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Furry Sidekicks & Divorce: How Pets Help Us Heal

While they might not understand the full extent of life after divorce, pets do experience sadness and depression when someone is no longer a part of their daily lives. In this episode Doreen and Jeff discuss tips on how you can help your pet deal with divorce, as well as, what to consider when you’re thinking about getting a pet after divorce.


Doreen: Hey everyone, and hope you’re having a good day. Today we’re gonna talk about something that just came to mind, which is what happens to the pets after divorce or during a divorce. And how might animals help to push us closer to healing? So if you’re ready, let’s get started.

Are you ready to create a life that’s better than ever before? We are Doreen Yaffa and Jeff Wilson, and we are here to give you the strategies you need to create the life after divorce that you deserve and desire. As partners both in marriage and coaching, we use our expertise as well as our own personal experiences to help you make the next chapter of your life the best chapter.

Hey, Jeff.

Jeff: Good morning and good afternoon. How are you?

Doreen: Good, good. Let’s tell everybody where we’re sitting right now.

Jeff: Oh, it’s so beautiful here in blowing Rock, North Carolina, looking at the mountains and feeling the cool mountain air.

Doreen: Yes, it’s been a nice trip with the kids and their boyfriends and yeah, so it’s always sad. It’s, we’re going home tomorrow, but we have quite the drive, so we’ll be stopping Midway.

Jeff: Yep.

Doreen: Overnight. But what inspired us this week to talk about is we have our two furry friends with us. We have Coda, who is a three year old Australian Shepherd. She’s considered a mini australian and we also have Zen who is a new addition to our family. He is a blue French bulldog and he is about nine months old and they have been traveling with us on this road trip, and they are right here under our feet.

Jeff: They were on every hike with us and going up the hills and down the hills, and hell, they were worrying what the world was going on. Where are we?

Doreen: So I also had a client, I don’t know if I shared this with you, Jeff, but recently, yesterday actually asked me about the dog. They’re in the middle of a divorce and what happens to the dog. And so in Florida, what happens with animals during a divorce? Is they are considered property. Okay. Which I know is hard for some of us, especially you and I, who love our dogs so much. To relate to dogs as being basically property. So what happens in divorce is that one person gets generally the dog.

Jeff: Yeah. Usually it’s considered family, right?

Doreen: Well, in a divorce it’s not. It’s considered property. But we all, well, at least you and I, we consider our dogs part of the family, right?

Jeff: Yes.

Doreen: Some people when they’re divorcing do basically work out some kind of an arrangement where they share time with the dog. Other times in a divorce, it’s not uncommon that the dog travel with the children. Because the children generally maybe bonded to the dog. And when I say dog, I mean cats, other animals we’re not, we just happened to have dogs. But we’re not against or have any focus here just on dogs.

Jeff: That was a disclaimer.

Doreen: Yeah. That’s my disclaimer. But we thought about divorce, we thought about coaching, and we thought about how animals are affected by the divorce as well. I wanna talk a little bit about what we witnessed last year, unfortunately, was our Australian shepherd coda was very depressed because we had a previous Frenchie. Her name was Blue and she was my baby. She was, I think I talked in one of the episodes about grief because she died suddenly.

Jeff: You’ve spoken to her in quite a few episodes. She’s very, very much a part of you.

Doreen: We’ve always had dogs in the 15 years, almost 15 years that we’ve been married. We’ve always had dogs, but she passed very suddenly on our boat. She was with Coda downstairs and she had passed and Coda for, Wow. I would say a good, what?

Jeff: Two months maybe?

Doreen: Yeah, I was gonna say even longer than that. I thought it was more like six months.

Jeff: Yeah, it seemed like a long time

Doreen: She was depressed, she was not eating. She was mopey. She wouldn’t engage with us. She would just basically sit in the corner and if someone tried to engage with her, she just didn’t really want to do anything.

Jeff: She would actually look around for her and all the places that Blue used to hang out. She would go there looking for her.

Doreen: She would, she would. So, I realized, because I witnessed it, we witnessed it firsthand, is that dogs do grieve.

Jeff: Yeah, they grieve and they also they understand when a member of the family is not there. They understand that things have changed and something’s not right. Just like humans do.

Doreen: Yeah. So, divorce is no different in the sense of one person is leaving the house. Generally the dog, you know, can stay in one home. And there’s benefits to that because dogs or animals in general, I’m gonna speak about dogs cuz that’s what we know, like consistency. They like routine, they understand routine.

