‘I’m taking the dog’: What happens when couples with pets break up?

Legally Blondefans remember the scene where Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods, a Harvard Law student, helps reunite her manicurist friend Paulette Belafonte (played by Jennifer Coolidge) with her bulldog, Rufus.

Standing at the door of the trailer Paulette and her ex-husband once shared, Elle lectures him about common law marriage and the equitable division of the assets. “Huh?” he asks quizzically. “I’m taking the dog, dumbass,” Paulette yells as she grabs her beloved pooch and runs for the car.

It’s an iconic moment in rom-com movie history,and one that gets played out in similar ways all the time in real life when couples who own a dog together break up.

As couples now tend to put off marriage and children until later in life, getting a pet together has become a big step for many couples looking to advance their relationship.

“I felt like getting a dog together was more solid than a ring,” said Liz Szwejbka, a 25-year-old social worker fromNew York, of getting her dog, Moose, with her boyfriend. “A ring you can take off and give back. … Owning a dog is a whole different story.”

Sharing a pet together can teach couples a lot about their compatibility as future spouses. “If you have a pet, you’re forced to negotiate more, trust each other more,” psychotherapist and relationship counsellor Rachel Dack said. “It’s a great way to gauge your capability as a team.”

But relationship experts warn that it’s important to wait until your relationship is sure to go the distance before adding a furry family member.

Pets introduce time, financial and travel constraints. Restless puppies waking you up at all hours of the night, and expensive boarding facilities and finding little “gifts” on the new carpet can all create stress in the relationship, at least temporarily, while you’re adjusting.

“If you’re concerned about your relationship, speak up about that before you involve a pet,” Dack said.

Even trickier than raising a pet together is figuring out what to do with it if the relationship ends. Often, both people want to keep the pet in their life, but maintaining joint custody post-breakup can be problematic.

Singledom and pet custody …. Photo: John Veage

For one, “it drags out contact that is not useful for the person who is struggling to move on,” Dack said.

Matchmaker and chief executive of Exclusive Matchmaking Susan Trombetti stressed that after a tough separation, it’s important to let yourself heal. “You need a clean cut until you’re over it, so you can’t be sharing a dog.”

Who should ultimately end up with the the pet depends on who can best care for it. “You have to have the pet’s best interest at heart,” Trombetti said.

Mary Flaherty, a 26-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, who works in finance, found herself left to care for a dog and cat alone after she and her ex broke up. “He said I should take the animals. He didn’t even offer to do anything,” she said. “He didn’t want to deal with it.” Ultimately, she decided the animals would have a better quality of life living with her mother.

If neither person can provide adequate care for the animal alone, sometimes giving it up becomes the only option, as was the case with Chris Michaels. After the 25-year-old truck driver parted ways with his girlfriend, their individual time and financial constraints became an issue.

“Since she wasn’t able to take care of them and neither am I because of my job, the only option was to surrender them (to a shelter),” he said. “But both have been adopted into loving homes since then.”

According to Matt Williams of the Humane Rescue Alliance, while breakups aren’t the main reason people surrender pets, it is a contributing factor. When individuals are having issues tending to a pet alone but don’t want to relinquish them, the shelter will work with them to figure out their options and help create a care plan, he said.

While discussing the possibility of the relationship failing isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, having a contingency plan in place in advance can lessen some of the burdens of a breakup, especially if it’s a messy one.

“A lot people reach out to me when they have a breakup and a very common, painful dimension in the breakup is ‘But we have this pet together, what do we do?’,” said Elisabeth LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of D.C. Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.

“I think it’s very important to discuss what you would plan to do if the relationship doesn’t last.”

Liz Szwejbka’s sister Marissa Szwejbka, a 27-year-old special-education teacher who also lives in Buffalo, resorted to taking legal action after a broken engagement to gain custody of her dog, Charlie.

“The first thing I said was ‘I’m taking the dog,’ ” she said.

As inLegally Blonde,Marissa Szwejbka enlisted the help of a friend who was in law school at the time. “She helped me draft a division of the assets which outlined everything, including me keeping Char,” she said.

Hunter RFS crews out and about for Get Ready Weekend

THE imageswere familiar, but disturbingly early.

Newcastle Herald photographer Max Mason-Hubers’ dramatic photographs of the runaway Richmond Vale fire on Wednesday were a warning, if a warning iseven necessary, about the bushfire danger that’s a reality of life in , even in early September.

A few days earlier, while most of us werestill wearingjumpers and jeans, the weather forecasts flagged Wednesday as the early spring day that would end up feeling like summer. And so it did.

A balmy early breeze had kicked up, and warmed up, by 9am. It wasn’t too long before the NSW Rural Fire Service’s extremely helpful and valuable “Fires Near Me” site detailed fires across the state.

The vast majority were small and relatively easy to get under control.

The one red, out of control fire on the RFS map was at Richmond Vale, where fire crews battled strong winds, choking smoke and afire front that showed just how dry the Hunter is, even now, and just how quickly a full-blown emergency can develop.

We acknowledge the outstanding work of firefighters in controlling and containing the fire and protecting the community, yet again.

