Part-Time Pets: Would You Have Joint Custody?

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Once a month, my house gets a visitor. He's furry, drools, and loves to have his belly rubbed. Monster, a 10-year old German Shepherd/collie/chow mix, is my boyfriend's dog, and every few weeks, my boyfriend drives to his ex's house in the suburbs to pick the dog up for a week-long visit. 

My boyfriend and his ex separated six years ago, and when they broke up, neither wanted to part with the dog, so they decided to have joint custody of Monster, who happily comes along for car rides and who seems to love his getaways to the city. 

It's an arrangement that actually works fairly well, but I'll admit that when I first moved in, I found it pretty weird. Whenever Monster comes to visit, there are lots of life adjustments to be made. We have a chinchilla that, for a while, Monster confused with a squirrel (chasing!), and I had to establish a rapport with him, since he wasn't used to taking commands from me. Making sure that he doesn't bother the neighbors when we're at work and ensuring that we're home in time for walks has also been an adjustment. 

That said, there's been lots of joy in this arrangement. I love dogs, and who doesn't want an adorable fluff-muffin to cuddle at the day's end? We live in a small condo, and we go out a lot, so having Monster for a week per month sometimes seems like having our cake and eating it too; we get all the perks of a pet, but he goes back to his nice, big yard in the suburbs when it starts feeling too crowded or when we want to go on a trip. 

While it's now become normal for me, I've never met anyone else who shares custody of a pet. I can imagine, though, that there are plenty of other attached pet-moms and dads who are in this situation. Have you ever split custody of a pet, or would you ever consider doing so? 

(Image: Carolyn Purnell)

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Carolyn is a freelance writer and photographer, as well as a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in Chicago by way of L.A., England and Paris. Currently, she is a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

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