The worst dog-sitter in America received some very bad advice from the NYT
Read to the end for a letter from the world's worst brother
In today’s edition of “Advice? Advice Died In A Car Accident 16 Years Ago Last Night,” we’re looking at two very stupid questions that were submitted to the New York Times’ Social Q’s column.
The World’s Worst Dogsitter
My husband and I trade dogsitting duties with another couple. They watch our dog while we’re away; we watch theirs. The last time we had their large dog, it bolted when a car engine backfired and broke away from me on its leash. We frantically searched for it and warned the owners to take all calls. (Their phone numbers are printed on the dog’s ID tag.) They were soon contacted by a veterinarian who was treating the dog; it had been hit by a car. They asked us to pick up the dog — which we did — and we paid the $1,500 vet bill. When they returned, we submitted the bill to our friends, but they refused to pay it, claiming that we were totally responsible for injuries while the dog was in our care. That’s not right, is it?
The New York Times’ response begins: “No, it is extremely not right.”
To which I must say, lol what?
If your friends had paid a kennel to board their dog (or a bonded dogsitter), I would be more sympathetic to their claim — though they probably would have signed an agreement retaining liability for accidents in that case. You were doing them a favor. And stuff happens!
Stuff happens!? What are you talking about? It is your fault the dog was hit. You should have to pay the bill for saving its life!
I mean, sure, in a court of law maybe you would not have to pay this bill. You guys didn’t sign contracts outlining who is liable in cases like this. But on Earth-1, you are in fact morally responsible. This is your friend! Your failure to care for their dog has incurred a cost. You should pay that cost.
The NYT answer—fuck ‘em— is totally foreign to my understanding of how the world works. Again, this is your friend! It isn’t some dog you found wandering alone and then were temporarily in charge of while you waited for the owner to come and retrieve them.
You agreed to take custody of the dog and with that comes a presumption that you will care for it and feed it and not let go of the leash when it tries to dart onto the highway.
If a friend asks me to help them move and I agree and then I pick up a box of glassware and immediately drop it on the pavement and it shatters, that’s on me. If I were someone they could not trust to safely carry the box from their home to the truck, they wouldn’t have had me carry it!
Doing someone a favor because they’re your friend is still a transaction. You help me move, I’ll buy you dinner. Something like that. Now maybe you don’t want the dinner, fine; remuneration refused. Or maybe you ask me for help and you decide you don’t owe me a dinner. Again, maybe in a court of law that is fine, but morally, you’re a jerk.
Embedded within these transactions are assumptions. You will help me move (responsibly and successfully). I will buy you a dinner (that tastes good, provides caloric nourishment, and isn’t laced with cyanide).
If you are incapable of making good on those assumptions, it is on you to give advance notice before agreeing to the favor.
In your case, the transaction is very clear: you watch their dog when they need a dog watcher and they watch your dog when you need a dog watcher. If you gave them your dog for the day and then found out that they had rat poison laying around their floor and your dog had eaten it, you wouldn’t think “oh well, stuff happens!” You’d be like WHY THE FUCK WAS THERE RAT POISON EVERYWHERE WHEN YOU KNEW MY DOG WAS COMING OVER?
If you asked them to take your dog and they said “well, sure, but just so you know, my floor is covered in rat poison and I just want you to be aware of this heightened risk,” and you said “I’m sure it will be fine,” and then it wasn’t fine, that would be a different situation. You took on the extra risk and it didn’t work out. But you probably wouldn’t have said that. What you would probably have said in that situation is “uh no thanks I don’t want my dog to eat rat poison and I’ll find another solution.”
Similarly if you had said to your friend “sure I’ll take your dog but just so you know I have a crippling case of carpal tunnel and am unable to reliably hold a leash,” and then they had said “well maybe don’t take him on a leash then and just stay at your house,” and you said, “no, I have to be out of the house and I am very willing to take your dog on the leash with me but I just want you to know that I cannot hold onto the leash firmly should your dog pull away, as dogs are prone to do,” they might say “ok, let’s roll the dice,” but they probably would say, “thanks but no thanks. Hope you feel better.”
It’s not like the dog pulling on the leash after a car backfires is some extraordinary act of god situation that no one could foresee. I mean, the dog is on a leash for a reason, right? It’s not some super well-trained dog that stands outside Buckingham Palace never blinking or responding to pedestrians.
You put the leash on the dog. You held the other end in your hand. The dog pulled on the leash. Then, and here is the key moment, you let go of your end of the leash.
Your failure in that moment is the cause of the trauma to the dog. The cost of mending the dog falls on you.
Now, this is not a court of law. It is just a social contract thing. Your penalty for breaking that contract and refusing to pay for your mistake is not jail. It is not a ding to the credit score. It is losing the friendship and the reputational harm that will come when this story gets out.
Who in the world will ever enter into a friendly dog-watch pod with you again? I mean, that ship has probably sailed. You’ve proven to be utterly incompetent at dog watching. But you might one day want to engage in some sort of behavior with a friend that requires both parties to trust the other’s good faith and competence.
Who will trust you in any situation where there are not notarized contracts? Who would let you even use their restroom without explicitly making clear that you are expected to only shit in the toilet and not the sink?
You almost got this friend’s dog killed! And now you’re whining about the bill for the necessary surgery the dog needed to survive? You’re making your friend feel bad for asking you to do what you should have already known to do?
The only possible reason I can think for not paying the vet bill at this point is that the friendship has already been ruined by your selfish behavior. In that case, I think you should still pay it unless you’re just a sociopath.
The best advice I can give you is to pay the bill, apologize for making a whole thing out of it, apologize for almost getting the dog killed, and give your friend a bottle of wine or something. And the dog should get a gift too! Like a good chew toy!
I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR!
The World’s Worst Brother
When I was 16, my religious parents discovered I was having sex with my girlfriend. I was grounded for the entire summer, which brought a promising relationship to an end. Now, three years later, I have learned that my 16-year-old sister is having sex with her boyfriend. Should I tell my parents?
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