I never understood. I could never comprehend. How could someone just leave their cat? Their dog? How could they abandon them in uncertainty? What if they got sick? Who would protect them? How could they possibly continue living knowing that they had abandoned a part of themselves? How? How can you even begin to do that…
And then, fast-forward two years later, and I feel the pain, the anguish, and the toxicity of our relationship… And I understood.
You see, I got Manchitas when I was 15. He was my first dog. My mom never had one either. It was just the two of us and him. He was the cutest little thing. He was my pillow. He was my comfort. He was my happy place. At least for small moments…
You see, we had an incredibly hard time potty training him. He had no respect for me or our home. He literally stained the entire carpet of the house, including my room. So of course, I tried to continue training and convinced my mom to buy a carpet cleaner. What did I do during my weekends? wash the entire home to attempt to remove the stains. It was too late though. He had already decided he was king and we were worthless.
So we continued our life, he kept growing, staining, rebelling. And about three years ago, he reached his peak of dominance. He started showing signs of potential biting. Growling at the simple idea of raising your voice. He had become terrifying. But of course, I still loved him. He was my baby. There had to be something I could do, right? And so there was, he was going to be neutered.
Mind you during the entire process, I was warned that if he even tried to snap at me he would be gone. I begged. I pleaded. I won. He was neutered. He was already about 5 years old. I stayed the entire night in the hallway comforting him and petting him. I didn’t know what to do to help him. I felt so helpless, but it felt so nice to finally have him in my arms.
He was still my baby.
And then, life kept moving forward. We had to move out of the home we had both loved and grown up in. We moved to a new apartment (rented) and began our journey of me being an adult trying to survive. I was recently graduated. I knew I needed to keep my kids with me though, so I searched for pet friendly communities. I made sure our complex was completely dog friendly as I was going to be walking him and picking up after him.
It was a new beginning. It was an opportunity to get rid of those smells that he was familiar with that tempted him to do things inside the house. It was an opportunity to teach him control. It was an opportunity for him to detach. It was my moment to take charge as an adult and train him. So what did we do? We signed up for behavioral classes.
How did he do? he was smart enough to do commands but never able to emotionally detach. God forbid I closed the bedroom door. It was nonstop crying and barking. It was two months of no sleep. Literally. We would go to bed at 10:00pm, he would bark at 10:30pm, 11:00pm, 12:15am, 1:30am, 3:00am, and 4:00am at which point I just gave up trying to sleep to wake up at 5:00am to go to work. I cannot even begin to describe the exhaustion I felt. But I was determined to be with him. After all, he was family and the trainer said that if I ignored it enough, he would stop. He would learn.
Fast forward three months, he didn’t learn. You know what he did learn? How to be more confident (and arrogant). You see part of the training was to allow him to gain confidence. He was acting out because he was afraid. He was acting out of a need for attention. So I followed their instructions, provided plenty of positive reinforcement every time he showed a correct behavior.
He never associated it though. He only knew that I loved him so much, that even if he misbehaved, I would continue loving him. After all, that was my first mistake when I had just gotten him. He would be scolded and I would rush to pamper him with love. My innocence got the best of me. And even now, with my careful measuring, I seem to want to comfort him… but you see, we have reached a breaking point.
He has abused my love to the point where I literally can’t touch him, or he misbehaves 30 minutes later. I can’t praise him. I can only watch him from afar, and the minute I even try to say hi, I am betrayed immediately. I have reached my breaking point. How is it fair for him to not be able to be loved? How is it fair for me to wake up an hour early just to clean up his mess? How is it fair for both of us to continue this toxic cycle?
Yes, I took him to the vet. Yes, I spent hundreds of dollars in tests and medicine. No, it did not work. Nothing worked. All of the money, all of the work, all of my love. Wasted.
The only option they gave me was a professional behavioralist, which runs at about $300+ and with our dynamic we would probbly need about $1200 worth of classes… It’s money I don’t have to spare. I paid that just to have him living with me. I’m not a manager. I don’t have a fancy position. I’m just a girl trying to survive. I coupon. I shop in the clearance racks. I search the weekly ads for offers. I have no luxuries. Whatever elegant facade you might think I have, it is a lie. It is debt. It is me drowning regardless of my education.
So what to do? How am I supposed to say we have a wonderful relationship when we only have a vicious cycle? How can I say I love him, when he angers me 95% of the time? How am I to say that he is at his best with me, when I know he does his worst because of it? How can I keep doing this? How am I supposed to continue in this toxic relationship of sadness, frustration, and fear?
I can’t. I really just can’t. I have tried everything there is to do. I have given all of me. More than a regular human would. I have tried so hard to love him. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. That’s all I want for him. I want him to be happy, to be loved, to feel good. I can’t give him that.
My heart just aches in pain. It feel broken. I can’t breath. Tears roll down my cheeks just at the thought of it. No control for where I am. No control of my surroundings. No control of being strong. I love him. Even in my pain. Even in my realization that I’m not good enough for him. I know this is not healthy. I know this is toxic for both of us. And there’s nothing I can do. I am powerless. I have failed him. I have failed myself.
But maybe, just maybe, he will find a person who he respects, who he loves, who can love him without creating misbehavior… That is my only hope. And that is why I will take the heartbreak, the tears, and the hardest day of my life.
I thought I knew what heartbreak was. I thought I had already had enough for a lifetime. I was SO wrong. It wasn’t even close what I am feeling right now. I can’t breathe. My tears just keep falling as I stare into his eyes telling him that I love him and that everything will be okay.
Today is my last day. Today is the moment we have to say goodbye. And I honestly, I have no idea how I will get through today… I have to do it for him though.
I need to be strong, so I can speak on his behalf… I need to be strong, so I can look him in the eyes and give him a last kiss goodbye…
To all those people I never understood, I’m sorry for your pain. I’m sorry for your regrets. And most of all, I’m sorry you had to give up a part of yourself for their sake.