7.18.2011

CHANGE, FOR THE DOGLESS



"people are always saying that change is a good thing. but all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened."
(thanks for leaving this quote in the comments, you know who you are)


once upon a time there was a girl with a big heart, who longed for a little family. she married a handsome young man with a heart the size of adventure, and the two of them set out to build that family. when it came along slower than anticipated, that short girl with that big old heart set out to glue together a family, piece by piece.

she called him peter pan.

***

when i created my little family, two parts human to two parts puppy, i meant for it to last forever. these last weeks have ripped me apart.

i talked myself into and out of calling it off a million times. writing the wire fox terrier rescue and saying, "i take it back, we're keeping him!" but every time i'd start, i could never finish. 

people always ask if it's because of henry. it was never about henry. when i adopted my boys, i adopted them knowing and hoping that we would add to our little pack someday with human babies. of course i knew that combining human babies and doggy babies would take vigilance, but i was prepared. henry was safe. the puppies loved henry. this was never about henry. 

it wasn't about simplifying my life, either. i never wanted a simple life. i want a life filled with love, and love is anything but simple. 

and it was never about convenience. i invited inconvenience in and i thrived on it. 

this was about my boys. this was about their needs, and making decisions based on what was best for them, not what was best for me. what was best for them broke my heart. 

we sacrifice an awful lot for this city life, and while we humans reap the rewards, the dogs in our life may not. the city life is a hard life for a dog. some dogs need what their owners can't give, as much as it hurts to admit it.

in five years we may be back in the suburbs, but five years is an eternity to a dog. i couldn't justify the limited life i was giving my fluffy boys. they deserved better than what i could give them, and when i realized that, it became so obvious what i had to do.

***

the cab pulled away on saturday evening.

i watched him jump in excitedly. i watched brandon reach his hand in to pat that fluffy head one last time. i reached my own hand in after him as the light changed and the meter started, but the door was shut quickly and my hand never found its target and the light was green too soon and then he was gone. i watched the taxi zoom up central park west for a brief second before it hit me. i had done it. the worst of it was over. i had sent my baby away to belong to somebody else. and then i couldn't breathe. i cried hard on the street into my baby's neck, while my husband squeezed my hand.

***

i think a lot about change lately.

my family has changed so much. some days i hardly recognize it. 

where once there was an empty ache, there is now my henry august, fat and happy on my hip. where there once were finals and classes, there is now a career with a paycheck. where there once were wheat fields and cows there now are brownstones and sky scrapers. 

i love my city life, but sometimes i grieve for moscow.

moscow was such a funny little time in our lives. and such a funny little town, untouched by time and hardly even existing at all once you left its tiny borders. it is easy to pretend that things can stay exactly as they are there, frozen in time forever just as i left them. the people, the places, my old narrow hallway extending to the back door, the patio we laid ourselves that hot summer in the sun, the rickety old lawn furniture propped against that old barn shed, the prickly grass, the hammock in the lilac breeze, my old pal mister sun.

some nights as i struggle to fall asleep i walk those quiet little streets in my head. i imagine i can feel the hot august sun beating down on my shoulders and coming up in waves against my legs through the concrete. i imagine i can the smell of the lilac trees and the earthy warmth of pine and wheat from the fields. i imagine i can feel the slow easing of my city life as it drains out from my fingers. the moscow of my mind is deserted and quiet and it is just me there, empty but for the ghosts of those i loved, slipping in and out like wisps of clouds in the atmosphere. i visit my little shoebox of a house on b street, the sandwich shop where i'd meet ollie and kendall for lunch, and all those street corners where so much life happened in my imagination on a momentary pause on an afternoon run. those old horses on d street and the llamas behind cleveland, and the middle school soccer games on the field and gyros at mikeys and visiting brandon on campus. betsy the flying potato. schweitzer engineering laboratories looming on that big hill in pullman to the west.

what a life we had there. beautiful and sad, just like it always is.

in the years to come i will always long for my little family of moscow, two parts human to two parts puppy. at times i will want it so desperately it will crush inward on my chest, pushing residual sadness down my arms.

but i am okay with it. because that is where peter pan and barnaby macduff will always be mine. where a little family of four will still sputter and ache and struggle to start. where a short, childless, romantic, big-hearted girl lives with them still.

they will always be mine, there.

