I have given you all some insight regarding my family, friends, history, etc. things that make me, well me. And I would be amiss if I didn’t discuss the history of my fur children and how they played a role in all of this and how they are coping with the drastic change in their life. I mean let’s be honest, I have a small zoo.
Pets have always been an important aspect of my life. When I was born, my family had a dog named Tony and when he passed we got a black dog with a left white paw that we named Lefty. I can still remember bringing him home. I was so excited to have MY OWN DOG, a fact that my brother didn’t grasp. He was pretty sure it was HIS DOG too. I remember bribing Lefty with treats so he would sleep in my bed. It was my way of letting my brother know that Lefty was MY DOG and loved me way more than my brother.
Side note and great story:
I know some people shudder at the thought of a dog or even a cat sleeping in their bed, “they are such dirty animals”. To them I say shut it! My thinking is that dogs and cats are part of the family and they need a comfy bed too. It not only gives them comfort, it gives me comfort. Nothing like being sandwiched between a 105 lb dog, a 60 lb dog and two 10 lbs cats to make you feel like you are safe.
My siblings knew I was very passionate about this. And, in true sibling “love” they took this passion and turned it against me. They convinced me that Lefty didn’t stay in bed with me at night, but after I feel asleep he got up, left and slept alone in a dresser drawer in the “dead people room” which was located in the basement of our house. The “dead people room” was really J’s childhood room. When she moved out, my parents turned it into a spare room where they hung old back and white photos. These included photos of my dad when he was younger, my great-grandparents and other family members. Given that they were back and white, I was convinced that everyone pictured was dead and haunted the room – yes I know one picture was of my dad and he was alive, well and living in the house, that didn’t matter to a 7 year old me. So, the thought of my dog leaving my comfy bed and sneaking down to the “dead people room” and sleeping in a dresser drawer alone (oh yeah they also told me that he played the keyboard at night down there) was too much for my 7 year old heart to handle and I began crying so hard I started to hyperventilate. My mother had to step in and make them tell me the truth. I know this story sounds asinine, yet to my defense, my siblings took it to another level. Before they told me this they set-up one dresser drawer with a bed in it, another drawer with the keyboard and then put the dog in there. They then took me downstairs to show me “the truth”. It was probably one of the biggest traumas in my young childhood so thanks a lot J, M and A… great job screwing me up and ensuring that my animals will always sleep with me. Okay now back to the main point of this post…
It was never a question that I wanted one…or two…or three dogs. In fact, my best friend growing up (she still is one of my best friends) and I had a plan that we would live next to each other and have pugs. Mine would be named Nacho and her’s would be named Cheese. It was a regular topic of conversation, especially late at night during our sleepovers when we got the “young-girl giggles”. We would spend like 30 mins laughing hysterically about this until my dad would come downstairs to tell us to go to sleep while we pretended we already were. So, when I met C and we decided to move in together, I pushed hard for my Nacho dog.
This push became even more extreme when we moved to Utah. I was so lonely and craved for a pet to keep me company. C didn’t share the same viewpoint as I did regarding animals and disclosed to me that he didn’t really like dogs. I was shocked by this, yet I could “fix him” (you seeing a theme here). I regularly pushed the topic and we eventually compromised and got a cat, Princess Tiger Lily. It wasn’t a dog, and I had never had a cat, but I was pumped!
Lily went everywhere with me. I had a purse I carried her in and we would often go into C’s work and visit him. She would travel with me to Wyoming when I would go see my family and friends and she loved these trips sitting on my lap as I drove. Lily was my baby. However, C and Lily never really got along. She didn’t love him and he viewed her as something he had to put up with to make me happy. I also think he believed that if he agreed to getting a cat that I would be satisfied and not need a dog, but that wasn’t the case.
Fast forward 2 years later… C, Lily and I had moved to Denver. We moved for two different reasons 1) C got a job here 2) I told C that I could not live in Utah any longer and that I needed to leave; he could stay there and we would end or he could come with me. This ultimatum is one that I have always felt incredibly guilty about as it may have been a catalyst for the severe change in C’s relationship with his son. It is something I struggle with on a regular basis and I have a sense of responsibility that as a “family” we made the wrong decision and I should have sucked it up and stayed in Utah for my step-son’s best interest.
It was after this move that I decided I needed another animal as Lily was “lonely”. For those of you that know Lily, this statement should make you laugh as she appears to be the most antisocial cat! It was with this thought that I convinced C to get another cat and thus Nike Rose came into our life. I didn’t try to get a dog this time around as we weren’t home enough and our apartment wasn’t very big. Instead, I decided to wait on that request until we had a house with a yard.
Highlights about Nike Rose:
- She got the name Nike from C, the Rose was added by my mother when she came to Nike’s first vet appointment. The vet asked me what the cat’s name was to which I responded “Nike”. My mother quickly chimed in and said, “that is a boy name she needs something more girly”. So, my mother added Rose.
- She was supposed to be C’s cat. He loved her and cuddled her all the time. He also put a little Vikings helmet on her which was hilarious. It was only after we got the dogs that he decided he was more of a dog person.
