She was in the mud puddle. Again.
That was the moment I knew I couldn’t keep her.
My dog, Mabel, had been my first baby. She was a gorgeous, high-energy, chocolate labrador retriever we’d adopted when she was 9 weeks old.
I stayed up with her as she cried through her first nights, “potty” trained her, and kept her baby teeth. I bought her Christmas presents and made her a stocking. I took her to the dog park every night, rain or shine, and to doggie daycare once a week. I spooned her at nap-time, kept a scrap-book of photos, and made birthday cakes of peanut butter and kibble with carrot “candles.” Her birthday is May 1.
Like many first “children,” she was dethroned a bit when I had my first real human baby. I may have ousted her from the family bed, but I still took her for walks to the dog park.
And now–along with my house, garden, and marriage–I realized I had to let her go.
I was getting divorced. My daughter was 2 and a half. I worked four days a week. After living with my mom for a few months, I had moved back to my house for the summer, and was trying to see if I could take care of both my daughter and my dog on my own.
We were at a playground next to a dog park on a late summer evening. We were getting ready to leave–no small feat with a two-year-old–when Mabel took a dip in a very deep, very murky, mud puddle. Classic Mabel, wallowing in the mud. She never failed to draw laughs.
I found a towel and dried her off, got my daughter loaded into the car… and turned around to see Mabel in the puddle again. That was when I knew: I just couldn’t do it.
I saw her today for the first time in five years, when I dropped my daughter off at her dad’s. My ex-husband was dog-sitting. When I told him I couldn’t handle the dog, he had immediately given her away.
His story was that he posted an ad on Craigslist and some people came to adopt her. As they left, he was crying so hard, they brought her back and said they couldn’t take her if it made him that upset. So, he decided to give her away to his friend, a teacher at the school where he used to teach.
This is the same friend who’d found him on the day he tried to kill himself, the same friend who’d been joining him on drunken benders, a friend whose number he refuses to give me. My daughter cries for Mabel, says she misses her, wants to see her.
When I ask for the friend’s number, he says his friend is private and doesn’t want to give it out. I never know what to believe. Everything my ex-husband says and does is a lie.
Mabel is 11 now. She has a gray beard, dandruff, and a benign lump on her chest. She didn’t jump up on me like she used to, but she wagged her tail just as hard.
I hope she is being well cared-for. I miss her. I regret not being able to take care of her, I feel like I’ve failed her, that I’ve broken a promise.
When I got home today, I washed the sweet, oily, stink of her off my hands, and talked with my two-year-old son about the “goggy” we saw.