By the time Ellen and Joe Lollman reached their first anniversary, things were souring. They no longer took long walks together or spent weekend afternoons chatting over coffee at outdoor cafes. Each evening they holed up in separate rooms of their home reading or watching TV alone.
艾伦(Ellen)和乔·罗尔曼 (Joe Lollman)结婚一年后，生活开始变了味。他们不再长时间一起散步，周末也不会一起在室外咖啡馆里闲谈一个下午。每天晚上，他们各自关在房间里一个人读书或看电视。
Finally, fearful their marriage was on the rocks, the Dallas couple made an appointment with a therapist -- for their dogs.
'We both had dogs a lot longer than we had each other,' explains Ms. Lollman. Yet it wasn't until she and her new husband moved in together after a long-distance courtship that their faithful companions actually met and, as luck had it, decided they hated each other. The Lollmans were forced to take sides.
Love triangles -- or, in this case, quadrangles -- involving pets might be the trickiest types of relationships.
We love our animal friends, of course, and for good reason. They're always happy to see us. They're forgiving of our faults. And if we care for them and show them affection, they will love us forever.
But the same is not necessarily true for humans, and there's the rub. Sometimes our slavish bonds with our pets can damage our relationships with family, friends and, especially, lovers.
Consider Marina Wolak and Buck, her one-year-old German shepherd. One day last week, she served him steamed broccoli for breakfast, raw ribs for a snack, and a grilled chicken breast and baked sweet potato for dinner. Her husband, Kirk, says he and their 10-year-old daughter got the chicken for dinner, but had no sides.
'Hello, what about us?' says Mr. Wolak, a 43-year-old computer consultant in Deerfield Beach, Fla. 'She caters to this dog and has nothing left in the tank for the family.'
Mr. Wolak says his wife buys fresh beef, chicken and rabbit for Buck, takes the dog to the park three times a day and puts fresh sheets on the mattress in his kennel twice a week. 'She will stay up late if the dog needs an extra walk because he is constipated, but she can't stay up and spend a little quality time with her husband,' he says.
Making matters worse: Both Mr. Wolak and their daughter are allergic to the dog. He estimates he has spent several thousand dollars on doctors' appointments, as well as a special air filter for their home. And, he says, he argues regularly with his wife over the cost of the dog's special diet, toys and training.
'There is only one answer to fixing the wedge between us, and that is to get rid of the dog,' says Mr. Wolak, who believes that wouldn't be fair to Buck. 'So I am stuck with him -- and because he eats so damn well, he is going to live forever.'
Ms. Wolak, for her part, says, 'To get rid of Buck would be like getting rid of my daughter.'
Of course, if a pet causes a rift in your relationship with another person, the problem may not be the animal.
Human-behavior experts -- that is, therapists -- say it is typically not the pet's fault if something goes wrong between people. 'In my experience, pets do fine with relationships as long as the relationship is doing well,' says Katherine Brodsky, a clinical social worker in Manchester, N.H. 'But when the couple is having problems, often the pets are used as weapons for one partner against the other, just as children often are.'
Kim Gorode can tell you all about it. Her live-in boyfriend loves their two cats but is allergic to them, so he gets weekly allergy shots. This works out well, she says -- until they have a spat. 'If it's a money issue, he sometimes blames it on the fact that he has to pay for allergy shots and I don't, or if he's in a bad mood he will say he's congested because of the cats,' says Ms. Gorode, 27, an investor-relations representative who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. 'It's totally his trump card.'
Josh Gottesmann, 25, a high-school teacher, admits his girlfriend is right. 'This is my way of winning,' he says.
So how do you keep the peace between your pet and your other loved ones?
James Serpell, a professor of animal welfare and director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, warns against ascribing human emotions or motives to your pets. Don't allow the animal to become too close to you. (He won't let his dogs or cat sleep with him.) And don't take their behavior personally. 'Animals aren't that bright,' he says. 'They make simple associations, not complicated ones.'
瑟培尔(James Serpell)是动物福利教授，美国宾夕法尼亚大学(University of Pennsylvania)动物与社会互动中心(Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society)主任。他反对将人的感情或动机归咎为宠物因素使然。不要让动物与你变得太亲近。（他不让他的狗或猫和他一起睡。）不要从人的角度解读动物的行为。他说，动物没那么聪明。他们只进行简单的联想，不会进行复杂的想象。
If all else fails, there is always pet therapy -- it worked for the Lollmans. After their dogs nearly wrecked their marriage, they sent Darby, an Irish terrier, and Kacee, an Australian shepherd-border collie mix, to live with a trainer for four weeks. Then the entire family -- two people, two dogs -- met with the trainer once a week for 16 more weeks after the dogs came home.
'It was as expensive as human therapy,' says Ms. Lollman, 63, chief financial officer of a lighting company. But it was worth it, says her husband, 65, an attorney: 'You don't discard a pet.'