- When she was born into the world, she inherited the lovely disease of kitty herpes from her kitty mom. This is something I have to disclose on a regular basis as she sneezes all the time and has a runny nose (my walls usually need to be washed monthly). When I do disclose, I immediately have to follow it up with the statement “it is not contagious to humans”.
- She is the most needy cat ever and loves to sit on your shoulder, your chest, your back, etc. She craves attention and if you are not giving it to her than she will stalk and bite you until you do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my cats (seriously look at that pic don’t we all look happy…ha!). Still, my love for them didn’t fulfill my dog need. I mean while Nike is needy, she hates going on walks and honestly both cats really don’t care if I am home as long as they have food. C knew my dog desire would come up again later and it did hard and fast when we got our house.
Side note: I was convinced that if we did what “normal” people did like getting animals, buying a house, getting married, etc. that C would realize how much happier his life could be. That it would cut out his desire for self-destruction and he would wake-up one day and think “shit, this is all I need, I love my life and I love Breezy for helping me get it”. With this conviction, I may have pushed C to do things that he really didn’t want to do and thus forced him into further self-destruction because he wasn’t really happy with me and just living through the motions to keep me happy.
When we got the house, my first mission was dog. I knew it would be a lengthy mission so I had to be patient and persistent. I would send C dog pictures weekly. I would then bring up such pictures in person. He would regularly tell me that two cats were enough and if we got a dog I would need to “get rid of them”. Seriously, he knew me better than that. I would never give up any of my animals no matter how much they may drive me nuts. The dog negotiation lasted 2 years.
I had found Bonez (aka the soon to be Nacho) on a rescue site and sent C his picture. C loved how he had a cute white stripe on his forehead, but said “not going to happen”. During this time I was also applying to graduate school for a master’s in counseling. The day after I sent C Bonez’s picture, I received a rejection letter from DU. One thing you can imagine is that I take rejection pretty hard (thus my struggle with divorce) and decided I was never going to get into grad school, despite having three other applications pending. So with this thought, I resided to my bed. Little did I know that C had found out that Bonez would be at a local adoption event and came into our room the next morning and said “would a puppy make you feel better?” I didn’t know how to answer since I wasn’t sure if he was serious. I shyly shook my head yes without saying a word. He then proceed to tell me that Bonez was at a PetCo by us and we could go get him. I jumped out of bed and quickly got dressed. It was like someone had just told me that I had won $100 million and had 5 minutes to collect it. I had never been so excited about anything in my entire life! An hour later I got the one thing I had always wanted, my Nacho Dog.
Nacho was not only my dream come true, he was also C’s. He loved that dog so much and quickly turned into a “dog guy”. He doted on Nacho. During Nacho’s training, it was C that would coddle him while I was the strict one. Nacho was the center of our world and the poor kitties kind of got pushed to the background as Lily further resided to the downstairs and Nike would come out just to lay on the dog bed or lay on Nacho himself. Although my friends would tease me that my cats “disappeared” from my life, I made it a point to seek them out every day and cuddle them so they still knew I loved them. I felt like we had good balance, they got to live their cat life and I got to smoother them with love for 10 minutes a day.
Nacho went everywhere with C and I and it was not uncommon for us to bail on plans because we wanted to be with him. Getting Nacho was one of the things that made me fall even deeper in love with C. We had to work together to “parent” this small puppy (now a large horse dog) and we were actually pretty dang good at it. We had a good balance of strict and love. We only disagreed on a few items and we were able to talk those through. It gave me hope that despite all the other struggles in our relationship that we were capable of being together and making it work. It was honestly one of the main reasons why I agreed to marry C because I knew we could be good parents based on Nacho.
Again fast forward a few more years… C and I were engaged, talking about having a child after we got married (we both prayed for a little girl, her name would have been Zoe Joy) and I was on my way to graduating with my master’s in counseling. Everything was completely perfect in my world. In fact I remember thinking one day as I was driving, it has finally happened, things are going to be okay and all my patience and hard work had paid off in my life. It was shortly after that day that my world was shattered.
I found out that during our engagement and up until our wedding, C was having an affair. I was completely blindsided. I had no clue it was happening, I was so absorbed with being happy that I didn’t even think to watch for the signs of it. I let my guard down on the false pretense that we were okay. He got so good at hiding things from me because he didn’t want to hurt me and he knew what he was doing would destroy me, especially because I was getting something I always wanted, a wedding.
When I found out I contemplated ending our marriage, at that time we had only been married for 2 weeks, and decided that I couldn’t do that. I took vows and I was going to stand by them. I was going to make this work or I would die trying. I did not tell my family about what I had found out, I didn’t even really talk to my friends about it, I was going to handle it on my own with my husband, this was marriage. We went to couples counseling, I started working out more, I started tanning, I started doing my hair more and getting waxed on a regular basis, the list goes on and on. I put finding an internship on the back burner. My marriage was more important than graduating. The other thing I did, well I bought a dog. The fattest, craziest dog; and that is when Rolle Polly Ollie came into our lives.
