I am aware that several of my readers (you know, all three or so of you) are also pet owners, so I thought that you all might be a good source of insight for me. This question falls into the vein of "if I do go back to the parish, what could I do differently to make sure this sort of situation doesn't happen again?"
When we moved into the SJ parsonage in June 2006, Harry and I had one dog. His name was Woody, and he was our baby...I freely admit that we treated him like a child. Of course he lived in the house with us, because neither Harry or myself had ever considered any other alternative. In November 2006, we added Simon to our family. He was six weeks old and I actually brought him home from a church event (long story). From the beginning, Harry and I made every effort to make sure that the dogs did not damage the parsonage (cleaning up from any messes, keeping them off church-owned furniture, crate-training Simon). We did give them free reign over the yard, after installing one of those underground fences.
At first, I took Woody to the office with me and to a church event held outside. I also brought him to one night of VBS, but as I heard later (two months later), that didn't go over well. I think people were kind of "weirded out" by me even bringing Woody to the outside event and to the office. In the culture of that area, pets just weren't a major part of peoples' lives. They almost always lived outside, sometimes chained up except for brief walks, and I know some owners only saw their pets once every few days.
Like everything at SJ, it seemed like a fairly minor thing until about a year or so later, when all you-know-what began to break loose. They (meaning my parsonage committee) accused the dogs (Woody had died by this point, but he was still considered a guilty party) of ruining the boxwoods in front of the parsonage by peeing on them (NOTE: I have a very brown thumb and no one told me that dog urine could kill boxwoods) and demanded that I replace them. They had a hissy fit because Simon jumped on the sofa one time as they were leaving (he was forbidden from doing so, but still did it occasionally and the sofa WAS. IN. PERFECT. CONDITION). Basically, they acted like my dogs had destroyed their precious parsonage, or were in the process of doing so. In reality (both our opinion and the observations of other visitors), the parsonage was in as good shape as it had been when we moved in (except for the boxwoods, but can I interject that we had TWO very dry summers which might have contributed to their demise). When we moved out, there were no complaints about the condition of the parsonage, and my successor (who doesn't live in the SJ parsonage) said that from what she heard, the church was "very pleased" with the condition of the parsonage (not surprising, since we had the floors waxed and the upholstery and rugs shampooed, as well as a thorough cleaning).
The church made it clear that the next time a pastor lived in the parsonage, they were going to request/demand that any pets be outside all the time AND that any dogs be "tied up out back." I don't think they'll have much luck with that (I would laugh in their face and then demand either a housing allowance, a policy change, or another appointment).
So...how have you all handled pet issues in the parsonage? Have you ever run into any problems? Their reaction seems a little extreme and unyielding to me, especially since we really tried to respect their property. I realize that it was all part of the larger Drama, but is there anything that I missed? I've already decided that if I go back to the local church, I will push for a housing allowance if at all possible. If I do wind up in a parsonage, the parsonage committee and I will establish upfront what their/our expectations are in terms of care, upkeep, and pet policy.