I’ve been mulling over this post for a little while now. I knew it had to come, eventually, because eventually some of you were going to catch on to the fact that I don’t have pictures of Panzer and Shelby up on the blog anymore. I just didn’t really know how to address it in a way that wasn’t too personal for comfort. I think I’ve found a way now.

Working in animal welfare I’ve come across the scenario of the “divorced family” frequently. A couple gets divorced, they have to sell the house and split the assets, they both end up in apartments with breed bans and weight restrictions because they have nowhere else to go. And their dog or dogs, end up at the pound.

Joe and I split up about a month ago. I moved out and am living back with my parents while I get my head together and get myself back on my feet. The breakup was mutual and amicable. It was talked over at length, and a good chunk of the talk was focused on the dogs. When Joe and I talked about what would become of the dogs, there was never any talk of shelters or rescues. Joe owns the house, there are no assets to split, what was mine was mine and what was his was his, we kept that clarity throughout our relationship for many reasons, the dogs were just a piece of it. No joint bank accounts, no big combined purchases. We both come from divorced families, and to us it was just practical to go into the relationship with the assumption that it could one day end. That advanced planning that we never wanted to have to use, came in handy when it came to this issue.

The dogs, for now, are with Joe, safe and content in their usual environment. Not much about their lives has changed, except that I’m not in it anymore, or at least not as much as I used to be. Joe and I are in a place where space is helping us both to heal, but he’s graciously allowed me to come and visit them once a week since the split. They’re happy to see me, which is bittersweet.

When it came to the decision as to what would happen to them, there wasn’t much to discuss, though several options were put on the table. Something important about their lives was going to change, so it felt only natural to keep as many of the pieces of their puzzle together. Same house, same routine, same daddy, and each other. Their individual issues only made the situation clearer – I had to move back in with my parents, so I was going somewhere they simply couldn’t follow. Lifestyle change – that’s what’s written on the cages of so many dogs at the PSPCA. We never really know what that means, but I imagine a lot of those dogs find themselves on cement floors behind cage doors because of splits like this one.

I don’t know what the future holds for me or Joe. I have been looking for apartments where I could potentially take Shelby, but the prospects aren’t that great. Breed bans and weight restrictions shut many doors to the Doodle Monster and me, and I struggle with separating her and Panzer. The thing I can know for sure though, is that they are well taken care of, being tended by one who loves them as dearly as I do and will never end up a “divorce story” on Facebook.

Was it hard to leave them behind? Yes, absolutely. Do I selfishly wish I could have taken them? Yes. But I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad they are where they are and that their lives can remain relatively intact. At the end of the day, I had to make the decision to do what was in their best interest. Dog ownership requires that. So often I write about what being a good dog owner is. This is something like the euthanasia decision, except in some ways, more painful and more soulful. I had to make the decision to say goodbye to my faithful companions, because I knew that was what was right for them, not me.

So at night, when I’m curled up on my new bed in an old room with my childhood surrounding me, I cling to my stuffed German shepherd and wish it was Shelby or Panzer, but even though it’s not, I find contentment in the fact that I know where they are. They’re curled up on my old bed in their same home, with their same doting owner, just now they have a little more room.

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