I didn’t want to be like other woman that had a baby to try and save their marriage, but I thought maybe a dog could do the trick. I knew that C and I could do the dog thing and maybe it would bring us closer together like Nacho did. And, this worked to a certain extent. It was a good distraction and it did remind me of why I loved C and what I saw in him. I want to pretend that it did the same for him, but I do not know if that was true. However, much like having a baby doesn’t fix a marriage, neither does getting a dog – despite C loving Rolle so freaking much and Rolle loving C so freaking much.
While you would think having a small zoo would bring joy into our lives, it didn’t resolve the underlying issues of what had happened. I didn’t trust C and I couldn’t move past it. He wanted to pretend like it was fine. His favorite saying was “the past is the past, so let’s leave it there”. I wanted a commitment that C would never have another affair and I wanted answers for why it happened, so I could “fix it” (maybe we should do a drinking game of every time I say “fix it” you all drink). I hounded C with questions and demanded answers. I could see how it would drive him crazy especially since he wasn’t a communicator. In my mind, it was this hounding that drove him to the arms of another Brianna. He would tell me on regular basis “if you are going to accuse me of it and constantly talk about it than I am going to do it”. Even with this I couldn’t stop and I knew I was ruining my marriage. However it wasn’t the yelling or this state of chaos that really tore me up it was seeing how scared my dogs would get when we fought. They would cower on the couch or sit on top of me “protecting” or “shielding” me even though I was yelling too.
Furry children are a lot like real children. You may try to hide certain things from them, but they know when parents are struggling. They overhear and see things that you never intend for them to. It is only later on when you are alone and calm that you think, “shit, they saw that and I am fucking them up”.
It is my opinion, that a parent truly understands that things need to change when they get a glimpse of their child’s face during an upsetting situation. It is like seeing the feelings that you are trying to hide or ignore on the face of someone that you love more than yourself, someone that you are in charge of protecting and giving the best life to. This is when shit gets real and you realize something has to change for their sake. I mean think about it, there is a reason why many people stay in abusive relationships for extended periods of times and then decide to leave once children are involved.
Seeing the way my furry children reacted to the escalating situation with C and I aided in my decision making. While, it is easy to say I didn’t want to see them in distress when we fought, I can also say I didn’t think through how hard the life change would be on them.
When C left the house I noticed a change in all the animals. The cats were out so much more, it was like they were reclaiming the house. I loved seeing them out and about, like they were happy again. The dogs on the other hand, well, they were sad and are still sad. While C would always tease me that one of the reasons he loved me was because I could talk to animals, they unfortunately don’t really talk back. I can only assume their dad leaving is causing them some sadness. It would be so BA if my animals did talk to me. I am sure they would say “mom shut the hell up and stop singing to us”.
My furry children require a lot of attention now and I don’t have a partner to help me with them like I did. At times I have broken down about how bad of a dog/cat parent I am. I have cried about how I made the wrong choice for them because their dad isn’t around and I have questioned if I should give them to C because maybe they would be better with him. It is gut-wrenching to live through these moments and I can’t even imagine going through this with human children. I applaud all of you that have done it and continue to do it. YOU ARE A STRONG MOTHER FUCKER!
So with this story of my furry children and how they came to be and how they played a role in my divorce, here is what I have learned:
- When dogs get depressed they sleep a lot too… well dogs sleep a lot anyway, but they don’t get super excited when you tell them it is time to go someplace. Instead they just look at you and lay their head back down like “mom it doesn’t matter if dad isn’t going to be going too”.
- Dogs can have stress induced seizures. Mr. Rolle opened my eyes to this lovely thing. Rolle has taken everything incredibly hard.
- When they do see their dad they get so excited, it is very hard for me to watch.
- It is even harder to see the change in mood when their dad leaves. Imagine a small child watching at the window while the car pulls away with their faces pressed against the glass.
- They can’t talk to me no matter how much I want them to. It would be so much easier if they could just tell me how they felt or what they needed.
- Even though they are sad, they put that aside when they know I need them. They have let me cuddle them and cry on their heads more times than I can count.
- Rolle is SO needy, like needs to sit on me or be touching me at all times. It is like he is scared shitless that I am going to disappear too, so he has to know where I am at all times.
- All my animals love to sleep in bed with me, Lily included. They want to sandwich me in there so I can barely move.
- Lily actually likes people and doesn’t hate the dogs.
- Dogs stress poop and pee… this was awesome when I had just replaced the carpet in my old house and it was sold as is. That was a large carpet cleaning bill upon moving out.
- Nike is just happy if she has someone or something to sneeze on.
- Nacho is the best body pillow ever.
- I suck at remembering to get dog and cat food. I think my animals are cool with this though since when I do forget they get whatever is in the freezer or pantry like steak or tuna. I think they secretly wish I always forget so then they get delish human food.
- Even though my animals may be sad at times, I did the right thing… well I sure as hell hope I did because there is no turning back!
- Despite everything they have witnessed, they still look at me like I am the coolest thing in the world. They are so resilient and love me unconditionally even though I may have fucked them up. To them I am their world and to me they are mine.