Today I had to drag my sick, achy ass down to my Iowa Workforce Development office (i.e. unemployment office) to sign a paper about getting my hearing aids. Neither rain nor sleet nor creeping crud was going to keep me from completing this task. But it was hardly the in-and-out-done errand that I anticipated.
I was asked to take a seat at a table a little uncomfortably close to a job counselor and another female client. I can’t eavesdrop on someone’s conversation. I couldn’t hear any of their conversation except one part when she said (had to be loudly because hello, I heard it!) “I can’t leave without my dog!” and sobbed. For a moment, I was sucked back in time.
One reason a woman may refuse to leave an abusive relationship that you may not have thought of before is because they can’t take their pet or don’t have anyone who can take it/them. Do you think if someone is abusing you, that they would hesitate to abuse something/someone near and dear to you, such as your dog or cat? Fluffy or Fido; that’s the first thing on the mind of an abused woman and the last thing on the mind of everyone else. If I leave, what will happen to them?
As this woman cried quietly, I closed my eyes for just a moment and I was back there. Packing quickly, my heart thumping wildly in fear. Since I didn’t even have time to get boxes, I was just throwing things into black garbage bags; breathing so ragged, I was working through a stitchy cramp in my side. I threw all those bags out the back door onto the snow-dusted porch for my step-dad to pick up shortly; I would already be on my way out of town. Before I left, I thought, what will I do with the puppy? I paused a moment and thought, his family won’t let him hurt the puppy, no matter how enraged he was going to be when he found I was not home. We lived with his mom and dad and two brothers, and I felt that they would take care of him until I could send friends for him in a few days.
The wave of crisis rose and fell that weekend. I left. Police were called, tearful conversations were had, promises that had rang empty in the past waived their tattered banners for the final time. This time I had made sure that I didn’t meet him alone while I knew I still couldn’t trust my own judgement. Yet I felt free for the first time in almost five years.
The people who I was staying with had agreed to let me have my puppy with me at their house, and my best friend and his father went out to The Girl Beater’s house to get him. I waited for them to return, still reveling in the rather exhilarating feelings, almost manic, that I hadn’t had in years. As I emptied black bags and put things away, I had a small nagging doubt niggling in the back of my mind, but I batted it away, determined to enjoy my new found lightness of being. I heard the truck rumble up the driveway and I hurried out, anxious to see my pup after five days away from him.
But something was wrong.
My best friend and his dad walked up to the front porch where I had burst out of the door, cold air zinging my lungs.
As they raised their faces yet said nothing, I knew.
It was too late. He was gone.
I shook my head, hard, angry at the tears that were squeezing from my eyes. My best friend’s dad hugged me close and let me cry. “We buried him properly. We’ll take you to say goodbye.” he almost whispered, as my best friend wiped tears from both sides of the top of his nose, guy-style. “I’m so sorry, honey,” he said.
They told me later that The Girl Beater, his mother, his father, and two adult brothers had simply put the puppy in the basement and ceased to provide water and food. You see, those were the “consequences” of my leaving without making arrangements for his care and feeding. Five adults listened to a puppy cry until he couldn’t anymore.
I opened my eyes, the moment over; and was almost surprised at my surroundings, the flashback was so vivid. The woman was still crying quietly. The counselor sat across from her, cool and detached. My guy popped around the corner and said, “Hey, Dory, you ready?”
I got up and on the way back down the hallway, I shook, just a couple jerks, as if I could shake off those old recollections.