78 comments :

  1. Well, as a girl who just found out she's pregnant... literally... on surprise. oops. good oops.

    and who has 2 kitties and 2 (large and rowdy) doggies...

    your story makes me afraid of having to do the same thing. giving up my family as it is... i love them all so much. they've been with us for so long and through so much..

    but, it also makes me feel strong. because if someone else who loves their doggies so much can do whats best... then i can too.

    only time will tell what will happen... but it feels good knowing that someone has survived it.

    thanks so much for sharing your story, your family is very brave.

    thanks again,

    Jessi
    finnpuppy@gmail.com

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  2. This was gorgeous. I'm totally sitting at my work desk trying to pretend I'm only sniffling because I just magically became allergic to my computer screen. We will miss the stories of your pups, but I'm so glad you feel they're in a better place (but not THAT better place, because that would be too much sniffling to pretend allergies!).

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  3. Like Rachel above me, I'm also feigning allergies (on the outside). On the inside I'm sobbing for you. This was a magically beautiful post that somehow put into words what really can't be put into words.

    Praying for peace.

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  4. Uggghhhh. I hate change. (How you could love it when you've grown up in the same town your whole life, in the house your mother grew up in, with a twin sister who did everything you did? Not much scope for change there!) I hate having to be a grownup and do things because I NEED to. It's so hard. It makes you want to curl up into your soul and hide from adulthood and responsibility and real life and hard decisions and putting others ahead of your own heart. But you did make the right decision, because it was what you felt was right. I wish Peter and Barney all the fields and squirrels and sunshine and fresh air and fun they could possibly have. And a little less sorrow and a little more peace for you. :)

    P.S. Might you be willing to send a little of your husband's adventurousness my way? My husband does not possess adventurousness. And it's taken our sixth move in seven years (to Utaahhhh--yes, that's a whine) for me to realize I'd like a little more of it! Living in Paris and reading about you living in NYC makes me realize I could do with a little more city adventure. Karl? Not so much. Siiiigghhhhh. I'd happily embrace life a little closer to SLC even. Karl? Not so much. SIIIGHHHHH.

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  5. This may not be your happiest post, but I think it may be the best written and most heartfelt of them all. I love it.

    I hope you can always have the good memories of your pups!

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  6. I understand about the ache in your heart, and the knowledge that obvious does not equal easy. My fiancé and I broke up two months ago tomorrow, and while I know it’s the right decision (he’s not LDS and I am, he doesn’t want babies and I crave them with every ounce of my 26 year old being), I still can’t help crying myself to sleep or picturing myself with his family in their little green living room… But you are much braver than I. I fled from everything that reminded me of the one I loved and moved across the country, hoping physical distance would mend my heart. You, you seem to embrace everything around you and strive to make this very moment better, even though your heart feels like it is completely gone. I always look forward to your posts, as silly as that sounds, because it reminds me that there is hope in the future, so thanks!

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  7. Even though this post makes me sad, the thing I love about it is that it is so beautiful the way you can be so open leaving your heart out there for anyone to see;

    I hope no one leaves any rude comments, anyone who reads this would know without a doubt that what you did came from a place of love.

    In all of your posts, even back to that first day of shopping in target buying too much to carry home, it is obvious that you have always had the heart of a mother and a mother does what has to be done for those she loves.

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  8. You are an amazing writer, Nat. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing your ideas, your sorrows, your memories, and your joys. You truly brighten my day :)

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  9. Beautiful writing Natalie- it was not easy but so many things aren't.

