Help! I Can’t Stand All the Animals My Girlfriend Is Constantly “Rescuing.”

Help! I Can’t Stand All the Animals My Girlfriend Is Constantly “Rescuing.”


Dear Prudence,

I have been dating my girlfriend for three years. She is wonderful, intelligent, caring, and independent. I love her more than anything and hope to spend the rest of my life with her. I am committed to working through any difficulties with her, but I am having a horrible personal failing in one area of conflict: my girlfriend rescues animals. She is a registered foster with a local non-profit and also rescues any critter she finds in need. She has eight cats and three dogs, and a virtual menagerie of other animals has passed through her house (hawk, baby raccoon, injured mice, injured birds, livestock, etc).

Her house is organized chaos, full of “clean” dirt and dust bunnies, although no pet smells or anything unsanitary. I can’t handle the animals messing with anything or moving anything out of place, and she is nonplussed at my intolerance. Anytime our schedule changes because of an animal need or emergency rescue, I feel a simmering resentment building in my body. When I’m at work and find lingering animal hair on my clothing, I borderline seethe. We can’t vacation, do anything spur of the moment, or plan events without planning for the animals. I feel like a total asshole because a large part of me wants to tell her to drive away when she sees an animal in need and let it be someone else’s problem. I know that rescues are full, shelters have ridiculous kill rates, and that if she doesn’t help it is likely that no one else will. But I can’t stop the visceral negative reaction I feel because of the annoyance and chaos of sharing my life with animals.

When I have brought it up, my girlfriend looks at me like I’m a monster for prioritizing my own comfort over the (often, literal) life of an animal in need. We both have our own homes, and we split time, but because I don’t like the animals in my house, my girlfriend always cuts her time short. She is willing to compromise and bring dog crates, walk them on leashes etc., but she draws the line at compromising care, and I feel like an even bigger asshole because I just can’t jive with her well-behaved dogs loose in my house. I want all the animals outside, all the time, no matter what. This is such an intrinsic part of who she is, and I know it would absolutely crush her if I ever drew a line in the sand or set an ultimatum of “me or the animals”. Plus, I have no doubt she would not choose me in that scenario. Animal rescue is like a moral compulsion for her, one that I conceptually admire, but that I do not support in practice. Why can’t I get over this?


— Definitely Not My Circus

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