And when there’s a divorce, things obviously are confusing to them as well. So if you have an animal and you’re going through divorce, you might just want to think about that and maybe pay some special attention to it and see your vet if necessary. Right?

Jeff: Yeah. Another thing that I, I wanna share about Coda is even if you’re not angry or whenever you raise your voice, like you get excited about something, let’s say, you know, a basketball game or a football game or something and she thinks you’re mad or angry or you’re yelling, she does a beeline to the cage.

Doreen: Yeah. She also does it when I yell at you.

Jeff: Yeah. Okay. Well, I wasn’t gonna say that, but when I’m in trouble she runs.

Doreen: I already use my voice. No, she does. She does run. I recall yesterday, I think it was, we were watching something. And we got excited and, and she ran, lined it into the other room.

Jeff: And my point being that dog well, like I said, we’re, we’re just talking about dogs cuz that’s what we know. But dogs do know when spouses are fighting, when you’re yelling at the kids, just like the kids will know. So you gotta be very careful not to argue around your pets as well.

Doreen: Yeah, it’s very true. I mean blue and Zen. They’re not affected by it. Like we could yell and scream and have a good time and raise our voices and they didn’t seem to be affected, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not. It just means that they’re physically not running away or showing signs of it.

Jeff: Exactly.

Doreen; All right, so what else about dogs and or animals and divorce?

Jeff: Well, you know, one thing I did find out about in the Googles that a lot, a high percentage, I’m not even gonna say the percentage.

Doreen: I know.

Jeff: Cause it seemed like very, very, too high,

Doreen: I know, and I wanted to check the stats.

Jeff: Yeah. But a high percentage of dogs that are in adoption centers.

Doreen: Shelters.

Jeff: Shelters are from divorces.

Doreen: Yeah. I guess it kind of unfortunately makes sense because a lot of times people have to sell their house and maybe they’re moving into a rental or somewhere where they’re not permitted to have animals or there’s certain restrictions or maybe the parties have decided that neither one of them wants the dog or the animal, which is rather sad.

Jeff: Yeah, it is.

Doreen: So, you know, take, getting an animal is, as we all know, is a huge responsibility. We had to really consider you and I when Blue passed as to whether or not we wanted to get another dog. Because we’ve always had either two, three, and at one time we had four dogs. Right.

Jeff: Don’t remind me

Doreen: When we first got married, right. We had Coda. The yellow lab, I’m sorry. We had Cabo

Jeff: Cabo,

Doreen: Your yellow lab that you brought into the marriage. Right. We had Buddy, which was my Springer spaniel, which was like 17 years old at the time. We had Maggie, a new Springer Spaniel puppy, and we also had Leo which was a King Charles. Unfortunately, all these dogs, dogs have passed. That’s one thing about dogs. Isn’t that interesting how we, I’m gonna go off topic for a minute, but we understand that animals only live a certain amount of years. Right. And they generally well, at least dogs do not outlive humans.

Right. We’ll live God willing in our eighties, nineties, and nowadays you could even live longer than that, right? But dogs generally don’t. And depending on the breed of the dog, let’s just say it’s about 15 years. Right. 15 to 20 years and we still get a new dog, like we know that the dog is going to pass, right?

We know that this will likely happen within a certain, we know this, right? Based on the breed, but yet we, we seek love and so we put ourselves out there again for further hurt, right? By getting another dog. Just like I wanna say, you know, putting yourself out there, getting into a new relationship, there’s no guarantee that the relationship will work out. Hopefully it will. Hopefully you’ve learned from your divorce, but there’s no guarantee. But yet people get remarried. People fall into new relationships, into love again, right? They seek companionship. It’s a beautiful thing that we as humans really want love and affection and companionship.

Jeff: And we love our animals. We love our pets.

Doreen: We do. We do.

Jeff: So what happens when you find yourself in this situation where you’re going through a divorce, you’ve gone through the divorce after divorce, and you have a dog. There are some kind of pointers that we can give our listeners to what they can do to help improve the dog’s manageability.

Doreen: Okay.

Jeff: If that’s a word, right?

Doreen: Yeah. So what do you wanna talk about?

Jeff: Well, I think the best, very similar to kids. You wanna keep ’em on a regular schedule as much as possible that you would normally have when you were married. Right. You know, try to keep em on a same schedule.

You take him out at the same time you take him to the park, feed him the same time, keep him on that regular schedule.

