lettersatlarge

Tomorrow will mark two months since my Dante passed. I've been thinking about him more as the date approaches, and I've been focused on how much he meant to me and how thankful I am that he existed in my lifetime.

Dante nearly literally fell into my lap during a very dark time in my life. I had previously been involved in a violent, abusive relationship that lasted nearly 3 years. Like many people who have been in these kinds of situations would know, it didn't start that way. He came across as kind, generous, doting, and helpful. He insisted I move in and that's when it all went wrong. He was a violent alcoholic, he threatened me and my family, and had me taking care of him, paying all the bills when he'd lose yet another job to his drinking. I was a mess and of course brainwashed into thinking it was a phase, making excuses for him, trying to keep him happy because I was so sure that it was somehow all my fault or like I wasn't doing enough (he had me convinced I was useless). At one point he insisted that if we got a dog and moved far away from everyone (meaning my friends and family who were trying to get me out), we'd be better off and that would fix everything. I'd sent out a message to friends to let me know if they found a small dog that needed a home for me to take in. I didn't even like small dogs, but that's what my ex wanted, so.

Then his violence escalated. It got to where I had to call police and press charges. He did this in front of my mother and my little sister. He got out the next morning, satisfied that the police sided with him because of scratches he sustained while I was fighting him off in self defense. I had to leave. I moved back in with my single mother and my two much younger siblings.

Let me tell you something: when you have been so brainwashed and have lost all confidence in yourself because of a manipulative abusive person, even though you know you're better off out of it, you still feel broken, useless, tainted, failed, and a shell of who you were before. I was in a bad place. I was not suicidal, but I did not care about myself. I drank, I drank, I slept, I avoided human contact, I lost weight, and to top it all off I had recently been laid off of a job I'd been in for 6 years, so I had nothing. I truly did not have any desire to live.

Then, a friend called. She had a dog. A Chihuahua. It used to be hers and her boyfriend's, but they had to give him up because her allergies were so bad she was getting multiple daily nosebleeds. They had given them to his grandmother to care for but she was abusive to him, had him tied up to an exercise bike outside, left to fight for food with much bigger dogs, he was fat, they gave him junk food, and I suspect hit him, because he never got over his fear of the broom. This woman had him for nearly two years. My friend had heard they intended to put him down (they were too proud to just give him back), so she literally stole her dog out of their backyard, and showed up to my house in the dark at 5am to give to me. It was an emergency she said, if they didn't get him out, he'd be dead soon.

This is how Dante and I met. He was 10 years old already, and he was scared in a new home, but he quickly adjusted. I didn't know what to do. I'd had a dog as a kid but my parents did all the work. Suddenly I had this little thing that needed me to get up to let him out to pee and poo, that needed food twice a day, that needed to go outside to walk, that needed baths. He was overweight so I put him on a homemade food diet, so suddenly I was up again in the kitchen, cooking. I had to get up out of bed for him because he needed me. Now I wasn't in bed all day. Now I was outside walking, getting sunshine, seeing people. This little dog pulled me out of one of the worst periods of my life simply by showing up and needing me.

We spent several years glued to each other, despite a few illnesses, and surgeries due to abscesses he developed. The last two years his age was starting to show. His eyes were getting foggier, he was a sleepier, slower little pup, but he was still very happy. A year and a half ago I met my favorite person in the world. He is a complete 360 from what I had before. He is kind, he is thoughtful, he thinks the sun itself shines out of my butt, he is my best friend and my confidant. I am so lucky to have had him there for me when Dante started declining, when he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, he was there for me when I knew that despite what the vet said, that I did not have much longer with my friend.

The last three nights with my Dante, we took evening walks. He'd let me carry him back because he was too tired. He'd rest his head on my shoulder and we'd watch the sunset together before we went back inside and I would lie next to him, sleeplessly watching him all night. Every night I thanked him. I told him I loved him, that he was the best boy, and that I am so thankful he was there for me and that he brought me back to life. It broke my heart knowing that I could not bring him back again this time.

May 4th of this year, we woke up to his labored breathing. We rushed him to the ER, but he could not be stabilized. They did everything they could for him, but his heart and his lungs were too stressed. I spent a moment with him before the dr came to put him to rest. He wagged his tail through labored breaths, through fear and pain, just at the sight of seeing me. I kissed him, I pet him, and I thanked him. I thanked him a million times.

 

Dante, you saved my life, you helped me be me again, you gave me the strength to come back and open myself up to real, unconditional love. I miss you very much, but I'm grateful for what you taught me, and you'll always be alive for me this way.