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  10. Stunning really! Stopped me...a lover of other peoples animals...in my tracks and brought tears in my eyes for you. You have an incredible way with words...something that I will forever long to be able to achieve.
    Bless your short, but oh so big soul!

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  11. Change is so hard. Sometimes I miss my husband's and my days in Idaho when we were first married, in school, with few cares in the world. Now, we have 2 dogs, a house and the Mr. is still in school. I literally cried reading your post. It's so hard giving up those you love. But, they are in a better place and that is hopefully what can help get you through this change!

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  12. oh nat, this is so beautifully written! i'm reliving, in the best kind of way, the heartache of having to give up my own first furbaby as a result of so much change. that sweet little ball of black and white got me through all those terrible years of infertility and hard decisions, but like you, we couldn't provide the life she deserved when we moved to a big city and a tiny yardless apartment. she's now with a loving family that my parents know which i'm so happy about, but as i look at my two littles (TWO! after all that struggle!) i hope that someday, with more change, they'll know the love and love and love and more unconditional love that comes from a dog.

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  13. What a beautiful tribute to a painful time. As with all things difficult, this too will pass. You are doing what is best for your whole family, including the dogs. Take comfort in your little fella right now. I'm sure he's a great distraction!

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  14. So, I bawled through this whole thing. We tried for 5 years to have a baby and finally had to move to adopt our son. I tried so very hard to keep my fur babies but after a year at my mom's house we had to move again and it just didn't work out. I had a Jack Russel that couldn't be kept in a yard and was spiraling out of control for lack of human interaction. I couldn't keep him in the house with us like I wanted, we live with my husbands elderly Grandmother. He was just so needy and so very cute and the best Jack Russel ever. I knew I had to let him go to someone who could give him what he needed. Hardest thing ever. I couldn't keep him miserable, chained up and wanting to eat goats in the back yard though.
    I know some people have given you a hard time for your decision, but it really is better for them. They deserve that chance to live a happy doggie life and I think it speaks volumes that you put your own desires aside and did what was best for them. Hang in there, it gets easier to deal with, but you will never forget them and stop loving them. I have people who don't understand why I get so upset about a dog, but I don't think they understand the void that they fill when you are wanting a family so very badly.
    If anybody is mean, they just don't understand, and you really did what was best because you love them so much.

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  15. I could have written this. I had to give away my baby Springer Spaniel Oscar when we moved from the countryside to London. We had a flat with a garden but it was so different to what he was used to - he wasn't a city dog, not at all - and he was unhappy.

    He now lives in Devon, on a 21 acre farm, where he is never required to wear a lead and he can spend days and days rolling around in fox poo. We have been to visit him and he is the happiest dog I have ever seen.

    It was the right thing to do but that didn't mean my heart wasn't breaking.

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  16. What a great post, so well written. It truley is remarkable to think of a time before kids, and what dreams you had and how kids just change everything (for the better). We struggle to keep up with our pets now and I feel bad I dont spend more time with them, but I am not going to spend less time with my son to make my puppy a little happier. I feel for you.

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  17. Oh. I'm just crying. I am not a dog lover, but I have so much sympathy for your situation. I'm sure you did what you had to do, but even knowing that it was the right thing certainly doesn't make it any easier. Hang in there. Maybe time will take away some of the sting.

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  18. This post is beautifully written, the bittersweet is almost dripping off my screen.

    Just beautiful.

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  19. Ah, this was the wrong post to read at work. Did you know that I'm terribly nostalgic? That line from You've Got Mail never fails to tug my heart strings, and one line from "sunrise, sunset" brings me to tears. I actually started flipping out on our walk to church yesterday when I realized that 2011 is halfway over, meaning the end is near and endings make me sad.

    Anyway, because this is about you not me, this post is beautifully written and very touching. Your emotional depth is incredible, and your ability to convey that depth on paper (or on a blog) is even more incredible. I hope you eat lots of cookies, twizzlers and Dr. Brown's Diet Black Cherry Vanilla soda this week.

