To me Zoe was priceless, but even so, $16,000 seemed excessive for an 11-pound geriatric terror ($1,455 a pound!). Heartbroken, I signed the separation agreement that listed Zoe between “electric salt and pepper shaker” and “red bowl” on the inventory of Jim’s property. Then she was gone, living with Jim in a new town 65 miles away.

A few weeks later came another email from Jim: “I am not suggesting I want to do this, but would you be interested in Zoe full time?” Without missing a beat, I replied, “yes,” which led him to disclose that his new townhouse wasn’t dog-friendly. Although our legal agreement was signed and recorded, I took full custody of Zoe. I understood the implications of my “win” when Jim wrote again, declaring that he wouldn’t pay for any of Zoe’s care “because I won’t ever see her again.” Or me, as it’s turned out so far.

I consider myself lucky to spend my days with Zoe now. After years of caring for my parents, both died within months of my and Jim’s legal separation, I needed that little “terrier-ist” more than ever. Smiling more than snarling, and now two weeks shy of 17, she plays a daily game of “kill the squirrel,” where she chases those show-off rodents in the front yard with every expectation of capture. So far, the squirrels are winning. Zoe and I are victorious in our own way — we got what was best for us, no $16,000 payment required.