What my best friend taught me about sacrifice.

I’m eight months into my completely new life in New York City at a dream job spending time with amazing people and discovering new things about myself as I continue to adjust to the transition. I’m happy, I’m thriving and I’m growing.

When I got the opportunity to move to New York from Texas, it was a no-brainer decision. I had been coming to the city pretty regularly for the past year and I had a strong desire to permanently make it my home. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. The decision to bring my best friend Roxy with me (the world’s most amazing chocolate lab) was a little bit tougher.

As I weighed the pros and cons of bringing her with me the decision was mostly focused on my own needs. “Would she get in the way of my job? Was a dog walker going to be expensive? Would I be unhappy if I left her in Texas instead?” I carefully analyzed all of the ways that bringing her to the city might potentially affect my life.

Of course I considered how she might handle life in New York too. I made sure I was close to the river so we could go running in the morning (but later learned that dogs can’t relieve themselves on the grass in Hudson River Park. Something I discovered after we moved, of course!) I researched veterinarians, groomers and boarding options religiously to make sure everything would go smoothly.

I mostly remember thinking “this is my dog, of course she’s coming with me.” The thought of leaving her behind was something I was just not willing to stomach. I was determined to try and make it work.

Moving up

So we made the trek halfway across the country, Roxy crammed in the backseat of my SUV. When we finally made it to my 300 sqft studio in the West Village I immediately dropped her off at a boarding facility so I could unpack and explore the neighborhood. I didn’t want her to be afraid when I left her alone for the first time in the new place right after getting there. So to “protect” her, I brought her to a different new place for the weekend instead.

The first two weeks of living in New York were taxing on me. I took Roxy on big runs in the morning (even though it was freezing cold), I got to work early and I left at a reasonable time so that I could take her out again at night. I was “making it work”. She got to go to the bathroom twice a day and I got to have my cool dog in New York.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were both suffering a little bit with the new arrangement. I wasn’t focusing enough on the work that I came to the city to do, disappointed that I wasn’t capitalizing on the opportunity as much as I had envisioned when I had originally signed on. Roxy happily followed me on this journey, but was quickly turning into a liability that had to be fed, watered and loved more than I had time or space for.

To make things a little easier on her (and for me) I found a dog walker to share the responsibility of ensuring Roxy’s well-being, something which lightened my load for a few weeks. I started to think that we were actually going to make it at this point. I didn’t think much about whether or not this was the right thing to do. Just that it was working for now. I was able to work much longer hours, Roxy was able to go out more and we got to hang out on the rare occurrences that I was actually home.

Fast forward a few weeks and add a rigorous spring travel schedule to the mix and my concern for Roxy’s welfare (and for my wallet) surfaced again. I had found my favorite boarding place, so there was no question that Roxy would have somewhere to stay (so long as I was willing to pay the hefty bill). But when I tallied up the days I would be gone versus the number of days I would be home, I was overcome with the grim reality that by taking Roxy with me on the journey to New York that I had actually abandoned her in the process.

This kind of situation isn’t isolated to humans and their pets. It permeates our personal relationships as we give and take from our loved ones and friends as it suits our schedule and needs. The fine line of “what’s best for you” and “what’s best for me” gets blurrier as we wait for things to just get better.

With great opportunity comes great sacrifice — and up until this point Roxy was the only one having to make one. I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a three year old lab but they need lots of space, attention and love. The first two things completely absent in New York and the last thing something which I’m still trying to truly understand.

I finally had to face the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Roxy needed a new home. And a permanent one.

Moving forward

There was an amazing young couple who had been on the hunt for a big dog to join their new family in Connecticut. Their new home had a big backyard, was one block from the ocean and it had two people who were willing to take on the responsibility of caring for the world’s most amazing chocolate lab.

I’ll never forget the night I met them in my apartment to see if it was going to be a good fit. Luckily for me, my friend came over for moral support before they arrived. I really don’t know if I would have survived it alone. I hadn’t fully accepted the fact this was actually going to happen until we all sat on the floor together enjoying Roxy’s companionship and excitement. The young couple keenly aware and sensitive to the difficulty I was having letting go and doing their best to be compassionate about the situation.

Moving on

A week later I rented a car and headed up the coast for a two hour drive which was going to be completely different, sobering and lonely on the way back. We cruised with the windows down, Roxy’s big goofy head outside enjoying the cool air.

I remember how I felt that morning. And there’s no doubt that you’ve felt the same way before too. I thought about everything that I could have done differently. Was I overreacting? I thought about turning the car around a few times. Things could be different if I gave it just one more chance. The magnitude of my loss starting to settle in. I cried.

As soon as the front door opened Roxy ran through the house and straight into the backyard. She circled the tree line like a maniac at full speed for a solid five minutes until she finally stopped to smell her new friends and investigate every nook and cranny of her new home. I tried my best to smile and make small talk, but facing the finality of this decision was taking a toll on me really fast. I had already taken some time with Roxy just a few minutes earlier and had said my goodbyes then. I told her new owners some last minute details and then showed myself out.

Leaving her the last time was exactly like leaving her for the very first time. She cried and scratched the door and poked her head out the window furiously, not really understanding that I wasn’t ever coming back. I tried not to look. This was best for her.

Man’s best friend

Dogs practice unconditional love, always willing to forgive us for our shortcomings. No matter how late we come home they’re always smiling, wagging their tails and jumping up to show affection without ever really requiring much in return. We never have to admit when we’re wrong or ask for their forgiveness.

We can’t expect the same thing from our loved ones or friends. Love and friendship are gifts which require attention and care. We’re not afforded the same latitude when it comes to being shortsighted or making mistakes. Though we have the ability to forgive each other from time to time, it’s a license that eventually expires, especially when we’re careless.

Roxy never expressed how lame it was for her in New York. And it took me a long time to understand what she really needed and how I could be a good friend to her too. Luckily, she’s likely forgiven me by now and is too busy chasing squirrels around the backyard to care anymore. I took care of Roxy since she was eight weeks old and even though letting her go was one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do — it ended up being the best, most generous thing I did.

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