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"Friend's" Best Friend? Pet Custody
People get a little nutty about their pets. I mean, Breakup Dog and I were
totally talking about this the last time I called home and Breakup Dad held
the phone up to her ear. It also occurs to me, every now and then, that people
get a little nutty about their relationships.
And some people, goodness knows, have both. A pet name and a pet
if you know what I mean. (Or, in the case of Enuff
bumpersticker lady -- "The more people I meet, the more I like my cat!" -- a
pet name and a pet peeve, which can make you equally antisocial.)
So what happens when these three-way relationships fall apart? Well,
Aniston, apparently, lost Donovan but kept the dog; Clooney lost Preston but
kept the potbellied pig. Sometimes, however, the pets -- normally used to
booted out of the middle (of the bed) -- find themselves caught there. (Either
that, or couples resolutely (though ill-advisedly) insist that they're
together for the chickens.") Our beasts bear our burdens, indeed.
But according to an article by Alexandra Zissu in last week's New
York Times, more and more couples formerly known as Couples "appear
to be arranging what might be called pet joint custody." (She
in a city like New York where there are lots of childless adults bonding
with their animal companions.") (I don't know what the young lady
is talking about! Do you, Harvey?)
In fact, the truth about Janeane Garofalo is that she's in a forthcoming
-- Dog Park
-- about this very topic: "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy must share
dog with ex-girlfriend..." -- and dog, traumatized, sees animal therapist.
(Analyze this.) Dogs (collies, especially) do indeed have a way of
when "someone's hurt."
Yet -- even though Breakup Mom refers to her dog-group humans in terms of
canine pedigree ("Dart's mommy") -- animals are not subject to child
custody laws, as they are legally considered property. So, according to divorce
lawyer Arthur I. Hirsch, most such in-the-doghouse couples attempt to settle
these matters (mirabile dictu) out of court.
This could change.
Earlier last week, the Times -- and last Friday, BG's Superlist
-- also reported that lawyers "are creating a new field of animal law with far
more ambitious goals than traditionally weak anti-cruelty laws...[in order to
be] more than brief-writing counterparts of animal activists." Their intention,
much like Breakup Dog's: to put the American legal principle that animals, as
"property," have no rights ... right out to pasture. To which -- in
general -- I say: Hoo and Ray. Thank
But what if some of these kitty-custody cases actually do make it to their
people's court? Eeek! How would the fauna, like, testify as to their
I can only imagine some sort of age-old technique combining the wisdom of
the drama of Brecht, and the oeuvre of Barrymore:
placing the creature between the "parents" and letting it choose.
(Which will not work for fish; let's hope it doesn't come to that.)
That said, I'll leave further legal considerations to these
In the meantime:
Can co-pet-parenting ever work?
As Stephanie Larfarge, a psychotherapist who works at the ASPCA,
told the Times, "Joint custody is terrific if it is not an excuse for
and prolonging the separation."
(In other words, not if you're "Dog
or his/her ex. Use pooch as pawn, and I will call PETA.).
> Keep in mind that if the name you chose for your little miracle is the
Navajo word for "the stray cat we took in together on the first
of a love that will last forever," you will have to think fast.
> When it's your "turn," resist the urge to "check for
(as in clues). (As in: lipstick on the flea collar.)
> When it's not your "turn," you may have a Pavlovian reaction.
(Upon seeing a similar dog, you will drool.)
> And if you attempt your own out-of-court Canine Chalk Circle, remember:
If Spot picks you, you offer a more stable home and are a better
If Spot picks your ex, you are spared all sorts of painful
and guilt-inducing quandaries ("If I walk it with someone else, is that
cheating?"). Also, remember that dogs and cats, when given a choice,
also run full-speed toward dead moles and squashed 'possums.
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