Every relationship has issues that pop up way too soon. Alas, as two people navigate the early stages of getting to know one another, life goes on. Politics, work changes, family stresses, friends in need. Things happen and then premature discussions become urgent conversations.
For Daniel and me, one such moment arose about a month ago. Daniel’s condo finally sold after a full year on the market. He was ecstatic. This was a place he’d bought in 2005 with his partner. With their twenty-five-year relationship having imploded, they can finally divvy up the paintings and the sofas and literally move on with their lives. I showed up at Daniel’s with a bottle of champagne to congratulate him on the big moment.
We hadn’t even finished a first glass when Daniel pulled out his phone and started showing me photos of a new place he’s had his eye on. It ticked off all the boxes on his wish list—ample storage, an enticing reduced price, space for his baby Grand piano and green views from both balconies. I politely looked and listened. I’d seen it all several times already. Daniel was so taken with the place, he’d put in a prior offer in April. (The sellers rejected it since they were eager for a quick sale and didn’t want to wait around for Daniel’s place to sell.)
Back then, I quietly pointed out that the building didn’t allow pets.
“It doesn’t say that, does it?” Daniel asked as we drove to pick up our umpteenth COVID-19 takeout dinner.
“It was right there in the property description,” I said. “‘Sorry, no pets.’”
When we got back to his place, Daniel immediately looked at the listing again. His butter chicken could get cold; this was important. “Well, darn,” he said. “I missed that.”
I ate my aloo gobi, pleased with myself for helping Daniel narrow down his endless search. Scratch that one off the list.
But then Daniel got his real estate agent to arrange for a showing the next day. I didn’t get it. Was Daniel just doing his due diligence, getting a better sense of the market?
We are both dog people, even if we’re both going through a prolonged in-between stage. No dogs now, fine. No dogs for the foreseeable future? As in fifteen years from now when Daniel finally stops working and opts for a quieter life in one of those retirement communities where pickle ball and Canasta are all the rage?
And too much of a flash-forward perhaps.
Still, I couldn’t understand why Daniel kept going back to—obsessing about—a no-pets property. For me, it would have been an easy pass. No dogs, no deal. But then, I get my back up over other people telling me how I can and cannot live. Why would I spend a million dollars on a property and let a bunch of bylaws tell me I can’t have another miniature schnauzer? Sic ’em, Wilson!
Okay, I don’t have a million bucks to buy a place but Daniel does. Whatever a person shells out for a place to live, it’s most likely his biggest purchase. I may never be able to get a place with a lap pool and a tennis court, but I don’t want to be denied the chance to bring home a pooch from the SPCA.
Yes, yes, I know. This is supposed to be about Daniel’s place, not mine. That’s why this is one of those premature conversations that popped up. I’m decidedly in the Must Love Dogs corner. I liken it to the question many couples face about wanting (or not wanting) kids. For some, the answer, infertility issues aside, can be a deal breaker. I’ve never said it out loud in front of parents, because I know it won’t go well, but my dogs were my kids. Having a Rottweiler or a shih-tzu—who am I kidding, it’s gotta be a schnauzer—is not some nifty addition to the household. A pet is an essential part of what makes living a rich experience.
Somewhere down the line, in a year, maybe two, if Daniel and I stay together, there is going to be talk of us living together. And I am certain that it will be about me moving into his spacious place, instead of him squeezing into my 550-square-foot “cozy” home.
After I first pointed out the no pets policy, I kept my mouth shut. Secretly, I hoped the timing wouldn’t be right. Someone else would buy the place and Daniel would have to accept that the fact that the timing wasn’t right. But the FOR SALE sign stayed up. I know because Daniel made detours to drive by it every time we were in his car. Like I said, obsessed.
When he asked me to join him as he looked at the property yet again, I declined. “This is your future home. It needs to be your decision.” I knew he was set on living there. Somehow I hoped he’d notice some other non-negotiable flaw during the visit—a smoker who hangs out on the balcony above, a strong moldy odor, a loud motorcycle that constantly idled in the back alley. He’d dismissed other properties for much less.
The day before, when he came over for dinner, he asked, “If I buy the place, is the fact it doesn’t allow pets going to affect us?”
I didn’t want to answer. I didn’t want anything I said to be the reason he’d pass on the property. What if we broke up next week, next month, next year? If he settled for something else he deemed inferior or pricier, I’d be that damn fling he never should have listened to. Hell, even if we stayed together, I’d be the source of resentment when some other place he settled for turned out to have termites...or mold...or a chain-smoking, motorcycle-revving neighbor. Still, he asked and he was staring at me, waiting for some sort of reply. “I don’t know,...it might.” I knew I didn’t want to be dog-less for the rest of my life, at least not because of a building bylaw. Was it better to walk away now before anything deeper developed between us?
Daniel teared up. He reiterated things he’d said many times already. How he’d been looking for a year. How concrete buildings are rare in the neighborhood where he wanted to live. How it was the closest thing to what he was living in now. He even said that maybe the one dog he’d had with his ex might be it for him. At this point, he couldn’t take care of a dog on his own.
In the end, Daniel proposed that if, down the line, I moved in with him and we decided at some point to get a dog, we’d use my mental health diagnoses as a means for getting a therapy dog. I said I didn’t want to use my mental health status or to have it known to nosy building residents, but Daniel had resolved the issue in his own mind.
We spent much of that weekend together, walking on quieter trails in local parks. Every single time, we came upon someone with a dog, Daniel did what he always does. He crouched down and greeted the dog, ruffling its fur, scratching behind its ears. I used to do that but I’ve stopped. It’s too hard on me. It only stirs up a yearning to get another dog. Daniel though just can’t help himself.
That Sunday night, he put in an offer and it was accepted.
I’m truly happy for him. I just don’t know what it means for us.