February 10, 2010 07:41 PM

Thanks to all of you who’ve been sending in your letters and comments (keep ‘em coming!). We’ll resume with our regular program next week, but I wanted to update you all on how Ethel’s doing.

A few weeks ago, New York magazine’s cover featured a photo of a confused-looking Boston terrier and a headline that read: “A Dog Is Not a Human Being, Right? The increasingly twisted relationship between man and his best friend.”

I avoided reading it for days. I didn’t want anyone to confirm everything that felt crazy about my own complicated relationship with Ethel, my 9-year-old Maltese.

I really wish I could describe how insane it feels to have a dog that gets angry when I’m kissing my boyfriend. No, I’m serious. We don’t even have to be kissing. She’ll be knocked out, snoring on the floor while we’re watching TV, and the minute I scoot close to him, or just put my head on his chest, she leaps up and runs over to stick her head right between ours. And s-e-x? Let’s not talk about that. Actually, let’s. (Sorry, Mom.)

Any time something was going to start to happen, Ethel would sense it immediately and furiously dig as fast as she could into the couch. If that didn’t stop us, she would trot over to the bathroom and tear through the trash, then pee over it in a spiteful fit. RIP Intimacy. My boyfriend, he would heave a sigh filled with annoyance. “There goes your girlfriend,” he’d say. Or, “We’re going to have to think about giving the dog back soon.”

What was Ethel doing? How could she seem so sweet and wonderful only to become possessed by such unbelievable jealousy and tiny, furry rage? How was she real?

Animal trainer Bill Berloni compared her acting out to contact paper: If you push on one bubble (leaving her alone sometimes), another bubble pops up somewhere else (spite pee). Janeen McMurtrie, who I talked to this week about barking, asked about Ethel, and when I told her what was up, she called her a “pissy little b–.” Ethel had major personal space issues, and she needed to be taught some manners.

So it’s still challenging. After lots of practice, Ethel’s gotten better about being alone in my apartment. She’s now going to have to learn how to give me and my boyfriend some room to breathe when we want some alone time. Crazy, right?

Got a thorny pet (any pet!) problem that you can’t figure out? Try Ethel – she’ll do her best to help. Send your questions to helin@peoplepets.com or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook.

Previously in Ask Ethel:
Dog Barks at Everything
Breaking the Cat Myth

You May Like