I live near my brother, sister-in-law and nephews – and their three-year-old dog “Baby.” My problem is that Baby is a 75-pound lab/bloodhound mix and every time my brother’s family goes away on vacation, they need someone to stay with him because he’s terrified of the kennel. And even though he’s an idiot, Baby isn’t the problem. The problem is that my brother thinks that because I’m young, single and unattached, it should be no sweat for me to come live at their house and take care of Baby while they’re away – which he doesn’t pay me to do. I guess since I did it once to be nice, they expect it every time now. So unless my marital status changes soon, looks like I’ve got at least seven more years of indentured dog-sitting ahead. How can I get out of this job?
Sitting Single in Santa Fe
Behold, I am sending out as sheep in the midst of wolves so be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. Matthew 10:16
It would be easy to find a verse about Samson’s strength or David’s courage to bolster your confidence to free yourself of this encumbrance, but instead Matthew popped into Gabby’s head. This verse reminds Gabby about how very easy it is to slide from good, loving, benevolent Christian to doormat. We’ve all seen it. We know that the world loves to take advantage of selfless people. Christ tells his disciples in this incredibly honest and human moment, that He wants them to go out and preach the Word, but to be smart about it. And so this verse has become an old favorite to Gabby.
So how does it apply to you and your dog-sitting days? Well, it’s kind of giving you a hall pass on guilt and telling you that if you’re serving your family in the name of Christ and your family cannot recognize or respect this gift, then… don’t sit, Girl. Don’t stay, and by no means should you roll over and play dead!
Gabby suspects that it isn’t the act of dog-sitting that you dread, but the assumption that nothing in your life could be important enough to compete with their lives. If you felt valued and respected, Gabby suspects—without knowing the ins and outs of caring for Baby—that minding this big doggie would be much more palatable. So then, what to do? Well, first of all, don’t wait for marriage to come along and save you, that’s for sure. Now is a good time to learn to assert yourself as a kind and clever disciple. Do it now and do it for yourself. It may take a while to get the hang of it, so start small. Think of it as a training session for your and your family.
The next time they presume you’ll Baby-sit, kindly and diplomatically mention you have some commitments that will conflict. Don’t be defensive or overly specific or you’ll just sound paranoid. Then proactively suggest to brother one or two alternate sitters. Also, there are vacation rentals that cater to pet owners. Gabby has used them herself and they are really wonderful. If your brother’s never kenneled his dog or paid for service, he may be entirely clueless about what a generous service you are performing for him for free. If he does know what they cost, he may regret not compensating you at a competitive family rate rather than full price. That would certainly be a win-win to make extra money while hanging out with a dog.
It’s entirely possible that being a married man and father, he may not remember that single people have full and busy lives too. Gently remind him and stand your ground. Baby’s care is not your responsibility, so if you don’t want it, don’t accept it. Don’t cave to guilt either. At 75 pounds, Baby will survive a week at the kennel.
Confronting this instead of ignoring it will serve you well not only every time your brother’s family goes on vacation, but in life in general. Maybe you do really have the time to take this on now (maybe you don’t), but there will certainly come a time when you will not be able to take on every dog-sitting assignment and other favor that’s expected or even graciously requested of you. Learning to set limits is a very useful skill. Begin to master it with your brother.