Dear Jido – June 2024

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Dear Jido, 

We recently invited my aging mother-in-law to come live with us. We have noticed enough signs of mental decline that we were worried about letting her live on her own. This was a compromise I struck with my wife after I initially suggested sending her to a nursing home. Well, my wife did all the communication with her, so imagine my surprise when she casually asked when we would be giving up our dog! 

Apparently, my wife promised her we would rehome our well-trained dog (which we have owned for 12 years), and she just “forgot” to tell me. I am furious at everyone involved, but my mother-in-law refuses to live in the house with a dog. She says she will live on her own, and neither my wife nor I think that is a good idea. 

My wife is now pushing for us to rehome the dog “for a little while,” but I just know “a little while” will turn into “forever.” She is calling me cold and uncaring toward her mother. 

Is there any way I can salvage my marriage, my relationship with my mother-in-law, and my beloved pet? 

Signed, 

Pet Peeve 

 

Dear Peeve, 

Your question raises several important points: 

  1. Pets are special – especially dogs. They’re loyal, non-judgmental, fun to play with, and cuddly. After many years, they even seem like part of the family. But really, they’re not. They’re pets.  
  1. Your wife is fulfilling one of the most important commandments of the Torah – honoring her mother. It’s generally not easy to take care of an aging parent. However, our rabbis tell us that having an “old woman” in the house is a blessing. 
  1. There is almost an “exception” to this commandment though. Once a woman gets married, her first loyalty is to her husband. If taking care of her parents gets in the way of her total devotion to her husband, however you define that, then her responsibility to her husband comes first. 
  1. Finally, the most important point of all – the husband is ultimately responsible for maintaining shalom bayit. 

Is it possible that your wife stepped over the line by making you give up your pet so that her mother could live with you? Possibly.   

In the interim, your pet will be taken good care of until it comes back home to you all the while your mother-in-law is receiving loving care from her daughter. As they say, it’s a moment in time.  

Your job is to make your mother-in-law feel welcome, to praise your wife every day for performing this act of selflessness, and when you have time, to visit your pet in its temporary new home.  

It’s ruff, but it’s up to you.  

Jido