    North Meets South

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  20. Giving up your animals is never an easy thing. Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written.

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  21. So lovingly written. Your posts always bring me happiness, and I hope that you can have some of that back today, along with some peace. You're a good mom, to both kinds of your babies.

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  22. I am thisclose to tears. I've been here a long time, following your blog and your life... from before, when Henry wasn't yet a twinkle in your eyes, to now. You loved those furbabies of yours with all the fierceness you had. No one could ever doubt it. And you are loving them just as fiercely now, even if it means letting them go.

    There have been so many chapters in your life, and this is just another one that will make up the story of Natalie and her Holbrook family. Cheesy, oh yes, but true. Just think about what Anne Shirley would do.

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  23. I am not a dog girl but what a sweet post. My heart goes out to you. I'm sure the furdogs are grieving for you in their own doggy way.

    You described beautifully the nostalgic feelings of remembering a life that has passed.

    Time; what a thief you are.

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  24. Awww. :( Beautifully written and so sad. I'll tell you something my Mama always tells me that is so true (even when it doesn't feel like it in the moment). This too, shall pass. I hope each day gets easier for your little family.

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  25. Wow you have such an ability to write. I love reading your thoughts. Best of luck getting through it all...:)

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  26. I will get pummeled for challenging such a beautifully written post... I just think when you adopt animals it's forever except in obviously extreme circumstances. Living in NYC isn't one of them as millions of dogs live and thrive there.

    This should be viewed as a cautionary tale for young and unsettled people everywhere. Please don't adopt animals until you are certain of your ability to have this animal thru it's life. Our shelters are filled bc of these all too familiar circumstances.

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  27. What a beautiful post. I commend you for making the right decision for your furbabies, even though it hurts a lot right now.

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  28. Wow, very beautiful writing. And now I'm crying, have to pull myself together before dinner time! Sorry about this hard time you have to go through.

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  29. very well-written. that's such a good way to think of change, particularly a painful one - that somewhere, inside of us, inside of our pasts, that era of our lives will live forever. i hope you do ok this week. make henry give you hugs upon hugs.

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  30. My heart goes out to you. I'm so very sorry for your pain. I'm so very proud of you for your courage and devotion to all the members of your family.

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  31. i am the opposite of being a dog person and this just broke my heart.

    hope you find some peace very soon.

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  32. my heart is aching for you...

    @ tate- this is no time for a life lesson. What happened to your heart?

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  33. Nat, I've never before cried at a blog post. I'm so sorry about your doggies... I'm hugging mine a little tighter. It's so hard. I wish you all the best.

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  34. It's so amazing that you can write something so beautiful about an experience so painful. You're extremely talented.

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  35. My husband is wondering why I am crying . . . but I can't explain it. This is beautiful!

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  36. Love love love love! And love some more. You make me want to get my butt writing!
    Linked you: http://scorpionsojourn.blogspot.com/2011/07/all-stories-even-ones-we-love-must.html

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  37. this made me cry. a lot. I can only imagine how hard it would be to give my little Lola bug to a new family. That was a very brave and selfless act..and i applaud you for it.

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  38. This is beautifully written. You are a really talented author.

    I'm so sorry for your aching change. My heart hurts for you. Sending some good vibes and happiness your way.

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  39. Oh nat, be very very gentle with your big heart this week. Thinking of you and the dogs xxxx

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  40. I found a lovely story that I think is suitable for your current situation: http://www.joshharris.com/2011/07/spurgeons_story_of_the_gardner.php

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  41. Beautifully written. This must have been so hard for you and I am sorry you had to deal with this. You really do have a big heart.

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  42. You are a brave and beautiful girl and Barnaby MacDuff and Peter Pan were very happy to have had you as their Mama.