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Chinadoll
Well, I'm at a lost for words. What could I say? You told your story from your heart, it poured out in the words you wrote. A story about how difficult and hard a life can become and how that same life can be transformed, in a moment, by a small wonderful gift, brought to you at the very moment your life cried out for help. I am a spiritual person, I do believe that we are often helped in this journey of life in ways we just can't understand. Dante, I believe, was a gift for you and you for him, it didn't just happen. Both of my dogs saved me in different ways, and as I look back now, it is clear, absolutely clear, that it was arranged to be that way.  I thank God each day for what he did for me, it was a miracle in my life that I will forever be grateful. Your story is so powerful and compelling. I want to thank you for sharing all the hurt and all the blessings you received on your journey. I've seen comments on this forum from people who believe, looking back, that when they held their little friend in their arms, they were holding an angel. I pray for peace and comfort for you, Dante was truly special, he was a gift, for you, and you shared your love and appreciation to him throughout the time you had with him.
Charlie
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Cris
Reading your story brought me to tears as I remember my beloved Sam trying his best to wake up and look at me and my his Daddy (my husband ) though he was breathing hard and lethargic. Our babies really give us unconditional love and we know they wanted to stay with us that's why it is really heartbreaking to let them go. You are thankful to your sweet Dante by saving you but I'm very certain that he thanked you more for the love and care you've given him.
I feel for you and I pray that the good memories you've shared with Dante brings sunshine every time you think of him.
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lettersatlarge

Thank you, both. Its been a struggle accepting the loss of one of the true loves of my life. I've been so lucky to have had him as my companion through some of the roughest years, emotionally and psychologically. I truly feel that without him I might not have been able to open myself up to the love I have now with my boyfriend, who has been a rock for me through my grief. I miss him dearly but I realize he was there for me to help me heal. He walked with me through the healing stages of abuse and self-loathing and into a place where I could love myself again and see what real love and companionship is.

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lettersatlarge

I would like to share another thing that still makes me feel very heavy. My friend, who was his previous owner for the first 3rd of his life, was a good friend from high school who I didn't have much access to after she gave me Dante. She moved an hour away and was very busy with school and work most of the time. Every time Dante got sick, or had to have surgery (he'd developed multiple abscesses on his belly/groin area over the last two years that required drainage and removal of necrotic tissue, we never figured out what had caused them, multiple dental extractions, etc), I'd contact her and let her know what was going on and what I was doing to take care of him. She always said the same thing: "I appreciate you telling me what's happening with him, I never want to bother you or ask because you take such good care of him and you're his mama, I trust you, so you don't have to tell me but I appreciate it because I still love him very much."

So when after a follow-up, my vet said he should be on the mend, despite Dante looking better, I messaged her and told her what was going on. I told her about his enlarged heart, his partially collapsed trachea, I told her what the vet said about him being okay, and that I did not want to alarm her, but that if she wanted to come by and see Dante, she was, of course, as always, welcome. We had agreed that sometime after her exams that month, she'd make the effort to stop by. I felt better. I know I was Dante's mama, and I know I gave him the best 3rd of his life, he was spoiled, he was well-loved, well cared for, by not just me but my family, he was never alone and he had his space in my bed despite my own occasional allergies, but it meant a lot for me to have him see his first mama before he passed.

It was one day after our conversation that he passed. I hated having to tell her later that night. I thought we had more time, I told her. I apologized that she was not able to give our baby one last goodbye. She was heartbroken of course, and thanked me for everything, but I still feel awful. I know there's nothing I could have done and that he was likely still grateful for everything we'd done and that he was not alone when he passed, but this is a lingering pain I carry.

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Chandlers_Dad
Lettersatlarge,

My heart hurts for you. Your reply to me earlier today was so touching that I wanted to reread your thread. You have been through so much, and your love for Dante is a testament to how special the relationship was. Please feel free to share any stories about and feelings for sweet Dante with me anytime. I think listening to others affirms that we're not alone, and if we can derive any amount of comfort from it, so be it.

Bruce
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lettersatlarge
One of my favorite recent memories was taking him to the beach/boardwalk. He was never very interested in car rides, they made him nervous I think because he was too small to look out the window and would get dizzy possibly. We took the whole family so he was comfortable, smooshed up in between all of us. This was a month before he was diagnosed. I'd been getting the feeling in my gut that it was time to start spoiling him a little more. He'd recently had 10 teeth extracted due to a horrible abscessed tooth and infection. As soon as he was fully recovered, it was off to the beach. he was out in the sun and enjoyed staring out into the ocean, getting pet by all manner of people passing by. Everyone loved him. Then again everyone always loved him. He was such a calm sweet little old Chihuahua. he slept the entire car ride back. I'm glad I got to take him out and he got to experience sun and love from strangers in new surroundings before things started declining.
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