Sick Leave and Your Dog

Although I didn’t take PTO or sick leave for my dog, I seriously considered it earlier this week. One of my girls was feeling under the weather. And it made me wonder how many people take sick leave for their dogs. After all, if we consider them family members as most of us do, why shouldn’t we?

The U.S. Department of Commerce would probably not be supportive. Their definition of “family member” includes spouses, children, spouse’s parents, parents, brothers, sisters and their spouses and “anyone related by blood or affinity whose close relationship with the employee’s the equivalent of a family member.”

Do you think your dog should be included in that definition? As I struggled with the question as to whether to take time off for my sick dog, I realized how torn I was.  My dogs are dependent on me and when they are ill, it is my responsibility to nurse and care for them.

A Revealing Study

A new study in the UK showed that 81% of Britain’s owners would risk their jobs and call in sick if Fido was feeling unwell. What was revealing in this study was that only 69% of people would call in sick if they themselves were feeling ill!

Property, Custody and Visitation

It also made me think about dogs during divorce and the evolving body of law concerning custody of pets and the division of marital property. After all, most people consider their dog a family member and when they are not well and are at home alone it is difficult to concentrate. Courts have been involved in “custody” and “visitation” rights.

Courts have been involved in “custody” and “visitation” rights. But though you may feel strongly that your dog is a “family member” the bottom line is that most courts will consider them “property.”  Typically, if your dog is wrongly killed or harmed, most courts will only award “fair market value.”

Change Is Hard

Both of these thoughts highlight the changes, relatively recent changes actually, in the way that we think about our pets. Jon Katz writes eloquently about these changes in “The New Work Of Dogs: Tending To Life, Love and Family.”  Katz portrays a number of dogs and owners whom he has come to know in his neighborhood, a rather upscale suburb in New Jersey.  He wonders at one point about the toll on our dog’s psyche that fulfilling the role of  primary companion and friend may be taking. Previous jobs that dogs have had are no long available to them. There is not much need for sled dogs,  and though dogs are still used in herding, most herding dogs are unemployed. If dogs evolved to fulfill the needs of hunters and shepherds, dogs may be evolving in some ways now to fulfill the emotional needs of a society that is becoming more fragmented.

I wonder what these changes might be. Do you have any stories about custody battles or shared custody arrangements  concerning dogs? Have you ever called in sick because your dog had to go to the vet or was ill? What changes do you think we might see in our dogs because of their new jobs providing emotional support as our best buddies and companions?

Related Posts

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Dog Doting and Family Dynamics


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9 Responses to “Sick Leave and Your Dog”

  1. Amanda Bills 04. May, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Me and my partner split up for 18 months but shared joint custody of both dogs. We are now back together and have 4 dogs.

  2. Elizabeth Deitz 04. May, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Nice that you are back together. Did you get additional dogs when you reunited?

  3. Debby and Kirby 04. May, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    I took a paid sick day when Kirby was bit by another dog. It was traumatic. !free surgery he was pathetic and didn’t move a muscle until the next day. My employer was understanding since everyone knew what he means to me.

  4. Elizabeth Deitz 05. May, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Nice employer! I think mine would as well. So far that hasn’t happened. Cross my fingers!
    Thanks for reading!

  5. Cyndi 05. May, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Have taken many a sick day for Logan – after a night at the evet, to take care of him after any one of his numerous surgeries, if he is acting sick in the morning, and maybe once or twice just because I couldnt bear leaving behind that big sad face. I am fortunate that work is flexible and I can do a lot from home or even sometimes take him with me.

  6. Elizabeth Deitz 05. May, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Sweet! You are very very lucky to be able to do that. There is nothing worse than leaving when they are feeling puny. And “big sad face” so captures him. Speaking of which,where you going to send me a photo?

  7. Michelle S 06. May, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    I worked from home for three days when Missy had her emergency hysterectomy. My boss knew I’d be much more focused on work if I wasn’t at the office worrying about how my baby girl was doing. I think we should be allowed to claim them as dependents (we feed them, house them, provide for their medical care and general well-being just like a child, so why not?) and NOT feel guilty about using PTO to care for them. After all, they give unconditional love.

  8. Donna 13. May, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    This is a very interesting issue… how far people go to share join custody of the family pet. I have been “the dog walker” for an adorable Westie for 3 yrs. A recent divorce and relocation of the wife has changed my job from dog walker to dog transporter. I pick Max up on Friday afternoon, drive 18 miles to drop him off with his dad, then repeat the drive Monday morning so he can spend the week with his mom. The dog is elderly, and prone to car-sickness so do either one of these pet parents have the best interest of Max in their hearts? I don’t think so. He is so clearly unhappy when he arrives at either location that it boggles my mind that one of these folks won’t step aside, but neither one will do that. Isn’t it better for Max to be happy than them being right?.

  9. Elizabeth Deitz 17. May, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    That’s sad for Max! Poor thing! I wonder if it is emotional support the parents are getting from Max or whether it is more a power issue. It is probably more complex than those two extremes. As hard as it would be, if he were mine and that was my situation I’d like to think I would have the emotional maturity to step aside. On the other hand, I can imagine that decision would be excruciatingly difficult.

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