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The worst breakup of my life was devastating for me not because of the
feelings of personal loss over the relationship with the man I was with, but
because of the sheer heartache I felt in having to separate my Pugs Willy
The Pugs are yin and yang, polar opposites in personality and looks
but connected at a deep level since puppyhood. They share a relationship I
can describe only as being the best of friends. I was so upset at the prospect
of separating the two that I considered staying in the relationship
“for the sake of the kids.” But alas, knowing the separation was inevitable, I faced
the reality that I would take one of the Pugs while my former partner
took the other. The day we parted caused unbearable grief. Through nearly
uncontrollable sobs, I clung to Willy, who had taken me on years before as his
human companion of choice. I couldn’t explain to him what was happening or why
in a way that he understood.
I know from my years of experience as a dog trainer and from working
in the veterinary setting with my veterinarian father that change and loss can be triggers for behavior problems, in particular anxiety-
and stress-induced issues. Dogs both perceive
and emotionally react to change and loss, as can be evidenced by increased depression- or anxiety-based behaviors. Each of
the Pugs displayed their stress in manners that were distinct from their norms,
with Willy becoming sullen and withdrawn and Bruce being overly anxious and
unable to settle when I visited him. The few months apart were difficult for
both dogs, and even though other canine friendships were struck, no other dogs seemed to fill the void.
Much to my relief, my previous partner noticed the stress in Bruce,
and in an act I’m forever thankful for, agreed to give him to me. The reunion
was one of monumental proportions, with both dogs’ entire bodies wagging in joy
and tongues licking one another in exuberant greeting. They bounded into the backyard with triumphant leaps and what looked like a
dance of joy.
Since being reunited, the Pugs have not left one another’s
sides and take on life as if it’s a team effort. At the doggie day care, the Pugs
are staff favorites simply because the folks there have never seen
two dogs so close. Willy and Bruce are constantly touching, squishing into
only one-eighth of a giant bed so they can be cuddled together rather than
spaced apart. All the details of life seem best if done together for them; sniffing, exploring, playing and grooming are done in sync. Though Bruce is the
athletic meathead who has more brawn than brain, choosing to act first and
think later, and Willy is the brainy Einstein dog who puts many Border Collies
to shame with his ability to think, they join their personalities to form a "collective dog" with the best of both their qualities.
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