Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Dog Expectations

DEAR NATALIE: My partner of five years has a dog, one she has had for eight years. So when we moved in together four years ago, I did so with the full knowledge that her dog would be living with us as well. I have been up-front with my partner from the beginning: that when this dog dies, I do not want another one. She seemed fine with that decision but recently has begun talking about what type of dog we will get next. I am 62 and retired; my partner is 60 and still working. So I "babysit" the dog during the week.

Is it selfish of me to stick to my guns regarding another dog? I want to be free to travel, to even go away for a long weekend or be able to stay in the city for a late dinner after the theater without worrying about racing home to release the hound. Heck, I just want to be free not to have to run the dog outside multiple times during the day. I welcome your advice. -- PERPLEXED

DEAR PERPLEXED: Stick to your guns. Relationships are about compromise. The next time your partner brings up getting another dog, remind her that you both discussed this prior to moving in together. Make it clear that while you love her and that you have been caring and respectful toward her dog, she also needs to take your feelings into account that after the dog dies, you deserve a moment for yourselves. It isn't fair, either, that it is her dog, but you are taking care of it while she is at work, expected to put her schedule above yours just because you are retired and have to put your dreams on a back burner because the dog needs to go for a walk. Make it very clear that you have given of yourself during the past four years, and you expect the same level of love and respect in return.

I think it is completely selfish of her to assume that you can and want to handle new responsibilities of another pet after you told her you did not. If she really wants another dog that badly at some point, she can pay for a dog sitter, a dog walker and a kennel for when you go out of town. You are her partner, and decisions in the home affect you both and should be made by you both. Period.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Take a break from social media. With all the vitriol being spewed right now online, it may be a good time to step away, take a breath and refocus your message to encourage collaboration between co-workers and friends. A fresh start may be just what the doctor ordered.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)