Doreen: That’s true. Especially if one person was responsible for doing that. Like in our, we were, I was saying before is that we had to think. I had to really think about whether I wanted for us to get another dog after we last Blue because Koda was so depressed.

And we had brought in a few puppies because we have a friend who owns, you know, he breeds puppies and we brought in a few just to see how Koda would react. Right. And she was not having any part of it?

Jeff: Not a happy dog.

Doreen: No. She didn’t want the other dog around at all. And was rather

Jeff: How mean?

Doreen: Yeah, I would, I would say mean. She was mean. Like she has this thing where she shows her teeth. Oh yeah. She’ll growl and she shows her teeth. She usually doesn’t attack, but she will certainly let somebody, she’ll let anybody know that she doesn’t want you around, including the new puppy. So we had to really think about it and I was of the opinion that I didn’t wanna get another dog.

I really missed blue. And it was kind of cool just having one dog. It was less responsibility and everything that goes along with dogs, you know, double it by two, just like children, you know, you have to take on that new responsibility, but you really wanted a dog,

Jeff: Right. Well, I thought I know you eventually wanted another frenchie and the situation of getting another one was right. So we did, and I’m glad we did.

Doreen: But what I was gonna say is that I said to you, look, I don’t wanna be involved. If you, in getting up in the morning, it’s, you know, five, six o’clock in the morning and walking and training, I said, I didn’t want that responsibility. Would you take it on? And you said yes. So what I’m saying is that you are the one that generally gets up with the dogs.

And walks him in the morning, walks him at night if we’re not getting divorced. But if we did and I was to keep the dog, I would have to fall into that role.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Doreen: You know and take on that responsibility. And really it’s something to consider when you’re going through divorce is to, do you want the responsibility of handling the animal?

You know, because it’s a decision that needs to be made between the parties,

Jeff: it’s definitely a responsibility just like children.

Doreen: Okay, so what else?

Jeff: Well, I think the other thing is, you know, give them a little extra love and a little, and this is goes for me. And you also gimme a little extra love and give a little more attention.

You know, they’re going through a tough time, so you wanna make sure that. you’re just given that little extra, extra, extra pets and love.

Doreen: What do you mean me too?

Jeff: Well, I need a little extra love.

Doreen: Yeah, but we’re talking about the animals.

Jeff: I know, but I thought I’d throw that in there.

Doreen: Oh, okay.

Jeff: And if you are visiting your pet, just maybe you’re picking up the kids or you’re visiting the pet make sure that it’s a very positive experience between you and your ex-spouse, right. That you’re not arguing or doing whatever negative cuz the dogs do sense emotions.

Doreen: Absolutely.

Jeff: You know, so you gotta be very, very careful with that as well.

Doreen: Right. And so let’s talk about what happens if you’re considering getting a pet now that you’re divorced, you know, if you’re considering getting a pet you really need to think about the reasons why. Why do you want, why do you want the animal is, you know, because there’s a lot to consider.

There’s the care which you just said, you know, feeding, taking them out, bathing them, playing with them, that is part of their care. They need interaction. What are you gonna do with the pet when you travel? Right. You know, that was a big consideration for us because here we are up in North Carolina and we decided we had a lot of plans for travel.

We have a lot of plans for travel. And I said, you know, do we really want to have the responsibility of taking two dogs with us? If we travel, it can be expensive to board them. Do you want to board them?

Jeff: Yeah. Well that was part of the, Consideration of getting the dog is, you know, if we get the dog, are you able to babysit while we, while we’re away?

And everything kind of worked out that way. So it was, proper planning is very important.

Doreen: Right? The considerations of the expense?

Jeff: Financial is a very big ex consideration. You know, here you are now alone, single income. And there is a financial burden on yourself, so you’re adding another financial burden with a pet.

Doreen: Yeah. So you really need to think about that. Definitely. You know, everything from your veterinarian care to your, you know, the feeding and the shots and we have pet insurance, those types of things. Boarding, all those things that we just said. The other thing to take into consideration is, Now that you’re single again, is also, you’re gonna need to come home.

If you go out at night, you need to schedule your outings, right? To where you’re gonna be available to take care of your pet. You know, they need to go out every so often, right? So you have to really take that into consideration..

Jeff: Right. Right. You know, another thing that you could do is maybe to see if you’re ready or to see even if you’re emotionally ready, is to maybe foster a pet.

Doreen: Yeah, that’s a really good idea.

Jeff: You know, foster a pet and, you know, you can’t do that with children mostly, but, well, you can foster children of course. It’s tough to, you know, you know, you can, but you don’t wanna give, have to give ’em back, you know?

