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Problem solved: unwanted dog

I want to get rid of the family dog now that my kids are moving out, but my wife disagrees

Having had a dog as a boy, I felt it would be good for my kids to experience the joys and responsibilities too. Unfortunately, we left it until they were teenagers and they are now at various stages of moving out. I want to retire while I'm fit enough to travel and enjoy it. But having a dog restricts us in so many ways, and this particular dog shows no sign of needing less play and walks. He demands attention if either of us is around, when I just want to read or do jobs round the house. His bark is harsh, so leaving him to bark is not an option. Dog hairs and mud everywhere put me off improving the house as much as I'd like. Even our plans to move somewhere smaller seem pointless to me when I think of claw marks on polished wood floors etc. I worry that I get irritated and angry from being at the beck and call of what in many ways I know to be an intelligent and lovely animal.

I have raised my feelings with my wife who finds the dog's ways and habits less irksome than I do, and sees him almost as one of the children. She would feel terrible if we were to move the dog on, but says she could cope if we found him a genuinely loving home.

Should I give up and accept life as it is for possibly the next 10 years or so? If we were by some miracle able to find a family willing to take him on, would the feelings of loss and resentment from the children, and probably my wife as well, be worth it? A

Hmm. I'm glad you can't give children back as readily as dogs. Read your letter back. You wanted your kids to "experience the joys and responsibilities [of dog ownership]". You say this with no irony. It's rather backfired hasn't it? Now look, I sound harsh, and I speak as a country girl from Italy, where we don't keep dogs as pets but as working animals. I'm not sentimental. But you chose to bring a dog into your life, and with that comes the responsibility of which you speak. Show some.

I have to say, it sounds as if you are a bit depressed and I wonder if the poor dog has become the focus of all your dissatisfaction – could that be a possibility? Have you always felt like this, or has it been since the children started to grow up and move on? Because I'm a bit surprised you didn't think about how a dog would restrict your life. You had a dog as a boy – how did you deal with him? Or did you grow bored and your parents dealt with him or her? Did you buy this dog as a family, or did you act unilaterally? If the former, then you need to sit down and discuss this together. Otherwise you're really teaching your children that when something gets to be too much trouble, you just get rid of it. Is that really the message you want to send to someone who may end up looking after you in your dotage, and when you are past your best? Do you have sole responsibility for his walks and looking after him? Because if so, then maybe you could all have a rota so that some of the pressure is taken off you.

Being practical and positive now. The dog requires exercise. Excellent – he'll keep you fit. His bark is harsh – get a dog trainer in to help you deal with it. Stop using the dog as an excuse not to improve your house. Presumably you don't live in Eltham Palace, so you don't have to have polished wooden floors, there are tons of great floor coverings that can deal with dog claws (perhaps Family dog owners would like to post their recommendations online). Who wants to maintain a highly polished wooden floor anyway, dog or no dog? He sheds hair – vacuum! Miele has an excellent vacuum cleaner, appropriately called Cat and Dog, that sucks those pet hairs right up.

You say it'd be a miracle to get someone to rehouse him with. Well, with PR like that it won't be easy. He sounds like just a normal dog; he's not Cujo. I'm sure lots of families would love to have him if it comes to that. You didn't tell me where you lived, and asked anyway to be kept anonymous, so I can't tell you where to go to, but if you put your town's name and animal sanctuary/dog charity into Google, that would be a start.
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