and son walk a dog from the centre every Saturday and Sunday, come rain or shine, for a set period (say, about four months)? You can agree to discuss the issue again after that time, if they're still keen.

I'd suggest you discuss this with your partner first, then both of you talk to your son, so that you're presenting a united point of view to him. If he is mature enough to have a dog I'm sure he'll jump at the chance to walk a number of friendly, different types of dog and will learn a lot from the experience.

Debbie Jones

By email



Try a virtual pet

Some years ago our child asked for a pet. Fearing, like Susie, that the responsibility of caring for a pet would fall on the stay-at-home parent, my husband bought our child a Tamagotchi – the electronic toy pet. If, he said, that Tamagotchi is still "alive" in a month's time, we will get a real pet. It wasn't, and we didn't.

Laura Windisch

By email



They're ganging up

I'm afraid the two men in Susie's life are ganging up on her and making her feel guilty (though probably not deliberately). But Susie must resist. Apart from the burden being hers to accept or reject, it would be bad for the puppy, and it would be bad for the boy for to give in to demands that he must know are unreasonable. So Susie will have to convince her partner first, and they must convince the boy together.

But also, I wonder why the boy wants a puppy so much. What gap in his life does he think it is going to fill? Perhaps the parents could address this need, and come to some other way of satisfying the boy's longing.

Dorothy Erskine

By email

NEXT WEEK'S DILEMMA

Dear Virginia,

I'm really worried because I'm not really that interested in sex. At school, I always felt left out because my friends were always boasting about girls and what they'd done with them, but somehow it all seemed to pass me by. I'm now 36, living on my own, and although I enjoy seeing pretty women, I just don't seem to have much of a reaction. I'd be just as happy chatting to a girl and watching TV than going to bed with her. I have had sex in my time, so it's not as if I'm impotent. It's just that I didn't rate it a lot. I can't go to my doctor. What's wrong with me?

Yours sincerely, Simon

What would you advise Simon to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent.co.uk, or go to independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucer from the wine website Naked Wines (Nakedwines.com)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

    £15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

    £60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms