StillGrieving

I am twenty six years old, and I haven't had a dog since I was eighteen, yet I still find myself emotionally compromised at seemingly random intervals. I hope to find some form of closure here, though it seems like a long shot.

I was allowed to get a dog when I was eleven years old. My life revolved around dogs, I had my favorite dog reference book memorized cover to cover, and I knew exactly what kind of dog I wanted - a Shetland Sheepdog. My parents made a deal that if I could save enough money to pay for half of the purchase, I would be allowed to have a Sheltie. It was an expensive half-the-purchase to save for, and I saved for a long time.

When I finally had the money and was deemed 'responsible' enough to own a dog, I spent a long time scouring the newspaper, searching for a breeder. At last, I found one, and there were two puppies left - a boy and a girl. I wanted the girl.

She had mis-matched eyes that were half blue and half brown - no, not one blue, one brown, but literally, half was blue, half was brown, both eyes were just strange looking. Her ears were weighted with paste to give them the traditional sheltie 'dip', but after her first bath, the paste washed off and I didn't have more to replace it with. Her coat never really grew in, so she was short-haired; she wasn't terribly barky, unless goaded to it intentionally.

She was smart as could be, and she loved me more than I deserved. For years, my dog was my only friend - I didn't do so well with people, I was weird and had headgear and lazy eyes that drifted.

I spent a lot of time with my dog, until finally, my parents pulled me out of school and I began to make people-friends for the first time in my life.

When I was fifteen, I began to attend college. Not long after, I got a part-time job, and was involved in many clubs. I had a lot of friends, and less time for my dog... I began going out in the evenings, having sleepovers elsewhere, and not being home as much as I used to.

My relationship with my parents got rockier and rockier, as it happens in one's teenage years. I began to avoid being home, because any time I was home, I was invariably 'in trouble' for something. I spent less and less time with my dog, the truest friend I ever had - and when she was less than perfect, behavior-wise, it began to fall to my parents to deal with.

In the winters, it would rain buckets and my dog didn't like to go out in the downpour. Sometimes, she'd have 'accidents' on the floor, after ignoring invitations to go outdoors for her business.

I came home one night, and she'd had an 'accident' earlier in the evening. It wasn't the first time that week, but my parents went ballistic. They were already steamed with me for other reasons, so I was in for it anyway... but the dog pooping on the floor, and them waiting for hours and hours for me to come home and clean it, was the last straw for my pet ownership.

They made me get rid of her.

It was the single worst thing I've ever done in my life... I tried so hard to find a friend who would take her, a friend's family, a relative, someone that I knew would love her the way she deserved... I even tried Craigslist, though I didn't want to leave her to that den of serpents, but I got no responses.

Finally, I found a Shetland Sheepdog rescue in my area, and I brought her to them.

They looked at her - a fat, short-coated sheltie with an unfortunately timed skin condition - with disgust, and told me they'd contact the breeder, saying something about bad blood lines.

I was traumatized and devastated. Sure, maybe her breeding wasn't the best in the world, but she was my best friend... and I was leaving her in the hands of someone who clearly thought she wasn't up to snuff.

I still remember the look on her face when I left. My dog wasn't a drooler, but she could tell something was very, very wrong. By the time I left her in that kennel, she was just silent, loong threads of drool hanging from her mouth, absolute betrayal in her eyes.

For months afterwards, I felt... dead inside. I know that must seem like hyperbole, but I fell into a deep depression. I broke up with my boyfriend and felt nothing for it. I stopped going to classes at college. I almost failed an entire term, and jeopardized my scholarship. I would burst into tears at random times.

Eventually, I moved forward, though I didn't necessarily make great life choices - I dropped out of school not long after, I moved out of my parents house and in with a boyfriend, I got on with my life, but I never really forgot my dog. How could I?

Years later, I contacted the rescue, who gave me contact information for the breeder, who had taken my dog back. And years after that, I contacted the breeder, who was remarkably empathetic about the whole thing. She told me that my dog had been adopted by a wonderful family, that their son had desperately wanted to learn how to show dogs properly and how she'd taken first place with him in a junior AKC dog show event. She told me how my dog slept on the mother's bed every night, and she told me that the end had come a few years earlier... and that she'd been there with the family when they'd finally let her go.

In short, everything I could have hoped for and more had happened. She was well-treated, she wasn't abandoned to some dirty kennel, wasn't being yelled at by my parents while I wasn't home, wasn't made an outdoor dog largely ignored - she had a good life after I let her go.

