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My ex-wife got the dogs in the divorce.  And while it was be difficult for me not to see them everyday, I knew it was in the best interest for the dogs to stay with her.  She afterall, was a great dog owner.  She loved taking the dogs on long walks and extended camping trips, and likewise had a spacious the house and ample backyard for them play in.  I other hand was living in a cramped one bedroom apartment in Boston, with an erratic work and travel schedule.  At the time, I simply couldn't responsibly care for a dog.  But I still missed them.

Petie first came into my life in the summer of 2005.  I had just graduated college, and was taking a year off before continuing my studies at grad school.  Having been born and raised in Idaho, I stopped off for a few days in Boise and crashed with my brother and his girlfriend before continuing on to Portland, Oregon.  You see, following the unexpected passing of our mother (she died of pancreatic six months prior), my siblings and I decided to move to the Pacific Northwest where we could be closer to family.  For me, that meant leaving a sure job with Senator Kennedy, and for my sister it meant packing up from Atlanta.  My brother, who is two-years younger than me, had been living with my mom when she passed.  He and his girlfriend subsequently moved into a nice, though modest condo following her death.  Even if we hadn’t been selling the house to cover various debts, it was easy to see why brother wouldn’t want to remain in our childhood home.  It was afterall the only home he or I had ever known as children, and the thought of living in that big, empty space, absent of any familiar loving faces, but one flooded with memories of our now deceased parents was simply too much.

To cope with the lose of my mother, I relied a heavily on my friends back in college.  But with the move out west, I was losing the support system I’d so desperately relied on those past several months.  Being back in Idaho was also weird.  Even it was just for a few days.  Still, Idaho held a special place in my heart.  While I was certain I never wanted to live there again, I remained nonetheless sentimental for the land of childhood.  A few days before leaving Idaho for good, and equipped with the knowledge that some great journey was as yet ahead of me (precisely where, I did not yet know), I decided to get what I came to call my, “Idaho dog.”  A token, if you will, of my blessed childhood, and my roots in the gem state.

When I first arrived at the Ada County pound, I was surprised to learn of the sheer number of dogs which needed adoption.  Half, it seemed, were part pit bull, and while I have not factual evidence to back this up, I have always suspected that most of those dogs had been simply abandoned by individuals who should probably should have never been dog owners in the first place.  

As I walked the many rows of kennels, I saw a number of cut and adorable dogs.  Some were tiny puppies, just starting off in life (most of those had already been adopted out), but still, there were a number of younger dogs, no older than one or two-years of age.  My brain told me to adopt one of these dogs.  They would be around much longer, I reasoned, and they would likely have fewer health problems than older, more mature dog.  But despite all this reasoning, there was one dog in particular that pulled at my heart.  My Petie.  

The card on his kennel door said he was seven-years old.  That made me frown a little.  I had already lost my bedrock with the death of my mother.  And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get a dog (a dog I knew I would come to love and care for deeply) that was likely to pass-away of old age in as little as four, perhaps six years.  Still, there was something about that mutt, the way his angelic whippet eyes connected with mine, the beauty of his markings which betrayed his foxhound ancestry.  I knew the moment I saw him, that would be the dog I adopted.  And it was.

For the next five years, Petie and I did everything together.  Before I met my ex-wife, he was quite literally the closest friend I had.  If I made spaghetti for dinner, I made enough for two, a serving for me, and a serving for Petie.  Pizza, burritos, take-out, it didn’t matter, it was all the same, a order for me, and one for Petie.  Apples cores were a particular favorite of Petie’s, and I used them to teach him to sit, lay, rollover, bark, and even to shake hands.  

As Portland is a wonderful city for walking, and arguably the most dog-friendly city I’ve ever lived in, I took Petie with me everywhere, be on a short walk to grocery store, or on a car ride to visit my sister.  He was truly my other half.

When Lavina (my ex-wife) came into the picture.  I was fortunate to find a woman who equally shared my passion for dogs.  She, however, was less thrilled with Peties diet and instead insisted that we switch him dog food.  Both she and the vet argued that it would be best for Petie’s health.  I agreed, and despite both of us being strapped for cash, we always bought Petie the kind of dog food you can only get at a proper pet store.  The kind that was made with real bits of meat, not animal by-product.

In time, both Lavina and I got full-time jobs, which meant Petie was home alone on weekdays for extended hours of time.  We worried that he was getting bored while we were going.  Perhaps even depressed.  We decided that getting Petie a playmate would be best, and that’s how we ended up with “Franq the Beagle.”  Like any pair of siblings, they two had their share of disputes, but they loved and cared for each other greatly (even if Franq had a good deal more energy than Petie).

When I got accepted to grad school in the U.K., there was no question about it, the dogs were coming with us.  But getting the dogs to the U.K. proved to be no easy feat.  There were needed vet visits, repeated vaccinations, and of course, endless paperwork.  Oh, and it was expensive.  As in, the flight for just one of the dogs was more expensive than two roundtrip tickets for my ex and I.  But the dogs were worth it.  They were family.

