For the past year, I’ve started and stopped writing this post. Couldn’t bring myself to do it, say it, whatever…
It’s not that I wasn’t constantly thinking about it because I was. I am. All the time.
Around this time a year ago, I made a hard choice. I said goodbye to Charlie, the first dog that was just mine, the first roommate in the first house that was just mine. And it broke my damn heart.
Charlie and I had a rough start. Correction – Charlie had a rough start. A really rough one. Before he even got to me. Me, the one who so badly wanted to fix him, make him better, give him a good life.
He came to me in September 2014. When I heard about him and saw his face I thought: “This is it. This is my dog.” I knew he had anxiety, knew he had some fear, but thought I could love him enough to make him better.
So I tried to. God I tried. I didn’t make him sleep in the crate he was petrified of because he’d been obviously locked in there constantly and was fearful of it. I was gentle with him in how I treated and talked to him, trying to make up for the way he cowered after he’d done something he knew was bad because before me, he’d gotten hit.
Aside – Anyone who hurts any animal is a fucking coward and awful human being and deserves to have the same abuse they inflict on an animal done to them. End of aside.
We took classes. He improved so much and learned and did so well by the end of the two months of classes he won the “Most Improved” Award.
But there were times it was still hard. Times he’d tear things up because he was terrified, no matter how sweetly or calmly I talked to him or dealt with him.
Early on someone said it wouldn’t mean I was a horrible person if I gave up on him. He had a lot of problems, more than I could fix on my own – with my schedule and income and my own worsening depression and anxiety.
I remember a night I sat on the floor of my kitchen, crying as Charlie licked the tears off my face and tried to climb in my lap to comfort me. I buried my head in his neck, sobbing, and said “I’m not going to give up on you.”
And I never did. I tried so hard with him. I did all I could possibly do to make my home better for him, my schedule better for him, life better for him. All the while my own life was a mess – I HATED (yes, all caps) my job. I wasn’t happy. And as unfair as it all was to me, it was even more unfair to him. He deserved better.
In the week or so around my birthday last year, I’d come to the end of a particularly rough stretch of time with him. He’d been tearing things up through the house which were getting more expensive to replace. He was having to be left alone longer and longer because I worked for a tyrant who didn’t care about anyone’s time or life but her own. I called my parents and cried and they reassured me over and over that there were places I could contact about Charlie that would get him exactly what he needed and insure that he was in good hands.
So I called GRRAND. They’re an amazing organization that takes in dogs that need new homes and doesn’t let them go to those new homes until they are sure it’s the best thing for them. In the meantime, they live in a foster home, with someone dedicated to working with them and loving them and taking care of them. I told them Charlie’s story and through tears all the reasons (in my opinion only) I felt like I’d failed him. They said they’d take him in within the week.
It was shit timing. My parents were out of town, my sisters were unavailable as well … I almost had to take and drop him off on my own, the thought of which terrified me even more because I would likely have been a blubbering mess stuck in their parking lot for two days because I was crying too hard to drive. Luckily, my friend Katherine, who had been through something similar with a pet recently, was able to go with me. And for that I will always be grateful to her.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have cried that hard – and all of the other times were funerals of loved ones. And even as people kept telling me over and over that I was doing the right thing and what was best for him, it still hurt like hell. In my eyes, I had failed him. I couldn’t fix him. I couldn’t help him enough. I said my goodbyes and my sorrys and over and over that I loved him so much. And after a while, I left.
So it’s been a year. I think about him all the time. I wonder how he’s doing and have actually recently heard. I feel like I’m at a much better place in life now – mentally/emotionally, financially… to have a pet again. I applied, through GRRAND, to potentially give a home to another dog sometime (hopefully) in the near future. In one of the phone calls with them, I’ve found out that Charlie is headed to Wisconsin, to a family that will be working with him more on his anxiety and fearfulness, which has apparently not improved much in the year he’s been in the current foster home.
When I was unemployed for a while last summer, I stupidly thought I’d made a mistake and given him up too early. But then I realized at the time I was barely able to buy groceries for myself, even though I had all the time in the world for him now, I still couldn’t provide what was needed.
It’s taken this whole year to come to terms with the fact that I did do the right thing. That no matter how much it hurt to let him go, it was what I needed to do. Loving him wouldn’t fix his issues. I couldn’t do it alone, and I didn’t have the resources available for what he needed and will continue to need as he grows up and hopefully gets better. Deciding to let him go was the hardest decision I have ever had to make, but ultimately for both of us, the right one. I hate that it came to that, but I love that I had the time I did with him.
I miss his goofy face and personality all the time…
I hope he ends up with a family who can give him everything he needs to get better and live a long, happy life. I’m sad it isn’t with me, but I’m glad we’re part of each other’s story.
Love and miss you, Charlie Buddy.