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  43. I agree, your best post ever. Take care of yourself this week, cry as much as possible and let your bewildered little child wrap his arms around you. Nothing sweeter than a mother crying onto her sweet little baby. You've done a hard thing, I hope you are careful with yourself for a while!

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  44. So wonderfully written, Nat. Wishing you guys all the best during this painful time. :-(

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  45. Did you leave near U of I? In Moscow, Idaho?

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  46. You said something that I needed to hear more than anything today. Thank you for being wonderful, Natalie.

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  47. To tate,
    Isn't it one of the properties of life that circumstances are never sure, especially for a span so long as a lifetime? It doesn't jump straight from 'dogs are expendable' to 'dogs are almost literally your children.' There is some space in between.

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  48. That is just how Anne Shirley would have written it.

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  49. i'm totally not a pet person, but i really recognize this was a hard loss for you. i can relate to the sacrifices we make to live in a city. i hope you find new, surprising joy in this change.

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  50. oh honey, make me cry. beautiful writing, on all these heart wrenching posts.

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  51. you are so brave and this was a beautiful tribute...in a world where there are no clear answers, i think that you did the only thing that you could do: the thing that made the most sense for your family today. i'm so sorry. please take comfort in knowing your dogs will be just the ticket for someone else, somewhere else. take care, and sending you hugs.

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  52. Sweet, sweet post. I'm sitting in my cubicle hoping no one notices my tears.

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  53. In all its sadness, this post is absolutely beautiful Nat.

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  54. Gorgeous writing from a big heart. You did your dogs, and your family, proud. Be well and proud of yourself for making the hard choice, but the one that is right for all of you. Hugs.

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  55. phew....a good cry feels good. thank you and big hug

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  56. Been following you for about six months now, Natalie, and this is the best post from you yet. Big hug and warm thoughts from California.

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  57. Okay Nat the Rat (who is sooo not fat)...this post made me get teary eyed and pretty much cry. And even before you even mentioned Moscow. It was the doggies. Thinking of you.

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  58. Oh this had me in tears. I'm thinking of you and your family and sending prayers your way.

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  59. like the others this made me cry, you are a beautiful writer Natalie, since having a baby i sometimes don't recognise myself (sometimes literally after a long night lol)I find myself sometimes grieving for my old life and then when i get a taste for it, not always liking it. I had lunch with some friends all of which dont have children and i felt like i was in high school, the bitchiness and backstabbing made me want to get up and run. Is this what i used to be like? I think the best thing about having my son is that i am actively trying to be a better person, for him, for me and for the world that i brought him into.I am not really sure why i am sharing all of this maybe because you were so honest x Anyways big hugs from Scotland from me and my chubby baby x

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  60. i'm so sorry for your loss.

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  61. Breathtakingly beautiful. Your writing captures the exact feeling of nostalgia and grieving that I've gone through in moving on, too. Thanks for writing...

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  62. You sweet, dear person. That was some beautiful writing, it touched me deeply. I frequently doubt the ability of the internet to truly connect people, but those lovely words I just read are evidence to the contrary. Brava.

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  63. All these people are congratulating you...I don't know why. First you buy a dog from a breeder, as if that isn't enough you give up said dog! There are 4 million shelter animals killed every year for lack of homes. Rest assured, you have greatly contributed to that problem. Hopefully you will make more responsible decisions in the future. I received my cattle dog from a family that had a baby, it took her 2 years to adjust to a new life...so I hope you marinate on the gravity of giving up a dog. While they may have difficulty in the city it was better for their emotional well-being to stay with their parents then whatever becomes of them now. That is all.

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  64. All these people are congratulating you...and I know why. You brought two dogs into your life and after much selfless consideration, gave them to two loving new homes, not a shelter. There are now 2 dogs with great homes. Rest assured, you have greatly contributed to their well-being and happiness. Hopefully you will be able to hear how they're doing in the future. I received my German Shepherd/Collie dog from a family that had a baby, and it took her 2 weeks to adjust to her awesome new life...so I hope you realize it will probably take the same little amount of time for your furbabies as well. You knew it was better for them all around to leave the city and become country dogs because you were their devoted parent and only wanted the best. That is all. <3

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  65. This might be my favorite post yet. Bravo Nat, bravo.

