I have a lot of people in my life — people that I consider close to my heart; family, friends, coworkers, extended family…the layers of my support system. We all have those people that we cherish and lean on when things get tough, exciting, stressful, emotional, etc. Those people mean the world and I really couldn’t have survived this past year without them. But when I think of my support system as a whole, you know who comes to mind? Elliott and Evie.
A little back story on these two furry loves of mine: Both were joint dogs with my ex. Elliott (4) was a mutual purchase…Evie (3) was a spur of the moment transaction (spur of the moment, like wake up one morning and decide to leave your wife — I mean, buy-a-second-dog moment). Nevertheless, they’ve gotten along perfectly since the beginning, and Elliott was so sweet to his sister from the moment he met her. He towers over her (still to this day) and loves her immensely. I took the role of ’dog mom’ and spoiled my little ones rotten. I took them to the dog park almost every day, took them on little walks, bought them toys, blah, blah, blah. Basically, we became BFF’s, and they never really relied on my ex for any care.
Fast forward to August of 2017…we decided to move home so the ex could go in to a new school program, (anyone want to guess if he finished that or not? Let's not forget that I'm the one with no passion or drive - am I right?) so we packed our lives up and headed back to our hometown. The weekend we officially moved home, I took Elliott out at night to go potty, and I slipped in mud, resulting in a broken ankle…resulting in surgery. Three months before my wedding. To say I was in a panic mode is a bit of an understatement. I still had to finish planning the wedding, DIY projects for the wedding, unpack, finish home renovations, job hunt, oh, and learn to walk again. All in three months time. I started going to physical therapy three times a week, and worked as much as I could from the couch on wedding projects. Life was a mess. Little did I know, it was about to get 100 times messier.
I finally got back on two feet (literally), just in time for the wedding. (I THOUGHT) It was the perfect weekend…lol…my family stayed in town for Thanksgiving, we went on a trip to North Carolina, came back and got ready for Christmas, went to a sweater party where he started cheating on me, and by New Year’s week, he was moved back in with his mommy leaving me with no explanation at all. So, where were the dogs, you ask? He left them, too. No questions asked, no hesitation, nothing. In the blink of an eye he was gone and shortly moved in with his new girlfriend, which of course, came after filing behind my back and all that jazz.
In our last conversation, the therapist asked if we had any big belongings together. He responded that we only had two vehicles together. I piped up and said, “Um, and two dogs?” His response, “Oh. Yeah, I’ll make that easy for you. You can keep them both or I’ll take Evie and sell her.” Word for word, not joking. I responded with, “(To him:) You are so weird. (To the therapist:) He is so weird!” Because who the frick would say something like that? At first I was shocked (but not really, considering all this crazy shit I had been finding out day after day) by that response. It was at that moment that I realized that the dude I was sitting next to didn’t care about me, the dogs, our life or friends - no one but himself. I was immediately pissed because I was thinking…”Okay, well...these are MY dogs. I wouldn't have let him take them anyway. And, I want these dogs but I don’t want them, but he obviously can’t have them. So I’m taking them. Also, what the f*ck is happening right now?”
So I made it work. With the help of my amazing parents and friends, I started to navigate this hazy new life…which now included title of ‘single dog mom’. If you’re a dog owner, you know the positives and negatives of having a dog…now imagine it x2. I was scared at first because I really thought I would resent the dogs. I thought they’d remind me too much of my ex and the life I thought we had together. It turns out, I started to rely on them. I was eventually back in my house alone, and they took up empty space that used to be filled there. The house was torn apart from gathering his shit and trying to get it all out of my sight. I had little to no energy to think about the next step, trying to move on, or deciding what or if I was going to eat that day. I didn’t leave my house for at least a week. I didn’t even want to change positions from laying sideways on the couch to an upright position. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t confused…I was numb.
The dogs knew something was up. They’re annoyingly smart — which can be a blessing and a curse. Yesterday it was a curse when they found cookies in a brand new bag that I forgot to take out, but from January fourth - yesterday: Blessing. I was relying on them to keep me going in a way. Someone had to take them out, feed them, give them attention, and they knew someone had to do the same for me. They never left my side, and in doing so, they helped me take on a new role of responsibility for myself as well as for them.
With that being said, it’s a daily struggle. I deal with a lot of guilt now — they’re staying at my parents for the most part, which means my parents do a lot of the care. I’m commuting for work, and my house still isn’t done from renovations from the flood, so I’m literally all over the place right now. I know my parents don’t mind helping, but there’s a constant ping of sadness that I feel when I think about all of the extra work we’ve all dealt with since our lives changed. There are many pings of anger that still pass through…anger toward my ex, the dogs, myself…we didn’t ask for this to happen to us. We definitely didn’t deserve it…but it’s the road we ended up on, and we’ll stay the course. We have our routine, and they’ve adjusted so well, all things considered. It’s weird to think about pets being traumatized and feeling just as lost as us, but it’s definitely a thing. Elliott has become quite the barker, but he knows I mean business when I say, “CUT IT OUT OR YOU’RE GOING TO LIVE WITH MARC.” The first time I said that to him, he stared at me, turned around, and went and started a fight with Evie instead. These are the things you have to do to get through every day life, people. You’ll thrive with a little humor, pets, wine, and support. Promise.
After all the pings of sadness and anger, come moments of enlightenment. Enlightenments that open my eyes to appreciate the good. I’ve learned time management, structure, vulnerability, humor, love, and devotion. It seems silly to say that my dogs basically taught me how to adult, but I now view life in a way that I never did before. There’s something to be learned in every instance of our lives. A bad situation doesn’t have to stay bad. Somewhere in the midst of all the chaos and bullshit, there’s a valuable piece of information that you’ll learn about yourself and others. Take it and run with it. The pings linger and will continue to do so, but I’d much rather let the enlightenments pave the rest of the way for this journey that I’m taking with myself and my two babies.
My dogs are cherished. They’re part of the family, and they’re part of the reason I’m so emotionally healthy now. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how easy it is to rely on someone else for your own happiness. Why do we do that? We shouldn’t be scared to take care of ourselves. So, as I keep moving forward, I look for happiness in things other than people. Two of those things just happen to be my dogs. If you don’t have pets, maybe you should consider getting one. There’s something extremely comforting in having a companion by your side through it all that won’t judge, question, or lecture your life choices…they’re just along for the ride - ruff or smooth, and they’ll be forever devoted to you, as long as you let them.