As in America, the dogs came everywhere with us to England.  They were a fixture at the local pub, and even accompanied me to a fair share of my lectures.  My students loved the dogs.  Their personalities couldn’t be more different.  Franq was the clown, the life of the party.  He is also dumb as a pile of rocks, but that’s part of what makes him so enduring.  Petie, by contrast, is wise and clever.  He knows how to open doors, and manipulate nearly any situation to get whatever he wants.  Petie is also the silent and noble type.  He rarely backed when a visitor came to the door, but he loved chasing squirrels and was probably a decent bird dog, as I later discovered.

In 2011, Lavina and I separated, and later divorced.  We’d both come to realize that we wanted vastly different things from life.  I wanted kids for instance.  Lavina absolutely didn’t.   Staying together would meant more than mere compromise.  It would require one of use to give in on an issue so fundamentally important, that no matter who prevailed, one of us would always resent the other.  And when you’re talking about kids, that’s a no go.  And so, Lavina and I decided to do the responsible thing.  We divorced.  It was painful at the time.  There were hurt feelings on both sides, but when it came to the dogs, we knew we had to do what was best for them.  And for me, that meant that they stayed in Oregon, where they could run in large fields and enjoy a life that cramped one-bedroom apartment couldn’t afford.

With time, Lavina and I have mended many of our wounds, and I am grateful to say that today we are good friends.  I am remarried to a woman I am absolutely mad about.  In Bonnie, I have found a soul mate.  We have a young child.  A son.  Both she and he are the greatest joys of my life.  We’ve even adopted a dog.  Duke.  He’s a puggle.  Like any beagle, he lacks the brains of smarter dogs, but he fourty pounds of pure love and joy.  Lavina likewise has found another man to share her life with.  Like her, he too is a dog owner, and Franq and Petie now have another friend in their life, Rudy, a half shepherd-rot mix.  I’ve never met Rudy, but I’ve seen videos of him playing with the dogs, and from what I hear from Lavina, he is a great with Franq and Petie.  And I am eternally grateful to both Lavina, and her partner Brian, for taking such great care of my beloved Petie.

Two days ago, I got a text from Lavina.  She was asking me to give her a call that night.  While Lavina and I don’t communicate on a daily basis, it’s not uncommon for either she or I to send each other a quick message, or to catch up by phone every few months.   But this text was different.  I felt it in my gut the moment I got it.  I replied, asking if it was Petie.  She returned my text, asking me to call her.  I knew it was about Petie, and I knew the time had come for my nearly seventeen-year old dog.  I called Lavina.  She had been crying, and she informed me that she and Brian had decided that the time had come to put Petie down.  He’s been unforcomfortable.  Unable to eat.  Unable to keep anything in.  I cried too.  And I thanked her for everything she and Brian had done for Petie.  They were there for him, when I could not be.  

When I got off the phone with Lavina, I called Bonnie.  My wife is amazing.  She comforted me as best she could over the phone, and that night when I got home, I cried and cried into her arms.  I told her every story I could remember about Petie.  She had heard them all before, but she listened to them all again.  She’s amazing like that.  I found comfort in my wife’s arms that night, as I do every night.  She was my strength that night.  My rock.  

It’s hard to end a story like this, especially when there is so much to say about my best friend, my Petie.  He was the best dog a guy could ask for.  He was loyal and supportive, funny and tender.  A part of me wants to be their on Saturday when they put him down, but I’m worried about confusing him all the more.  I thought about skyping, but I have the same concern.  In this difficult time, it is important for me to do what’s best for Petie, and so I am remembering him, and all the wonderfulness that he is.  I will forever hold him fondly in my heart, and I will eternally be grateful to my ex-wife for stepping up and loving this dog as much I loved him.  She and Brain have borne a great many costs keeping Petie fed and healthy, and I am forever in their debt.  My most beautiful and loving wife, Bonnie, has likewise shown endless compassion and comfort in my hour of sadness.  Bonnie has always stood firmly by my side, and I love her all the more for it.

I will always remember my Petie.  He is not the first dog that I have lost, but he is one of the few that have genuinely felt like family.  Tomorrow, as he goes for one last car-ride, I know I will be losing more than just a dog.  I will be losing a member of my family.  I’ll be losing a what feels like a brother.  I love you Petie.  And as I fight back the tears at work, I wish there was just some way for me to tell you once more how much I love you.  How much you meant to me.  How much you made me feel better after my mom’s death.  I suppose you will know this all too soon.  And someday, hopefully long after my son has had grandchildren of his own, I like forward to taking you on walks once more.  I love dearly, Petie.  Thank you for sharing you love with me.

Originally posted to Dr Christopher Boerl on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 08:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps.

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