A little more than two years ago, I wrote a post in this space about our family getting a dog and what that meant to me both personally and professionally.
Exactly a year ago, as I write this, I spent my last night with him.
The dog formerly known as Thor is now living in the literal lap of luxury, complete with organic treats, trips to the spa, a little doggy buddy, and a beautiful fenced-in yard. For a dog who started his life being left on the side of the road in Eastern Kentucky, he’s doing pretty well.
Even a year later, I still feel horrible.
What I didn’t know when I wrote that post in 2013 is that we would decide to move, leaving us living more than a 2-minute walk from work to home, and living in a two-bedroom apartment instead of a house. My new job no longer allowed for quick trips home at lunch, nor did my husband’s now hour-long commute allow us to give the dog the attention he needed and deserved. My kids’ schedules also got increasingly complex as their activities outside of school grew and expanded.
We moved, downsized even, to increase both my professional opportunities and my kids’ educational ones. We thought we could have the best of both worlds, with the dog representing that life we had built, however imperfectly, for ourselves in one place, with all of the advantages of living in another. Something had to give, and it did.
I had to explain to my kids why we had to find a new home for our dog, a pet they loved and took good care of, given the circumstances. They walked the dog and played with the dog when they could, given their schedules and limitations of being (at the time) 7 and 5. I choked up when I had to tell them it just wasn’t fair to the dog to be home alone so much of the time, and that he was a good dog who deserved better.
And so we all were forced to learn an important lesson about letting go, about giving up, and about putting the needs of someone else before our own. I knew I was making the right decision the moment our dog met his new dog buddy and immediately began ignoring us. He clearly was going to be happier, and we receive updates about him sporadically; he is indeed living the good life we couldn’t provide him.
But it still doesn’t erase the feeling that I somehow failed him and my kids in this whole process. If it’s taken me a year to write this post, to talk about this, it’s because I feel ashamed of what happened, about the turn of events that lead to Thor becoming a part of someone else’s picture perfect family life, and that I had deliberately sabotaged, or at least ruined, our own. This may all seem entirely too melodramatic, but it hurts to go back and read the post announcing we had gotten a dog, and seeing how quickly that picture, that image I had created for our lives, came undone.
Of course, circumstances change. Our picture-perfect family life was wonderful, but my professional career was becoming more and more untenable. My daughter’s educational well-being was also being compromised, and with my son about to start in the same system, as a parent, I had to do something.
So, I did something. We did something. And that something has largely benefited my family.
And I know that that post frames a small moment, a snapshot, with some, but not all of the context. And maybe, just maybe, there was some narrative framing going on that was at once speaking the truth, but also me trying to convince myself that things were ok, even if they weren’t.
And so, things are good in a different way, better in some, not in others. We’re about to move again, and hopefully this time we can stay put for a while, but I keep saying that, and it seems that every time I say it, like clockwork, we pick up and move again.
But mostly, today, on this bittersweet anniversary, I just really, really miss my dog.