She said it was over. I emailed her the next day to start making the arrangements (money, paperwork, the usual). Three days later she wavered: “I don’t want this.” Oh, honey, I thought to myself, you don’t get to zig and zag for a year and a half, finally call it to an end, and then zag on me again. “Ooooook,” I said. She said she realized that she had blamed me for everything and had been blind to her own issues. That sounded promising, but after all I had been through, I was dubious.
She said she would go to some counseling. I said we should go incommunicado for two months to give her time to work through things. She agreed. But wait, she couldn’t afford rent and needed a roommate. This meant she needed to return Penny to the foster organization we got her from.
If there is one thing I’m seriously pissed about, it’s Penny.
A year prior she decided that she wanted another dog—a friend for our little dog. So we found an adoption organization and scheduled a meet up with a person fostering Penny, which was a strange but adorable Germany Shepherd, Corgi mutt. We adopted her but an unpleasant dynamic quickly developed. Apparently alpha dog psychology is not just a male thing. The little dog (Khaleesi, who we named after you know who) and Penny would get into fights. To make matters worse, Penny had a thing for going after guests. Some days were better than others. Some days there was blood.
Penny had gotten a bit gimpy and one day I noticed a lump under her front left leg. Turns out it was cancer. A thousand bucks later the lump was gone, but it looked like the growth had metastasized and would reappear sooner than later.
Penny’s obvious flaws aside, she was still a good dog once she trusted you.
Then the wife called it quits on me. Then rethought it. And now in this weird limboland she called me up for a favor: get rid of Penny.
She wasn’t totally heartless about it. She asked if I could take Penny. I didn’t have the room in my Harlem apartment. Maybe my family, she suggested. Sure, sure, I told her I would try to work something out. And I meant it.
In retrospect, asking my family to care for the dog she wanted after she had decided to leave me was rather ridiculous.
My mom hesitated when I asked her, “Well, let me talk to your father.” I explained the dog didn’t have long to live anyway and it would be temporary. The conversation ended ambiguously. The next day the wife rented me a car (you have to take the dog now!), and caught in limbo again (will my parents take it or not take it?), I showed up at her apartment, got the dog, put it in the back of the car, and sped off to Brooklyn.
Penny whimpered in the back, pacing back and forth, looking out the windows as if for some sort of clue to the final, feared destination. I tried to comfort her, but what could I say?
We arrived and it was horrible. The foster organization was a concrete building and as soon as you entered all you could hear was howling dogs. I had to drag Penny in and she wet herself as I pulled her over the threshold. She remembered this place all too well. Some of the workers were nice, “Oh Penny, nice to see you again, girl.” The owner was not and she gave me an earful about how terrible of a person I was: “No one else will want a cancerous dog and it will die here alone!”
I don’t cry often, but as I left it got to me.
And then my mom called and said they would take the dog. In the fog of memory and stress I’m not sure why I didn’t give my parent an extra day to make up their minds, but I had the impression they already decided against it.
I emailed the shelter for two weeks after that explaining the situation. No response.
So, yeah, I’m pissed.
The wife knew she had me on the rocks and she used that as leverage to get me to return Penny to the shelter. She didn’t have the guts or the time to pull that trigger herself so she asked (made) me do it. And so I, the religious masochist, had to be the sadistic villain. If I didn’t cry I might have laughed at the black humor of it. I had become a monster and had led the dog to its doom. My own good will, the desire to keep my marriage afloat, forced me to it.
Strange what you’ll do for a love that’s more or less dead. But it was still my love to protect.
As far as I’m concerned, the wife was a selfish sadist in that moment and she turned me into her instrument. The sadist forced me to be a sadist against my nature and there is nothing more twisted than being caught in that situation. I would have given a finger for that dog (although not a thumb), but I didn’t have that option.
So I left Penny there to die, alone.
I imagine she paced her cage to the end wondering what the hell happened.