The first real heartbreak I ever felt was in the eighth grade. The dog that I grew up with, a chocolate lab/greyhound mix named Barkley, passed away and took my childhood with it.
After that, I decided that I’d never let myself get so close to a pet. Less than nine years later, I went back on that deal with myself.
For about two years, I had one of the coolest pets in the world: The most adorably spazzy dog in history, a little black pug named King.
King was more of a tiny furry horribly uncoordinated person than a normal dog. He was the kind of pup who would convince a woman to kneel to pet him, only to immediately start sniffing around up her skirt or nuzzling himself into her cleavage. He’d jump on you to see if you’d drop food, and then sneeze on you in disapproval if you didn’t — or in excitement if you did.
Yes, King was basically a perverted teenage boy (he threw hissy fits if you ignored him, and either humped or peed on everything), but that combined with his weird-looking bug eyes and “cute” snorting made him the perfect wingman… Not that I ever got to used it.
See, the pug was never really mine. King belonged to my girlfriend, and losing him was one of the most devastating aspects of she and I breaking up.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing is fun about breaking up. My ex was and presumably still is a wonderful woman, but there’s nothing quite as upsetting as realizing you’ll never get to see your four-legged partner in crime again, and there’s no way to explain to him why.
When telling my friends about the breakup, one of them was more upset about my ex and I splitting than anyone in the relationship was, but three immediately asked if that meant they wouldn’t get to see King anymore. To make matters worse, I still lived with him for a little while after the breakup. So while the relationship was over, it didn’t mean my friends and I were losing man’s best friend just yet.
The last time I saw the little guy, roughly a month after the breakup, I did my best to explain to him that I wouldn’t be around to sneak him pieces of string cheese and watermelon rinds anymore. I’m not sure if he understood that message, but I’m fairly certain King spends less time wondering about me than I do about him.
From time to time, my ex still invades my thoughts, usually when a friend mentions her or LinkedIn reminds me that I didn’t unfriend/unfollow/disconnect with her from every social media site. But that 16-pound black pug still occupies a much greater portion of my conscience.
Now, when I see someone walking a dog or hauling an oversized bag of dog food in from the parking lot, I briefly consider getting another dog. Then I realize that I really don’t want (nor have a lifestyle conducive) to own a pet. I’m just being nostalgic for King, the lone dog I’ve cared for as an adult.
I don’t miss the time spent picking up his poop or wiping his pee off of the bathroom cabinets when I’d forget to close the door, but I doubt I’ll ever again use the words “King, you’re the Boots to my Dora.”
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And yes, as a then-24-year-old straight male, I unashamedly made a Dora the Explorer reference last year.
No one wins in a breakup, especially when pets are involved. Sure, it sucks when your significant other puts you in the doghouse, but it still beats having the dog (and his house) removed entirely.