Considering divorce? Think of the pets
Published 12:00 am, Friday, February 17, 2017
I don’t ordinarily think about divorce while watching the Westminster Dog Show.
Usually I watch Westminster with my dog and we spend the time making fun of the contestants’ fur-dos and picking out the ones we think drink out of the toilet. This year, though, we speculated some about which owner the dog might go to if there were to be a divorce. All couples, happily married and otherwise, have thought about divorce at one time or another. If divorce has never crossed your mind, then you are obviously not communicating.
There are a lot of reasons people get divorced. Some are serious, some are nitpicky:
She hums when she eats.
He spends more time watching sports than ESPN.
There also are a lot of reasons people don’t get divorced:
And now, that other member of the nuclear family, the dog.
We don’t think about pets as being pets anymore. We think about pets as being four-legged people with bad breath and tails. This is why we dress them up, feed them gourmet meals and let them sleep in our beds. There is a woman in my neighborhood who walks two dogs every morning while also pushing a stroller. I assumed there was a child in the stroller until one day I slowed my run to look inside. What I saw was either a shih tzu, or the world’s ugliest baby.
When it comes to divorce, the courts have always considered pets to be property, something to be divvied up along with the house, the cars, the friends. Not so anymore in Alaska.
An amendment to the state’s divorce laws, which went into effect last month, requires judges to consider the well-being of the animal. Who will the dog, the cat, the family moose be better off living with?
Exactly how the court will arrive at this determination is going to be interesting. Will the dog be allowed to take the stand? Could a dog’s friends be called to testify, and how would that be done? Subpoena? Hand signals? Whistle?
In cases where sole custody is awarded, will there be alimony, puppy support?
Might a dog in dispute be entitled to his own legal representation, and what types of guarantees could the dog’s mouthpiece be looking for?
That his client be taken for a prescribed number of walks.
That his client be provided a prescribed number of treats.
That his client be afforded a prescribed number of rides in the car with his head hanging out the window.
I mean, we could be talking about a whole new branch of the law here.
Culturally, there could also be ramifications.
Will dog owners with weekend visitation rights become indistinguishable from divorced parents?
Will they sit together on playground benches texting while their offspring or springer spaniel plays?
Will they line up behind each other at the McDonald’s drive-thru?
Will they order the same Saturday night videos: “Beethoven,” “Bolt,” the high brow “A Dog’s Purpose?”
Then there is the matter of cats.
The reason I have stayed away from discussing issues involving the cats of divorce is because they are too complicated to address in this limited space. I mean, the litter box disputes alone are probably destined to be decided by the Supreme Court (Tidy Cat vs. Fluffy et al.). Divorce courts can handle dogs. I’m not sure Judge Judy could handle cats.
Out of curiosity, I asked my dog who he would choose to go with in a divorce. His response was along the lines of, “How about them Mets!”
I rest my case.
Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jimboshea.