Press-Republican

September 14, 2013

Dog suggested as therapy

By MONICA COLLINS, Ask the Dog Lady
Press-Republican

— Dear Dog Lady,

During a recent weekend visit with my former college roommate, she and I stayed up much too late quaffing cheap Chianti and hashing over her troubled marriage.

She described how her husband had been keeping to himself, watching too much TV, forsaking his regular exercise routine and stuffing himself with junk food. A funk has settled on their empty-nest household. My friend seemed at wits end. I told her to get a dog.

The next morning, I found her poring over the pet page in the newspaper. She told me she was cheered by the idea of a canine addition to the household. She planned to surprise her husband. As I packed up to leave, she was calling the local shelter.

Did I overstep my bounds? After all, I put the therapy-dog idea in her head. I had no clue she’d jump on it like a puppy with a rope bone.

—Fiona

A: Surprise dogs are not a great idea. Your friend must be totally willing to take care of the dog herself if her husband shuns the pet. Yet, even if he rejects the dog at first, Dog Lady supposes the animal will win him over eventually.

Dogs do wonders for the human mind, body and spirit. They take our minds off ourselves. Despite your Chianti haze when you made the suggestion, you were clearly thinking on your feet.

Dog Lady knows of a wife who brought home a Jack Russell terrier after her husband finished chemotherapy treatments and was in a gulch of despair. Initially, the husband was annoyed by the pet ambush. He ignored the dog — or pretended to. He kept threatening to give the dog away. The dog stayed because the wife had made the commitment to take care of it. That was five years ago.

Today, the husband adores his Jack Russell and vice-versa. Man and dog walk six miles daily — a morning outing that keeps them both happy. He has rebounded from cancer and from his depression. Wife can only smile, even if she sometimes feels like a third wheel.

+++++

Dear Dog Lady,

I have this unconscious habit of showering my Shepherd-mix Emma with a string of sappy nicknames. I rarely call her by her given moniker. She’s become my “darling-angel-baby-honey-bear-lambiekins-whatever.”

After I started dating Tom, he seemed a mite miffed when I prodded Emma along on our walk by urging, “C’mon sweetheart” and he answered: “OK.” When Tom realized I was cooing to the dog and not him, he pouted and asked: “What name is left for me?’’

Good question. —Mary

A: Dating is a subtle art. Best to stifle the terms of endearment toward Emma — at least until you’re over the initial intimacy phases with Tom. Naturally, when you’re alone with your dog, you can deluge her with “darling-angel-baby-isms.’’ But, when Tom is around, put a lid on it. If you like the guy and want the relationship to have half a chance, you don’t want him to feel he’s jostling for sweetheart status.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. To ask a question or make a comment, visit askdoglady.com, facebook.com/askdoglady or email her at askdoglady@gmail.com.