Doreen: Well, that’s what foster parents. Do they foster children to be adopted, but you can foster also a pet.

And there’s a lot of organizations throughout the country that really appreciate this, you know? And so that’s something to consider as well to see maybe if you’re ready for a pet. Now, we were lucky that we got to bring Zen Home and basically, I think it was for almost two weeks. Let us see how he was gonna do with Coda, how Coda was gonna do with him, how we bonded with him. He’s been great. I mean, he’s been just a, a fabulous, fabulous dog. But things to really consider if you have children, and if you are buying a pet because your children want one, you really need to consider setting those ground rules of what that looks like.

Jeff: And if you’re gonna set a boundary, you know, I talk in my earlier episodes about boundaries with the kids and say, listen, I’m gonna get a, we’ll get the dog or the, the whatever the animal is, however, this is what I expect of you. X, Y, Z. You have to have a consequence, right? Because boundaries, which would, in this case be we’re gonna get a pet, but the boundary is we’re gonna keep the pet only if you do X, Y, Z.

You have to live true to whatever that consequence is. So if you’re, so many times you hear, you hear it repeat, we hear this all the time, people get an animal for their child who says he or she’s gonna take care of it, they don’t. And it ends up becoming the responsibility of the parent. Are you ready for that?

Are you going to say to your child, listen, if it doesn’t happen, then we’re gonna have to find a good home for the pet. Right. And if you say that as a consequence and you should live true to your consequence.

Jeff: True. Yes.

Doreen: Which will you be able to do that because most likely you’re gonna bond with the animal as well, right?

So setting realistic boundaries and real realistic expectations with your children if you’re buying the pet for a family. For a family dog or family animal is something to consider as well. Yeah. The positive things there are, you know, I listened to one of our daughter’s friends this weekend and she was saying that she has a dog.

One time we had four dogs here at the cabin because we’re a dog, you know, everybody brought their pets. But it’s a very, it can be a very social thing to have an animal because you go to the pet park.

Jeff: Pet Park, yeah.

Doreen: And you meet other people. You might go to, you know, like we take our dogs to daycare, so we meet people there.

They also have activities, various daycares might have activities for dogs. For some people it may be kind of silly, but like at our daycare, they have birthday parties.

Jeff:  That’s not silly. That’s a great thing. They also have come meet Santa. They have Santa Day at the daycare. The dogs taking, where you going? Take pictures.

Doreen: The other thing that it was mentioned this weekend, which I thought was interesting, especially if you’re new in singles, it gets you out and walking it. It’s can be great exercise, companionship to have a dog on a walk. It can also be good for safety reasons.

Jeff: Yeah, right. That’s true too.

Doreen: If you have a dog that is that type of a dog, you know that and you’re out walking.  And you’re a single woman or man that could be a deterrent to someone to do something inappropriate. Right.

Jeff: Yeah. I didn’t think about that. That’s a, that’s a great point.

Doreen: Dogs or animals can also be good watch animals for your home. Yeah. And alert you if there’s something going on. Our dog, like Coda, whenever anybody walks past the house and she sees, she constantly, you know, she’ll bark because. She’s, she’s a protector dog.

Jeff:  Or looks at you or looks at me or, yeah. Breathes at you. But, you know, a pet can be an amazing way to move on after divorce.

You know, we all seek companionship and all they do is give you unconditional love. It’s a great way to move on after divorce.

Doreen: Yeah. And to have companionship and to maybe help if you’re feeling sad or lonely as well. So, anything else?

Jeff: I think that’s it. Just a great one.

Doreen: Oh, we talked about our babies today. They’re amazing. All right, everyone, listen. If you have a pet, go give them a big him or her a big hug.

Jeff: Oh, I know. One thing. Oh, we’re gonna, on the episode, we’re gonna have a photograph of our two babies, so you’ll be able to see what they look like.

Doreen: Yes, yes. It’ll be on the cover.

All right everybody. So listen have an amazing week. Go, go on a walk with your pet and, uh, enjoy. Give ’em a little extra loving today. And until next time, have an amazing week.

Jeff: Bye-bye

Doreen: bye.

Jeff: Bye. You have the vision of what you want your life to look like after divorce, but maybe you just don’t know how to get there. So if you’re ready to take control of your life and want to find out more about our coaching, visit us at That’s L A D as in life after divorce dash

Doreen: Until next time, have an amazing rest of your day. And remember, yes, you can have an amazing life after divorce.


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