But I still feel rotten inside, filthy and horrible.

Shelties are incredibly loyal animals, and there was never a more loyal one than her. For all my faults as a dog owner, for all my self-centered behavior as a teenager, I loved that dog at least half as much as she loved me.

I have random crying jags about this still, and when the grief hits me, it's like it never even began to heal.

I don't really have the right to grieve for her. From her perspective, I abandoned her, flat out. She couldn't possibly understand the circumstances that led it to happen - all she knows is that I was the center of her world, and I threw her away like garbage.

I don't know how to handle this. For years at a time, I don't even think about it... and then I do, and I can't STOP thinking about it. I feel like it's totally inappropriate for me to ask if I could speak to the family, but god, I want to. I feel like I've already made myself enough of a creep by contacting the breeder sporadically as I have.

I also think that it happened almost ten years ago, now. I shouldn't be reduced to insomniac crying jags over this anymore.

I took the best years of my dog's life, and then threw her away when she began to be old and inconvenient.

Now, I can't have a dog - apartment dweller and all that. But I have adopted an older cat from the Humane Society, one that I felt had less of a chance of being adopted. She's delightful and we love her dearly, but adopting one slightly older animal does nothing to make up for what I did to my dog.

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Bellamum
Dear Still Grieving,
I read your post with tears in my eyes.  My heart aches for you.  I think that you did the best you could at the time.  You loved your dog, but in our teenage years, we are all far from perfect.  We all make choices that we later look back on and regret. 
Our dogs are incredibly loving and forgiving.  Your dog may not have known your circumstances, but she would have forgiven you anyway...that's what they do. 
Take comfort in the knowledge that she had a good life with her new family. 
I understand your grief, but you do need to try to let go of the guilt and realise that some things happen and we can't change them.
I believe, that by saving your older cat from a possible bad future, you are making amends. You are loving your cat and by doing that, you are honouring your Sheltie and all that she meant to you.
I believe that when your time comes you will be met by your Sheltie at Rainbow Bridge.  She will be just as happy to see you as she was when you were 18.  Then you can tell her how sorry you are and how you wish you had done things differently.  She will understand...they always do.  That is why we love them so.
I hope this site can offer you support.
I wish you peace and healing.
Take care.
Karen
(Bella and Charli's lucky mum)
"You were once by our side, but you will be forever in our hearts. Until we meet again baby girl."
Karen
(Bella, Charli and Buddy's very lucky mum)

My gorgeous girl, Bella  26/07/2004 - 03/04/2014
"You were once by our side, but you will be forever in our hearts. Until we meet again baby girl."
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StillGrieving
Bellamum, thank you so much for your sentiments here.

You're totally right. My dog wouldn't want me to be crying right now. She wouldn't want me to hurt like I am hurting.

What you said really helped, and I've been more or less okay for a while, though any sad dog story puts me in tears almost instantly. But yesterday, the dog my parents bought right after I was made to get rid of Sable, passed away.

I am so, so sad for the loss of that dog. She was a sweet dog.

But it's not Chloe that I am crying for. I can't stop thinking about and remembering Sable, missing her intensely. 

[Picture110] 
I wrote a poem for her a while back - for the family that took her in when I couldn't keep her.

To the family that adopted my Sable -
Do I tell you of when she was small, how her ears stubbornly refused to dip?
Like radar dishes atop her head, they swiveled this way, then that
The tufts of soft fur at their sides frequented by my smoothing fingers
As I stroked her ears, as I stroked the short dense fur of her long muzzle, as I heaped
Hours
Upon hours
Of loving care
Of affection that had no other outlet
Of loneliness, finally eased
By her and only her, the most steadfast friend I possessed...

Do I tell you of the times we spent together,
Exploring the bramble-brush wilds of my backyard
Where she would tunnel through the thorns where I could not follow
But always
Always
ALWAYS
return, narry a scratch on her, tail lofty, tongue lolling,
Chasing circles around me for the sheer joy of life
For the joy of my company
And the sun overhead
And the hundreds and thousands of things to smell
To experience

Do I tell you that she was the only friend I had?
As days became nights and every sadness I'd ever felt
Played through my head like the reels of an old movie
As every humiliation, every unkind word, every terror and inadequacy
Waged silent war on me
She was there
Constantly at my heels, never intrusive, but always there
How many tears did I shed into her fur?
Do I tell you that her eyes were always strange?
I used to wonder if she'd grow out of it, but she never did
I used to long for her coat to come in, to grow long
To be a lion-like mantle, her elegant nose the center of it
Like the sun radiating heat

What of the advertisements on Craigslist-?
Wanted: Loving Home
Shetland Sheepdog, female
Incredibly sweet, doesn't bark, doesn't bite, doesn't understand
That I didn't have a choice
That I had failed her in so many ways
That I was a selfish, thoughtless, woefully inadequate beacon
For all the love she had to give
For all that richness she filled my life with.

