I learned a lesson from my dog today. I should clarify, she’s not technically my dog, particularly anymore. Me and my ex-girlfriend got her (Maggie) in the spring of 2014, but we broke up and I moved out July 2016. I moved to an apartment in the same building mostly because I wanted to still have a relationship with Maggie and I knew if I even lived as far away as a few blocks, life would make it terribly difficult to see her regularly.
In the year since I moved into this new apt. in the same building, I have seen a lot of Maggie. I was mostly working nights and weekends and my ex mostly works weekdays so we had a mutually beneficial relationship. I would come get Maggie weekday mornings, keep her til around 5 or so and drop her off before my ex got home.
Randomly, she would ask me to watch her more when she was busy or out of town. And whenever I had a truly free night at home (rare) my ex was kind enough to let Maggie stay over.
It was fairly perfect, to be honest. My life is too hectic to take care of a dog full time and my finances are such that I can’t afford to pay for help. So, my ex and I tag teamed the dog responsibilities and it was good.
Then two things happened. One, my financial situation worsened to where I needed to take on another job. So, I did. And it works me during the day time. Not ever week day, but so far, many of them. This has cut my time with her dramatically these last three weeks as I have been in training.
The second, was that my girlfriend who had moved in with me in May got a dog of her own. Her previous dog sadly passed away last fall and it’s taken her time to get to the point where she could logistically get another dog. The perfect circumstances aligned so that she could get one.
Trouble with the last one is that Maggie doesn’t not play well with other dogs. She was a rescue found on the streets malnourished, pregnant and scared. Not sure what all happened, but despite 5 different professional dog trainers and a lot of in home training, she loses her mind when another dog is around.
I thought she could still come over and I would simply shut Westley (Ryan’s new dog) in the bedroom. It’s a big room and he’s small. But my ex is not okay with it. I get it. It’s very problematic.
So, now I only get to see Maggie when I walk her in the afternoons. And because of my work schedule, that won’t be more than one or two days a week at best. Basically, where I used to see her often, I will now get to see her rarely and for very small doses.
When I found out about this last Saturday I cried harder than I can ever remember crying at all. The sadness is a bit overwhelming. Today was the first day I had seen her since Saturday and I full on ugly cried four times when I was with her. That’s a lot for me.
I rarely cry. And not just because I’m a man in a society that still stigmatizes that as a bad thing. While I’m sure that plays a part, the main reason I don’t cry I believe is because of my depression. I’m pretty much always a little sad. It makes me numb to sadness similarly to how people with tinnitus always hear a low hum ringing in their ear.
The way to get me to cry is to spike my sadness to extreme levels. Knowing my time with my dog is now super limited spiked them terribly badly. I’ve never had a child, so I can’t know if this feeling even comes close, but Maggie feels like a part of me spiritually speaking. And not seeing her makes me feel incomplete.
The good news…
From the moment I walked in my ex’s apt. Maggie did not cry. Can dogs cry? Anyway, she never seemed sad. She was just living perfectly in the moment happy to see me. And I know that I can get to that point myself. The sadness is temporary. I need to learn from my puppy and accept that this is how it is.
Once acceptance happens and grieving ends, that’s when we can enjoy what we have.
Here’s what I have:
I still have access to my dog sometimes. That’s more than a lot of people can say who lost their dog when the relationship stopped. Some people never see them again. And even though my time is limited, it still exists.
Also, I have Westley. He’ll NEVER replace Maggie. No dog ever could. But he’s a great dog. And he already loves me as I already love him. So, now I have two dogs that I love.
Lastly, I have the lessons that Maggie has taught me. She lives in the moment. She loves unconditionally. She reminded me what it was like to truly open my heart. And I can be a bit closed off at times. So, that lesson is terribly valuable.
Since writing this post I’ve added three my tallies to my ugly cries, but that’s okay. It’s part of the process. I will grow stronger from this experience.