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Doing Our Best: Lessons From Buster the Wonderpup

I've been pretty quiet in the blogspace lately. Life has been harder than usual lately. I saw a puppy running down the side of the highway one day on my way to my outside-the-house job. Of course I stopped, thinking he would be too scared to come to me, but as soon as I called "Hey puppy!", he stopped, and came running. That was a little over a month ago.

We called him Buster and I brought him home with the intentions of finding him a good home. And then he was just the best boy. He was so smart, and he had our older dogs playing tug-o-war, wrestling, and overall teaching him how to be the goodest of boys. He came to the shop with me and even had a sleepover with one of my coworkers and her little boy.

And then one day, little Buster started throwing up his food. Not every time, but he also wasn't eating as much as a puppy should. And then he wasn't eating at all--or drinking. My biggest fear was parvo, though I'd had his first go-round of shots, just in case he hadn't had any. Negative. Positive for all the kinds of worms, no blockage shown on the x-ray, but lots of gas. We don't have the resources for $1,000+ surgeries or vet bills on puppies that I found on the side of the road, so we took little Buster home with a 3-day worm treatment, and the intentions of keeping him hydrated and nourished as much as we could with a syringe, hoping that was the source of his food refusal and once the worms were treated, he'd come back around.

To make a long, sad story short, little Buster didn't make it. He passed peacefully early yesterday morning while I stroked his fragile little body and told him how brave and how strong he was, and how much fun he was going to have with all the other good dogs waiting for him on the other side of the rainbow bridge. <excuse me while I go get a tissue>

I believe that he had a blockage of some kind. He was passing some stool, so it wasn't total, but it was enough. Here's the list of things I am beating myself up over: not having him wormed immediately when I brought him home--I can get wormer from the feed store that is two blocks from my house. Bringing home a rope toy from the shop that he and the other dogs played with (rope toys are notorious for causing bowel obstructions in dogs). Not picking up the tug-o-war sock and throwing it away when they started to tear pieces of it off as they played. Giving them the sock to play tug-o-war with in the first place. Not having the money to have had surgery to look and try to remove whatever it was. Not having him euthanized sooner so that he didn't have to suffer for so long.

But here's the thing: I know I did my best. Life is full of "I wish I had or had not done X", especially if you're a parent. And if you're a parent who has made the difficult decision to leave an abusive relationship and then had to share custody with your abuser while you watch that person continue to manipulate and emotionally abuse your kids, the list will likely be longer than normal, and can swing from "I wish I'd never left because now I can't protect them from him" to "I wish I hadn't waited so long to leave".

"I wish I hadn't agreed to let my child go live with their abusive parent, I wish I'd insisted that my kids stay in therapy, I wish I'd understood the scope of what they were experiencing. I wish I'd understood trauma and what was happening. I wish I had talked more about feelings and what is healthy and what wasn't. I wish I hadn't tried to have conversations that they weren't ready for." The list goes on and you'll certainly have your own that is unique and just as disheartening.

There's a Maya Angelou quote that says "When you know better, you do better" and I know this is the truth. I also know that when you look back on what you did do, and you know better now, you have to give yourself some grace. When you're faced with decisions like "Do I let my teen, who is becoming increasingly hostile towards me, go live with their other parent, even though I know it is unhealthy and will cause more damage?", remember that no matter what you do, you'll likely always question whether it was the right thing. Was it better to let them go and have their own experiences to learn first-hand? Or better to fight it and deal with the resentment and continued disrespect you're getting from them? Until there's a time machine where you can go back and make the other decision to see how that works out, you can't ever know (and come on, would you really want to go back and do it all again anyway?).

I'm looking out my office window and I can see the mound of fresh dirt out next to the dog runs where we buried little Buster. Buster made big impacts in this world and on the people that got to love him for the time that he was here. I'll always be sad that he didn't get the chance to grow up and be the best boy and I'll never have another rope toy or sock for tug-o-war in this house. I'll just add this to the list of regrets or things I wish had gone differently. But I'll also add it to the list of things that added joy, love, and healing to my life. How can you regret that?

I didn't become a post separation abuse divorce coach because I did everything right or have all the answers. I became a coach because I understand the experience. I can't tell you what the 'right' thing to do is in any given situation, but I can help you wade through the mess and figure out what feels right for you in the moment. I can share my experience, or experiences of others in similar situations, and remind you when you need it that you are doing your best.

That's really all we ever can do. I'm so sorry that my best wasn't good enough this time, little Buster. Snoop just found the ball you and he were playing with so gently in my office not all that long ago. It made me smile (and also need another tissue).

May we all give ourselves the grace and love we deserve while we're out here doing our best.

RIP Buster, The Best Boy

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