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The Cost of Pets in a Divorce: Gypsy as Innocent Collateral

Howdy friend,

I aimed to write about my current dog, Huck, but I couldn’t introduce Huck without explaining Gypsy. So we’ll start with Gypsy. (I recognize this name is considered to offensive to some, and I mean no harm in my meaning in this context.)

Losing Gypsy was a cruel bargain in the divorce. She was my ex-husband’s dog, but she preferred females and we bonded quickly when he and I started dating. I was often the one to exercise her and tend to her, as he worked long hours with the post office and I worked at home / remotely. She and I were the best of pals. One night, early on when Ex and I were dating, she choked on a bone and I performed the Heimlich on her, which solidified our bond. She would go everywhere with me. She has this beard, and it was scraggly and needed to be groomed, but it was so endearing I couldn’t bring myself to cut it when she was in my care.

Gypsy loves being off-leash and in the water. Part border collie and terrier and something else, this 40-pound, 12-year old ball of energy showed no signs of slowing down. I dressed her in costumes and took silly photos with her around Denver. She’s peed in 3 national parks and in countless national forests all over the mountain west. She’s fetched tennis balls in lakes, rivers, streams. We designed our life and hobbies to ensure that Gypsy had a good life, too. 

I remember the night I conceded to myself that I needed to leave my marriage, regardless of what that would mean I lost. It was 2 months before I verbally communicated to him my intent to divorce. In the dark basement TV room, listening to another hour of Stevie Nicks or The National, I knew that I needed to get out, and that I was going to lose Gypsy, as she laid her head on my lap. 

I got on that plane in December and did not return until March, after he had packed his belongings and moved back to Colorado. I never fought my ex on Gypsy, she is his dog, and I am thankful my ex is compassionate enough to send me pictures, videos, and health updates after we split. I have even had the opportunity to FaceTime with her, or at least got to tell her via FaceTime how good of a girl she is since dogs have limited FaceTime understanding. 

Grieving my marriage and life was massive and all-encompassing, but losing a pet in the divorce was piercing. Gypsy and my relationship greatly served us both, and it felt cruel we had to lose one another because of my relationship with her owner. For days and weeks on end, I ugly-sobbed over losing that dog, my friend, and companion. Ex left me with the photo book I made two years before that was compiled of all of our travel photos with Gypsy, “narrated” by Gypsy. She was present for when Ex proposed. She was there when other people and other dogs died, when I changed careers, when I moved across the country. She was there for me, everyday, for 5 years, and no longer did I have that source of comfort. And on top of the loss of her presence in my life, was the weight of grieving the innocent collateral that comes during times such as these. Gypsy did nothing wrong, and yet her entire life was upended and she lost her ‘wolfpack’ because of our human fragilities. Gypsy had nothing but love for us both, and we failed her. Gypsy was innocent, but she lost, too. 

Selfishly, I felt validated and less alone when Ex said she didn’t eat or move much for the first month when she lost me. But, at her old age and our bond and exercise routine, I was concerned that divorcing would negatively affect the dog’s health. Can a dog die via heartbreak? If so, would I be responsible? Saving my life was going to cost me. And it did, painfully.  

I’m happy to report Gypsy is alive and well in Denver, living with Ex. Ex has gotten into Bike-packing, and she rides with him. Gypsy is okay, and she has moved on with Ex in their new life. And I have a new canine companion, Huck, who I will talk all about. 

I hope to see Gypsy if I am in Denver, but I don’t know what that would look like with Ex. I also don’t know if it’s healthy nor fair to me and Gypsy to re-engage.  

Dogs are so innocent. They just want a wolfpack to call their own. And while I feel justified in why I broke up the wolfpack, the harm I caused Gypsy and myself requires scar-tissue for me to live with the fact that I abandoned her.

For those who lost a pet in a romantic fallout, I hear you, I see you. That particular part of a romantic end is unfair to everyone. Our furry friends are our family members. We grieve for them as such. 

Thank you for listening.

Hug your dog for me, would ya?



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