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Sister-in-law prioritizes dog ownership over visits from her nephew

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My brother has always been a huge part of my 7-year-old son's life. My ex-husband works long hours and is not into sports or video games, which "Brian" loves, and my brother is a widower with a son a little older than Brian and has always been the one to take Brian to sporting events and play video games with him.

Brian really looked forward to sleepovers at his uncle's house and sees my nephew as a big brother. The problem is, my brother remarried and Brian is extremely allergic to her dog. He can't spend any time at their home, so Brian saw much less of them.

The dog died last month and I was thinking Brian could start going over as soon as they gave the house a thorough cleaning. Now I find out my sister-in-law is looking at getting another dog. When I asked my brother why, knowing Brian can never stay with them, he just shrugged and said his wife can't live without a dog. My sister-in-law always seemed to love my son but when I asked if she would consider getting another kind of pet, she flat-out refused.

I am trying not to resent her but it's clear she loves dogs more than my son and doesn't care how this will affect his relationship with his uncle and cousin. Is there any other way to look at this?


-- Resentful

"[S]he loves dogs more than my son" is not a productive use of your facts.

A dog is a way of life, and it's daily. To expect someone to change her daily way of life so your son can visit is a much bigger ask than you seem to realize.

I understand you see it as an almost-siblings thing, but has she witnessed that firsthand? Did Brian's allergies ever let her see up close how he used to fit in?


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