This weekend we can thank fire crews directly for the service they’ve already given the community –sometimes for years –and offer support before the summer season ahead.

RFS stations across the Hunter will be open on Saturday and Sunday as NSW Rural Fire Service holds a Get Ready Weekend, where people can talk to firefighters about how to prepare their homes and families for summer.

RFS crews will also be at other community venues, shopping centres and local parks, to spread the word about how to keep safe in the coming months.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons repeated that the dry and warm conditions of the past week, combined with a relatively dry winter, means “we’re facing a potentially dangerous bush fire season”.

There will be some in the community who will dismiss that statement by saying “We’ve heard it all before”.

Yes, we have, because it’s a fact we have to face each year. It’s also a fact that in some years the potential of a dangerous bush fire season becomes deadly reality, which is why we should always be prepared.

​Issue: 38,598.

What a load of bull: Cow runs amok at WA Parliament House

Did Winston want to beef up the numbers of Liberal MPs at Parliament? Photo: Ten News PerthWhen I heard there was a steer running around Parliament House, my first thought was the treasurer and premier had donned a cow suit to distract West Aussies away from the recent brutal state budget.

Bovine baloney aside,a steer actually hoofed it away from a herd of waiting media and politicians on Wednesday morning at Parliament House.

I mean, you expect the occasional bit of bull to come from pollies from the top of the hill, but this is absurd.

Winston and his bovine buddy Clementine were on the grassy knoll of parliament helping to promote mental health awareness as part of the RUOK? Day.

No Bull: A steer on the lose at the seat of WA politics. Photo: Ten News Perth

The handler lost control of Winston who appeared to make a beeline for an ABC cameraman but at the last moment did a sidestep that Wallabies’ great David Campese would be proud of.

The steer’s last seconddecision to dodge the cameraman will only fuel the conspiracy inside the bowels of the Liberal party about the left-leaning media in WA steering the agenda.

There is also a rumour the cow got spooked after it got a whiff of the Liberals’ election bloodbath wafting from the corridors of parliament and thought it was heading into an abattoir.

(Maybe given the minuscule number of Liberal MPs left after the March election caning, the steer wanted to help beef-up the numbers for the opposition?)

While Winston was a no show at the media conference, Clementine did her best to keep the absurdity going by peeing all over the grass in front of Parliament House.

Regional Affairs Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who has always shied away from running with the cattle in her own party, couldn’t resist the political opportunity to seize on the moment. “The cow’s pissing it in,” she said.

Dardanup farmer Peter Milton tried to steer the media conference back on the subject of men’s mental health, but left journalists slightly bemused by saying Clementine would be appearing at a barbecue in the coming days.

A quick-thinking journalist wanted to know whether the cow was going to be the guest or on the menu.

Mr Milton said Clementine would be “walking away” from the BBQ.

“It was Winston’s first day out of the shed in three months, his first public appearance. I guess he got a bit embarrassed,’ Mr Milton said.

“He’s got another appointment tomorrow at an RUOK? barbecue, south of Bunbury.”

WAtoday understands Winston has been approached by numerous political parties as a possible candidate in 2021 WA state election.

The Canberra Times.

Bonza! Scrabble launches Aussie slang edition

ns are now able to use words such as “bonza” and “g’day” in one of the world’s most popular board games. Photo: Joe ArmaoOnya, Scrabble.

Word nerds can now officially use n English’s more colourful words to rake up high scores.

Mattel, the company that distributes the popular board game, unveiled its highly-anticipated n edition of Scrabble on Thursday.

“It’s a fun twist on the classic game of Scrabble,” the company’s marketing manager Jacinta Whitehead said. “It allows you to use Aussie slang words on the boardand you actually get bonus points for every slang word you use with your tiles.”

However, embracing Aussie slang created a problem for those devising the rules for the new-look board game: how to spell a word that isn’t often written down?For example, is the slang word for breakfast “brekkie” or “brekky”?

Sometimes, both variants are acceptable. For example, the Macquarie Dictionary has both “exy” and “exxy” as acceptable substitutes for “expensive”.

Mattelsidestepped this linguistic puzzle- and the controversy surrounding whether or not it’s “potato cake” or “potato scallop” – by decidingthe most common way to spell a word would win the day. The list of acceptable slang words was drawn up from around 20,000 submissions.

“The words were crowdsourcedfrom all over ,” Whitehead said. “A really interesting one was the shortened version of schnitzel, which for me is ‘schnitzy’ but for others it’s ‘schnitty’.”

Some of Whitehead’s favourite words allowed in the new gameinclude “stonkered” – which means perplexed or to fail at something – and “biffo”, which refers to an argument or brawl.

“Only Aussies can make a fight sound friendly,” she said.

Some of the words allowed in Aussie Scrabble include:

arvoambosbarbiebrekkiecozziedipstickekka (the annual Brisbane show)footyg’dayheapsjournolippymoolahnuddy (naked)ockerpashpavprezzyraptsalvossickiestrewthstrayatinnytogsuey (a U-turn)vinnies (St Vincent De Paul’s)wowserxing (an animal crossing)yabby