Pets & Breakups

The non-division of assets

By Leslie Phelan

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I didn’t get Brutus and Isabel on my own. I was 22 at the time and still a student. The only income in my household at the time came from my live-in boyfriend, a successful entrepreneur for his age, but he was just a year older than me. We were young and in love, and while I think we both knew that we weren’t going to be together forever, it was fun to pretend we might be. If we were playing house, it felt very close to being real.

When we got the pugs on a whim, we got two, a boy and a girl. We decided that if ever we were to split up, I would keep the girl and he the boy. It all seemed so simple then. So we got them, and they peed all over the carpets of our high-rise apartment and chewed through more than one pair of designer shoes (his and mine). But we fell in love with the pugs so deeply that none of those details really mattered.

Fast forward two years. My boyfriend and I frequently fought, sometimes scaring our full-grown pugs into hiding. We decided to break up amicably–maturely even. It was over, and that was fine with both of us. But what about the pugs?! That was the real issue on the table. How could we split up our two babies? They went together like peanut butter and jam, and came in a pair like shoes. Besides, I loved Brutus way too much to say goodbye to him and Isabel was my ex’s baby girl. I walked them on a linker leash, for Pete’s sake. They were virtually twins–merged by time into one single smooshy-faced entity.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, be forewarned: splitting up siblings is not only unfair, but I would even say cruel. Like us, dogs have feelings, emotions, and attachments. My ex and I ultimately came to a shared custody agreement. As much as we both wanted to move on with our lives and date new people without emotional baggage, we are bound to one another for as long as Brutus and Isabel needs us to be. I guess that’s what it means to be an adult.