There’s the kind of grieving you do when someone is taken from you and then there’s the kind of grieving that comes from giving someone or something up voluntarily. For the last year and a half, I’ve been well acquainted with first kind of grief.
But now I’m experiencing the second. And while comparing my decision to give away my dog to losing my father to cancer might seem callous or ridiculous, for me there are a lot of similar feelings.
This is Havana. She’s been my dog for five years – the most monumental years of my life. She’s seen me through the journey from being a single woman to being married with two kids.
When I was first trying to decide whether to get a dog, I must have changed my mind 25 times. I wanted the companionship, but wasn’t sure about the commitment and responsibility. But as soon as I saw her I was a goner.
Seriously … can you blame me?
How quickly life changes.
Havana was actually pretty monumental in my husband and me first getting together. Our first “outing,” way before we were even dating, was to take the dogs (he had two) to the off leash dog park at the top of Palmer Park. He was new in town and knew I had a dog so he asked me where to take them.
May 4, 2008.
Six weeks later we were “official.” For the next ten months, many of our dates were planned around the dogs. We took them to Red Rock Open Space, Blodgett Peak, Stanley Canyon, The Crags, Frisco, Waldo Canyon, Mt. Herman Reservoir, Seven Bridges and Stratton Open Space. To name a few.
Then suddenly, life seemed to hit the fast lane. We got engaged. We got married. We got pregnant. We sold a townhouse. We bought a house. We had a baby. Then we had another one. And within two years we went from two single people to a family with two kids and three dogs.
And our house was crazy. And very, very stressful.
We tried to make life work with three dogs. As time went on, more and more of our time and energy went to building our marriage and raising our kids, and the dogs continually took a backseat.
And then one day not long ago, I realized that Havana was no longer getting the love and attention she deserved. Not only was she a lower priority than the kids, but in the canine world, she was the lowest of the three dogs. And as a lab, she was also the most energetic. She was constantly getting yelled at because she has boundless energy and in times of stress, her uncontainable enthusiasm became the easy target of our frustration.
Life had changed and somehow, in the shuffle, Havana had lost her place in our family.
Giving her away is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It makes me so sad, and yet I know that it is the right decision for both our family and for her. She deserves better than we can give her. She deserves to be doted on and adored.
Have you ever read the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?
Even though there’s not a doubt in my mind that this is the right thing to do, there is this guilt that I feel because I wasn’t able to see this dog ownership thing through. And I think the guilt is what makes this the hardest … I am overwhelmed with this sense that I abandoned her.
If I had a chance to do things over, I wouldn’t change my decision to get a dog. I wouldn’t change the timing of how things played out. And I certainly wouldn’t change my life now. Heck, who knows how different my life would be now if I hadn’t gotten her.
I don’t have regrets about the way things happened and I have many happy memories of life with Havana. But right now I’m just sad and missing my dog.