Several months after the man I love broke up with me, I had a moment of vivid realization as I looked at my dog, Trucker, curled up on my bed. His eyes were slightly open, he looked sad, and all morning he had periodically looked out the front windows of our home as if he was waiting for someone. It was a Saturday, a day my ex often came over to visit us.
His visits were not only treasured by me, but Trucker loved him. When his SUV pulled into my driveway, Trucker seemed to sense his presence. He’d burst into a flurry of excitement, whimpering with joy to greet him outside or at the back door. Trucker would stop dead in his tracks and sit up on his hind legs, placing his front paws on my ex’s legs to receive and give a hug.
My ex had three dogs, and he started sharing their dog biscuits with Trucker. Trucker loved the biscuits so much that my ex started carrying a small bag of them in his vehicle. Trucker would climb into the vehicle and find them. But first, Trucker’s nose would go quickly to my ex’s pants pockets or sweatshirt pocket where a couple of biscuits were waiting. Trucker loved the biscuits, but most importantly he loved to “perform” for my ex. He loved pleasing my ex by sitting up, giving a high five, speaking, or rolling over for a treat.
That day as Trucker was lifeless on my bed, it hit me. I asked him, “Do you miss Daddy?” I always referred to my ex as “Daddy” to Trucker. I told Trucker, “I do too, but I’m sorry, he’s not coming back.”
At that moment, I collapsed over Trucker and cried while holding him.
I’d been through this type of loss before. Nearly 20 years prior when I was married and my husband left me and our Brittany Spaniel, Speckles. He was only supposed to be gone three weeks for work, but it grew to three months and a divorce.
I remember then sitting with Speckles on a cedar chest in front of a picture window in our home. We’d sit there at night watching cars pass by. I knew Speckles was waiting for Daddy’s car to pull into the driveway. I comforted Speckles while sitting there. I became the sole pet parent to “our” dog.
Now it was happening with Trucker.
My ex took Trucker jogging, walking, and for rides in his vehicle to his home to play with his dogs. Now it was all gone. I had never wanted Trucker to experience abandonment again. He came into my life when he was 5 years old. He will turn 12 this year. Many people walked out of his life before he met me.
As a puppy, Trucker was tossed out of a semi truck cab. Someone rescued him and then sold him at a garage sale. The couple who purchased him divorced, and Trucker moved into a new residence with the man. The man’s roommate threatened to hurt Trucker because he tore things up during bouts of separation anxiety. The man surrendered Trucker to a shelter. His ex-wife reclaimed Trucker when she spotted him at a pet adoption fair; however, she returned him to the shelter when he tore up her home due to anxiety.
Trucker spent five months at the shelter before he met me. He had to be placed on two medications – Prozac and a sedative – just to help him stay calm and not injure himself trying to escape cages while workers were away.
So many people gave up on Trucker in his life, causing him sadness and anxiety, until he met me. I had to prove to him that I would always “come back home,” and many dog-loving neighbors have chipped in to help him as comforting pet sitters.
Trucker allowed my ex to enter our lives, accepting and loving him, only to be left behind.
Dogs and cats mourn when a close animal pal or their owner dies. Children grieve when a parent abandons them. I’ve seen the same thing happen twice with my pets when a partner has left my life.
Single parents become more sensitive to whom they let meet their children, and when. They want to protect their children from getting “too close” and facing possible heartache from abandonment again. I have seen my dog and cats mourn and will be careful to protect their gentle hearts from abandonment again.
While I miss my ex’s dogs, I didn’t initiate breaking ties. I sent them toys for Christmas and think of them often. An adult can say that they no longer love and turn away from another adult, but abandoning the innocence of a pet (or a child) is something inconceivable to me.
When my first dog, Speckles, died, I held him as he took his last breath. I did not know if my ex-husband would care to know, but I called him and shared that Speckles was gone.
I carry on to be a strong pet parent for Trucker, trying to fill the void my ex left in his life. I will always return home to Trucker. I will be with him and hold him until he takes his last breath.
That is love.
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About the author: Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her website at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her children’s book, Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight, to your collection. All proceeds help 9 humane organizations.