Today I let Flirt go on a journey to a new life full of new adventures.
I’m raw and numb all at once. I can’t believe I really did it, even though given current life circumstances, it’s the obvious and most selfless choice. The home in question will do all of the things Flirt most loves and needs. It benefits her, her new handler/owner, and also us, as we will remain co-owners and enjoy seeing my training pay off as she earns titles and awards. I’m currently between homes, and it’s the responsible choice for everyone in my life, too. But, it’s still hard.
In the course of a life of a dog trainer, handler, rescuer, and breeder (and I’ve been all of these things), one will see, know, learn from, and love many dogs. There will always be the special ones, though.
First, there was the neighbor’s Golden Retriever that is why you love the breed to this day. He wasn’t yours, but you were absolutely his. You walked him every day, and became his pet-sitter, groomer, and trainer. He lived and breathed for 4PM every day, and so did you. You can’t think about him without tears, and even his owners wished they could have let you have him.
There was the show dog that belonged to your handler boyfriend’s mom when you were an older teenager, but adored you too. She was never yours, but you remember crying into her warm soft velvet ears when you and the boy had your first real argument, and you always wished you could have bought her.
There were the three Greyhounds (out of the thousands you handled in race kennels and doing adoption) that were never yours, but you were absolutely theirs. You won’t forget them, their warm brown eyes, and even many years later, you’ll recall their race names and little quirks. If you’re lucky, you’ll find out where they landed when they retired, and cry with their owners when they pass away.
Then there was pit bull foster that wanted to slay all nine of your other dogs when you were running your own rescue out in the country in your 20s, but was so kind and loving and loyal to you. He was such a damn good dog that you actually asked yourself if you could live with a crate and rotate situation for the next decade. He was never meant to be yours, but you were his.
Then the little golden who gave you everything, not the least of which is your kennel’s future, your new service prospect that’s even more suited to your needs than she is, a load of amazing experience training and whelping, and a lot of laughs and good times and love. You thought she was yours, but she has better things to do now. You’ll always be hers, either way.
Yes, if yours is a life like mine, there will be all these dogs, and more. There’s so many I didn’t even mention here, from elegant Salukis to the most unlikely street mutts. Every one of them shaped me, and my life.
My world has been so full of all the best good dogs, and when they move on, be it by my choice or not, I like to think we made a difference to each other. I like to believe that when I send one off to the next stage of his life, he takes a piece of the best part of me and shares it with whichever human is lucky enough to be the next one in his life.
On that note, I’m sharing a bacon cheeseburger with my Whippet, watching Willow and Fontana snooze after a long snowy run, and remembering that with any luck, I have a long life of dogs ahead of me, ready to make me theirs and teach me more about myself, and dogs, than I can imagine.
Good dog, Flirt. See you in the ribbons.