My ex and I had one pet we acquired during the marriage – a beautiful Golden Retriever we adopted in April the previous year. Rosco was intended to be the family pet, but in the end he became my dog as the early months progressed and I was the sole caregiver to him. He followed me everywhere. He slept on my feet as I washed up the dishes each night after dinner, while the kids played in the living room and their dad was out “running leads.”
Two weeks after the divorce became final, my ex attacked me late one night after I came home from working in the restaurant. I ended up leaving the home and moving into my dad’s house with the kids. I returned each morning after I dropped the kids off at school to do my schoolwork until school let out and spend time with Rosco, because I knew my ex wouldn’t be home. One day I came in and found him gone. Subsequent texts revealed only that he had been given to “a good family.” He never told me where Rosco went. I was devastated. All I could think about was that this dog had loved me – I was his person – and one day I left and he never saw me again. It was terrible and my heart was broken.
I learned later that Rosco was with my ex’s father. Good or bad, ultimately this was the best I could hope for, since my lawyer couldn’t seem to negotiate a return of the dog without it costing me even more money I didn’t have. At least I knew the kids would still be able to see “their” dog. They had no idea how I felt.
It’s been over 4 years. I have thought of him periodically, with a heart aching to see him and touch him, to wrap my arms around his big soft body and tell him I love him. For what it’s worth, I know my ex-father-in-law and despite my personal feelings I know that he loves that dog with everything he’s got. He himself got divorced, lost his home (no sympathy there, believe me), and lost all four of his Goldens to old age and illness during this time. Rosco is his constant companion. Still – I needed to see this boy and find some sense of closure I desperately needed.
By coincidence, I finally got to see him last week. Todd warned me not to expect too much. He was worried I’d be upset if Rosco didn’t know me.
In truth – I considered both scenarios. One where he recognized me and got really excited, and one where he only sniffed at me with curiosity and no memory of the “mom” he once hid behind when he was scared of something. I was mentally prepared for both. I knew that either way he was no longer mine and I was okay with that…. and I was okay with whatever happened.
Humans have these stupid emotions that dogs just don’t feel. Dogs don’t hold onto memories the same way we do. But in my mind – I couldn’t let go of the feeling that he’d thought I’d abandoned him, and I just couldn’t stand it.
The day finally came last week. I knew he was on the other side of this gate I was passing through, and I took a deep breath and willed myself not to cry. Four years I have waited for this moment.
When I saw this full-grown Golden crossing the deck, I was awe-struck. He was so big. Much bigger than he was before. He had the paws of a lion. And, when I said hi Rosco!…. he doubled back toward his daddy. He was shy and skittish. I had forgotten this about him, as it never used to be about people. I held out my hand for him to smell, wondering whether he’d recognize my scent, but he gave no indication. He sniffed briefly, and wandered back to where he could watch his daddy to be sure he’d not be left behind. He never lets him out of his sight. He was never that skittish with me. But then, his life hadn’t been quite turned upside down before that day he was taken from our home. I allowed myself this internal thought with a touch of anger toward my ex, and then with a deep breath willed it to go (no word on that yet).
Eventually he warmed up to me as I squatted down to pet another dog who was there, sitting down right next to me – giving me no other choice but to stroke his back. He would later sit next to my chair, not too close, his eyes keenly focused on his dad and what he was doing, but he allowed me to stroke his head and back and tickle his big soft ears. When I knelt down to pet him and see his gentle brown eyes, I whispered the words I have wanted him to hear since the day he disappeared. And I realized that it wasn’t for him. It was for me.
He’s okay. And so am I.