When it comes to love, animals are infinitely easier than humans. They are easier to love, they love more easily, and the only way they can break one's heart is to take that final walk over the Rainbow Bridge.
The first animal I lost devastated me. She was also the first animal I completely connected with. I love all animals, but some are just special and connect with our hearts differently. It's the same with people, I think. We can be kind to each other and tolerate each other - love thy neighbor, God says - but that doesn't mean one wants to be friends with everyone. In that same vein, I love all animals, but that doesn't mean I want to own all of them (and definitely not the wretched beast with the high-pitched yap barking outside my back door all morning).
I met Colleen when I was fourteen. I had just started volunteering at the animal shelter. I had always wanted a dog, though my parents forbid it which was their right, of course. My dad wasn't a fan of big dogs and my mom didn't want the responsibility. That would change a few years later when my first shepherd, Flag, came into our lives and my father cried harder when he died than any of the rest of us.
But I digress.
I went to work one morning and found a tiny tri-color collie puppy in one of the kennels, all alone. She looked at me, I looked at her, and I was immediately hit with that thunderbolt of love at first sight. I've only felt that one other time, and not even with Puckett. After I finished my chores I spent a good hour in the kennel with her, snuggling her and keeping her company. My coworkers laughed and teased me about "spoiling the puppy." Even my mom cooed over her when she came to pick me up.
For four weeks, I couldn't wait to get to the animal shelter every day so I could play with Colleen. She imprinted on me and when I let her out of her kennel, she followed me everywhere. She played with the other puppies, but she never let me get too far out of her sight. When she was in her kennel she watched me go about my business, her eyes following me as I worked back and forth in the kennel area. Logically, I know this pup imprinted on me because she was four weeks old, barely weaned, and orphaned with no littermates, and I was the first person who offered attention, comfort, and love to her in a strange cold place. Emotionally, I know that's a load of crap. That puppy adored me and the feeling was mutual. She was mine in every sense of the word but legally. Even my mom and coworkers commented that Colleen never seemed to take her eyes off me.
My dad wouldn't let me adopt her and I cried for two days. I don't blame my dad. He's not as empathic or emotional as I am, and he doesn't attach as easily. It is what it is, but once I knew that I couldn't take Colleen home I went about the business of trying to peddle her off to prospective adopters. I wanted her out of that place as soon as possible. I wanted her to have a good home even if it wasn't with me. It was not to be, however. By the time Colleen turned turned eight weeks old, she got very sick and my mother offered to take her to the vet and pay the vet bill to get her treated. The prognosis was parvovirus, and in such a young dog the treatement was too expensive. The shelter decided to euthanize her, and I still believe the way events played out that that little puppy belonged to me and always would. Either she would live with me, or she wouldn't live at all.
As I said, the only way animals can break one's heart is to die. I cried for months. This tiny puppy I'd only known for four weeks has made a huge impression in my life even twenty years later. I have one picture of her and one drawing, but I still remember every detail of her. Her huge brown eyes, her soft black coat, her little white paws and white tail tip, and the heart shaped blaze on her forehead. I've seen lots of dogs with similar coloring, but I've never seen another one whose blaze forms a perfect heart at the top of its head.
Colleen was the first to break my heart. Even though I've had a lot of disappointments over the years, I can say that only one person has truly broken my heart to the same extent as Colleen. I"m going to come right out and say dating is tedious, and being single looking for love is an almost impossible task. I've been on plenty of dates lately. My mother is no help when she says one should feel an instant spark upon meeting someone and that's how two people know they are meant to be together. It happened for her and my dad. Here they are still married and still making people sick with their happy lives together. I think they are a rarity. Few people get to have that and they are lucky. I haven't felt a spark with anyone yet, not that they haven't all been super nice guys. I just don't really know any of them very well. Evan Marc Katz is also no help with his constant, "Choose the right men" and "Don't let chemistry blind you," and "Dating is a skill." A skill I apparently suck at, thank you very much, Evan. By his philosophy the more men I date the better chance I have at finding true lasting love and happiness, but only if I learn to weed out the frogs from the princes properly (by paying for his coaching services, of course). If we go by my mother's philosophy, then I should be with my drug-dealing Felon, and he already walked away from me with his "I don't deserve you and you will always be too good for me" nonsense. And now he's gone and broken my heart again. On the heels of losing August again, and that was shattering enough (incidentally, he also gave me the "You deserve better than me" speech, whatever the hell that means), I learned that my ex-boyfriend has barreled once more down the road of stupid decisions and gotten himself tangled in another drug bust. This is what the rumor mill is churning out and I haven't found written proof of it yet, so right now it's just hearsay. It did come from fairly reliable sources, however, and it just figures. This would be the Felon's second offense, he got off easy the first time around, and now he's looking at ten years. Don't get me wrong. He deserves it. He obviously didn't learn his lesson. I am well rid of him because if we were still together this would now be my problem too. It shouldn't bother me one bit.
But it does.
I'm not over him, but I am past him. That just means that while I no longer want to be with him and I actually really think he's a dumbass, his doofus decisions still have the ability to affect me. One doesn't stop caring about someone because that person is a moron. Just like one doesn't stop caring about a little puppy twenty years later, just because she died. I had truly thought him better than that. I even told him that, and when he said he would most likely land in jail again I told him I didn't believe that, that I believed in him. So it's no wonder my heart is broken. It's broken for him, it's broken for his three year old son, and it's broken for myself because I feel like an idiot. I wish things were different just like I wish things had been different for me and Colleen, and even me and August. Between August and the Felon, they are going to drive me to drink. We can love, but we can't control those we love. The price for loving animals and people is the risk of having one's heart broken.
It is up to us whether our hearts grow back twice as big, allowing for new loves, or if they remain broken.