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.