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  66. I love how people are so quick to offer their 'words of wisdom'...ie "You did this? I would never do this. I would never do this in a million years."

    Translation: "I am so much better than you. Can I just take a moment to tell everyone how much better than you I am?"

    Calm down, everyone. Let's all go watch You've Got Mail and take a deep breath.

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  67. Nat, I'm just now commenting on this post because I'm just now reading it. (Shame on me!) I think this is your best-written post yet. So heartfelt and strong and weak too. Emotional. Sensitive. Loving. Motherly. Everything.

    I hadn't read this as of yesterday, but I had skimmed a few lines when I had a quick chance. And wouldn't you know... a few hours later my {very} pregnant little sister called, crying, to tell me she was preparing to find a new home for her beloved furbaby for similar reasons. Plans have changed for her and her husband and, with a baby on the way, it just doesn't always work out like we hoped. I suggested she read this post to help her cope, even though I hadn't read it all yet, and she said, "I already did. It helps to know I'm not the only one."

    So thanks for writing this. It's beautiful and real. Sending my love. You did the right thing.

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  68. Isn't it liberating to know that not everyone has to agree with you? That you and your husband get to pick what's best for your family? That what's right for you might be completely wrong for someone else? And that's okay? I love that. All dogs go to heaven anyways and I am sure they will pick you when given the opportunity. Obviously they will.

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  69. i don't know you. you don't know me. however, i'm proud of the decision you made that was right for you and your family. i empathize with your heartache, and i understand what you have been through. within the last few months, (for many reasons) we also let one of our dogs live with my a new family. as much as the pain ripped us apart, and the tears flowed, and the guilt hammered....time has passed and our resolve has taken root. it was the best decision for him and us. sometimes your best intentions can't read the future when you first open your heart to a furry love. i'm proud of you and your choice.

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  70. Once upon a time I had a baby. But then we bought a new house, and the baby just didn't fit in. My baby liked to crawl on carpet and the new house had hardwood floors. The kitchen was too small for a high chair. So inconvenient! Plus, my husband and I are really busy with our jobs. So we made the ultimate loving, selfless decision and turned our baby over to foster care. I sure hope foster care finds a good home for him! Sure we loved him, and he loved us, but that is not what it's about, right?

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  71. To Jenni and others defending Nat- she received 73 comments on a blog post about giving up dogs she originally bought from breeders. Yet only one of them was negative, and the others were very supportive. I don't think one negative comment in 73 is worth getting all defensive about...

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  72. Oh Natalie. I am so sorry for all this pain. Sometimes the right decisions are the ones that hurt so very badly. I loved reading this post.

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  73. Beautiful post, Natalie. While I've never owned or given away an animal baby, I do understand what it's like to mourn for a past life. My husband and I moved to Washington DC from Small Town, Utah and we nostalgically look back at our simple little life all the time. It's like my dad always says: we cry because we'll never pass this way again. Thank you for sharing this.

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  74. Wow. I am so sad for your family right now. I have no plans of giving away any of my animals, but sometimes that's not even up to us. It was a good reminder that my time with them is limited, and I should appreciate the time we do have now.

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  75. Beautiful, Nat. You are one gifted writer and as i have mostly read current entries in the last few months this is one of the only "essays" I have read and I now see why you are one of THOSE bloggers rockin it at AltaSummit. :):)
    Catching up on your grown=up life is fun and a big change from your strep throat days in Trumbull. :):)
    Cant imagine giving away my Lab in order to be a mommy and live somewhere new.
    Keep sharing with all your heart. fun to see you have found happiness and peace and that you are inspiring others with your spark.
    xxxx
    Keri Bryant

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