Do I tell you that now, years and years later,
I can't sleep
I remember with crystal clarity the way she looked at me
When I walked away
She knew something was wrong, but I didn't have the words
I didn't have a way to tell her -
That I would always remember
That I returned ever ounce of love she heaped upon me
Even when I deserved it the least.

To the family that adopted my Sable -
How can I even begin to say thank you?
You were the family she deserved from the beginning, not me
I wish I could find you
I wish I could thank you
For treasuring her, the way I once did
For being better to her than I ever was.

It's been closer to ten years than it has to five,
And years of sudden recollection
Striking me to the bone with sorrow, with regret,
Of my tears, a monsoon - 
Every movie about a dog calls their rain,
No matter how cloudless the day.
I still dream of her, and wake up to remember -
She hasn't been mine
She'll never be mine again.
All I have are my memories, and they taste of regret.

She's dead now, but by God, there never was a better animal -
To the family that adopted my Sable, thank you.
You are a story I tell myself about, a fairy tale ending to a bad dream.
A dream where I hurt the ones I love most
And leave them staring after me like the world was ending
As I shut a kennel door
And walk away.

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jimmy17
Dear StillGrieving, please please do not beat yourself up. You did your very best for Sable - and what a gorgeous girl she truly was.  She would forgive you for anything - that`s the way dogs are made. She had a wonderful life with her new family - just think of all the `street dogs` that are out there looking for just a smidgeon of love that Sable so obviously had.
 You cared for her so very much - and found her a new family to take care of her. You are now repaying their kindness by adopting an older kitty to love and give security to. Things happen in all our lives over which we have absolutely no control, there really is no point in looking back and saying `what if ?`. 
  You will be reunited one day with your lovely girl, she`ll be so happy to meet you.
      
                    Hoping you find comfort on this caring forum.
                                        
                                     Jackie. xx





J Taylor
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Beaglemomma
 Oh where do I start.  You made mistakes for sure-------BUT THIS IS NOT A WEB SITE WITH PEOPLE WHO JUDGE EACH OTHER.  We ALL have things in our life that we wish we could go back and change, but life doesn't work like that.  All that any of us can do is to try and LEARN from our mistakes and it sounds like you have done that.

I am sure you have or will grow into a very caring person perhaps even working with animals somehow, who knows.  Life has a way of working things out especially for people who FACE that they have made a mistake and want to do better from here on out. 

BUT you DO have to try to forgive yourself.  You were very young and young people make mistakes.  I am an old woman now so I can tell you that you will probably even make more mistakes in the future----you are HUMAN and we humans are NOT perfect.  Take care of the kitty you have now and give her all the care and love that these little gifts from God deserve and take care of yourself too. My wish for you is that I hope you find peace soon.
janice
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lostlittleboy
I don't think you could have done better under the circumstances, spending the rest of her days with a family who could cope with her needs sounds like a fair deal.  It would be better that then years of resentment from parents who couldn't deal with a teenager and a dog who needed a bit more patience.

I regret not parting with our previous dog Jaspa, a golden retriever, at the age of 15 was incontinent, half blind, deaf, had a few TIAs, with hip, kidney and liver problems, on tramadol daily - because I wasn't strong enough to try and find a better home for him earlier.
We did consider making the decision before the end, but the on-call vet who came to visit after the stroke us told us he would keep him going and he had years left; which was wrong.

He spent most of his last years sleeping, we'd clean up the mess every morning, and each day it was a little worse - I couldn't tell how much pain he was in as he soldiered on, barely able to walk.

I'm sad that when I think of him that these are the strongest memories that I have - unlike Buddy who we lost at the age of 4 last year, who was full of life and cuddles who we miss dearly.

We all make mistakes, but yours had a happy ending for Sable, you did the best for your dog and one day you'll manage to have another to care for.
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