Dogs I Have Loved, Men I Have Left

Charlie (Photo by Author)

Twice now, I’ve been married. Twice now, I’ve been divorced. Makes me wonder — actually it makes me think — that I may not be such a great wife.

I used to think — before the second divorce — that I was infinitely patient, endlessly charming and loving, and had no issues with intimacy. I suspect now I was wrong.

Or perhaps patience, charm, and love are not enough to sustain a marriage. Who knows?

Or maybe I’m not really all that patient or charming.

Honestly, I lack the insight to determine how I, just an old Irish Catholic kid, ended up with two divorces. Certainly nothing I planned on. Yet, I suppose each divorce taught me something, imparted some level of wisdom. At least I’d hope so.

I do know the second divorce — a story demanding to be written — proved what I’d long suspected: That when it comes to men, I do better with dogs.

Dogs are loyal, affectionate, and don’t mind if I boss them around. In fact, they thrive when I step up and tell them what to do.

Men don’t.

In fact, the men I’ve known (the women, too) don’t really appreciate my telling them to keep their feet off the furniture, stop drooling on my leg, chasing the cats, or eating the kitty litter.

Men, by and large, want to live their lives free of my directives. And that’s cool. Doesn’t exactly gibe with my personality, yet I get it. Truly, I do. I resent being told what to do, as well.

But my dogs? Tell them to sit, they sit. Tell them to roll over, they roll over. Speak, speak. And my all-time favorite: tell them to play dead, they play dead. For hours.

Perhaps — and this is only speculation — if either of my husbands had known how to “play dead” for hours at a time, maybe we’d still be married.

Maybe.

Then again, maybe dogs are simply a better fit for me.

I’ve yet to have a dog tell me I use too much toilet paper or buy me a vacuum cleaner for our anniversary. I’ve never had a dog refuse to go for a walk or fail to greet me when I come home.

Dogs just seem to “get” me. They place few demands on me. If I feed them, play with them, pet them and tell them what good boys (or girls) they are, they’re happy.

And when they’re happy, I’m happy, which explains why I’ve had dogs nearly all my life and why I’ve spent the past 20 years rescuing them.

Many of these rescues have broken my heart.

The latest? Charlie. He’s a 13-year-old Pekingese. His first owner had suffered a heart attack when Charlie was still a young dog. He was lucky: a relative stepped up and adopted Charlie, but then that relative got older, developed health problems, and could no longer take care of him.

That’s where I came in.

A friend contacted me, explained the situation, and asked if I could take Charlie just for a few weeks. I agreed. And when my friend cautioned me that Charlie didn’t like dogs and didn’t like people, I told her he sounded like my kind of dog. Troubled.

(Actually, maybe that’s the problem I have with men. I gravitate always to the ones who are troubled. Sigh.)

So I took in Charlie. His previous owners adored him, had pictures of him on every wall in their house. He was an “only” dog, and he had to somehow learn to get along with my existing pack of three. He’s done all right, not great, but then he’s a Pekingese. They tend to be belligerent. Not exactly an endearing trait.

Charlie, in all likelihood, came from a backyard breeder, who didn’t take the care s/he should have. Charlie had his left eye surgically removed when he was a puppy. Because of his flat face, the eye was already protruding and needed to be removed. He has a heart murmur and bad knees. And a few months ago, he got attacked by a coyote. He survived, but still… His problems, his history — they make me sad.

Yet, I’m grateful, he’s in my life, grateful he’s on the couch next to me, his head leaning against my leg.

Charlie. (Photo by Author)

I’ve been writing since I was in second grade in Bay City, Michigan, home of Madonna. I write everything from fiction to memoir to screenplays to book reviews.

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