It has taken me six years to write this. The first four I could not even speak about it without breaking down.
I once knew unconditional love. The kind that knows pure acceptance, no judgement. Mistakes are quickly forgotten, never to be mentioned again. The kind that you take for granted until it disappears.
Buddy was an orphan. His mother and siblings had died unexpectedly, and he was alone. The first time we met, I knew he was the one. He was friendly and kind and loved my children instantly. He would play with them for hours and never tire. They grew up experiencing his trust and acceptance. He was their best friend, their baby brother, the one they had adopted. I think they are better people today for having known him.
He would chase balloons and win at tug-o-war, jump on the trampoline with glee, play soccer like a professional, chase birds and catch balls. Long hikes and frolicking in the sprinkler were his favourites. It did not matter what we were doing, he was up for it.
He would love my children all day by playing with them, coming home hungry and exhausted. But he always had enough love for me.
He was with me through my first divorce, the beginning of my new life. I did not care who got what in the separation, all I knew was that Buddy was coming with me.
When we sold our home and moved on, he became withdrawn and unsettled. He had only known one home, and more than once he would run away only to be found on the front porch of our old house. The place where happy memories were made, where the children played, where he knew every neighbour, where his family had been.
I loved him, and he loved me back. I needed someone at that time who could be there for me. He would wait at the bottom of the stairs while I would lay in bed depressed on weekends when my children were with their father. He would let me sob uncontrollably into his mane as I expressed great sadness. His hugs were long and never rushed. His kisses were sloppy but welcomed. He was such an empathetic listener – never once did he give me bad advice. He was the perfect companion.
He was also there for my children. Each of them having told me how they would cry into his shoulders and express their pain and heartbreak time and time again. He had broad shoulders and would kiss them tenderly to let them know they would be okay. I am so grateful…oh, so grateful, that they had a friend in him.
My second marriage was unpredictable. Abusive and unsettling. My biggest regret was that he had to witness this. He knew my soft voice and how pleased he made me. He had always had my attention and affection, but this was troubling. He was my defender, my biggest supporter, and he was powerless. His concern and need to protect did not seem to matter. He was helpless. The marriage ended, and I watched him grow old before my eyes. His youth was fading as was his energy.
It was the following spring, a season of change and new beginnings. I spent a Saturday morning cleaning $100 worth of dog food off the lawn, recognizing that this could be one of the last times that I would be doing this task. I didn’t complain.
He was ill and getting old, dying before my eyes. I had to make the soul crushing decision to end his pain. He had been there for me through thick and thicker – it was my turn to be there for him.
The day before the end, the children and I rallied around him for “The Last Supper”. Pizza and peanut butter sandwiches. His favourites. He met my newly born grandson for the first time, unsure what to make of him. He sniffed and cried and sniffed some more. It was almost as if he knew that it was time to move on, to make room for the next generation. Oh, how I wish my grandbabies knew his love.
In his last moments I hugged him hard, cried even harder. I was inconsolable. He had watched my babies grow up, he had been beside me through two divorces, he had felt my sadness and joy…. He had been through it all. He was the last tie to this old life of mine. The life that had been happy then sad. Tears fall down my cheeks as I write this – I was so sure that I was ready for this.
One of my favourite quotes by Jamie Anderson, “Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. Grief is just love that has nowhere to go”.
The impact both of, and on pets when going through a divorce cannot be understated. They feel the tension and experience the emotions in deep and significant ways. They are also tremendous emotional support for those going through it. They love unconditionally and when going through a tough divorce, that love is everything.
I do not know if I will ever know anyone who believed in me more. My life will never be the same without Buddy. He will never be replaced.