Learning Humanity From Dogs

After his marriage unravels, a man is left with a sleeping bag, two 150-pound pets and a lot to figure out about life and love.

Comments: 190

  1. Beautiful, heartbreaking story. Rest in peace, Glasgow and Seismic.

    We all can learn a lot from dogs.

  2. They are running free over that bridge.....waiting for their daddy. My heart hurts reading this. Must have been so heartbreaking for him but he did the right thing.

  3. Hi Nan,
    I agree with you completely. To give up Glasgow and Seismic was heartbreaking for the author. And, he was still drinking. There was no way he would have been able to take care of them. He did the loving and honorable thing for them.

    Just a thought: I assume you are speaking of the Rainbow Bridge. All the animals are at the foot of the Bridge, young, happy,and well, and waiting for their human companions. When a companion finally appears,his pet runs to greet him, and, together they cross the Bridge, I presume, into heaven.

    It is mythology, but mythology that soothes and comforts. I'm sure that Glasgow and Seismic are waiting for the author and will be so glad to see him. I know that my crew is there. I miss them.

  4. Ouch. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  5. I don't see the love on this Modern Love. The dogs were in a way, his first children and he gave them away. No love here!!

  6. Hmmm, I think he gave them away because he DID love them. He admitted that he could not care for them, in the way that they should have been cared for.

  7. Oh I see it that he could no longer care and provide a good life for the dogs so he did a brave thing and allowed them to be adopted.

  8. He gave them away because he realized he could not properly care for them.

  9. good story. thank you.

  10. It's possible for dogs to be humane because they don't know anything about politics or religion, both of which are sources for the savage behaviors of human beings.

  11. Politics and religion can do some good, too. Human beings are harder to love because they talk back and are our equals.

  12. Sweet story, nicely told. No pet judgment from me. The gentleman found a way to grow beyond his devastation and we can appreciate that. The dogs were "left over love," and he made the best of them. Children will continue the growth.

  13. it is so true that dogs release the better angels of ourselves. I strive to be the person my dogs think I am.

  14. so very true!

  15. Thank you for sobering up. This is no small thing, and I think, it was the beginning of a new life for you. As I sit here this morning hoping I will get a call back from my alcoholic brother, I am grateful you were given another chance at a real life.

  16. I don't see love here at all. Who gives away dogs? How self absorbed this man is. Hope he doesn't give away his daughter.

  17. Did you read the story. He clearly was unable to care properly for his dogs and had the self-awareness to recognize it. So he found a better home for them. How many times have you read of people who kept dogs and cats in horrific conditions even though they didn't have the physical, emotion, and financial wherewithal to care for them properly. He did the right thing for the dogs.

  18. He displayed love and care by giving away the dogs he loved when he confronted the truth that he could no longer take care of them in the way they needed--and deserved--to be taken care of. After all, he could barely take care of himself at that time.

  19. I concur. This story was about a selfish drunk, not someone who learned from his dogs.

  20. Dogs are wonderful teachers! Thank you for this heartwarming story, I am sure that they loved you as much as you loved them.

  21. A beautiful essay. Wishing you a wonderful and bright future.

  22. I don't have kids but I do have experience with my 5 year old niece, and it is awe-inspiring the way a child wholeheartedly trusts that you can protect them and make everything ok. Luckily, at that age, it isn't too hard to fix all their problems. However, the absolute faith they have in you (and that dogs have in you) is unique and is both an amazing feeling and slightly frightening to an adult who is aware how very little is under our control.

  23. Very nice essay.

  24. a tale of addiction - I drank, therefore I did not know what I did - a common story

    may also explain the popularity of dogs - amongst people who do not relate well to other humans

  25. Am a long term sober member of AA. 32 years. Alcoholism and drug addiction took me right down to moral bedrock. I too "came to" with nothing left but my long suffering mama and my cat, Peter. Both of whom I had treated shockingly. Peter, God help him, lived with me and bore the brunt of some terrible abuse but he never left me. Now, thank God and the good folks in AA and the 12 Steps my little cat Scanner, our feral rescue, sleeps well and safely at the food of our bed. I get this man's story. Sober up friends if you read this story. Call AA. There is help back to decency.

  26. Being a dog lover and owner, I cringed as I read the author's neglectful behavior toward these loyal and trusting companions, due to his alcoholism. I guess his ex wife didn't have enough concern for these animals than to leave them in his care. Thankfully, he finally sent them to live where they would be well taken care of. Hope he stays on course as he raises his children.

  27. Abandoning your dogs - one elderly, with bad hips - to strangers, who may or may not care for them or even keep them, does not make you more human and certainly not a better human, and in no way does it prepare you to be a good parent. For someone who has a job and prospects for a better life, there is almost always a more humane option, such as taking proper care of the dogs, cleaning up the house, and/or moving to a home closer to where you work - perhaps a place with a yard that can be fenced, or a secure porch. Because dogs are generally more loyal than humans, they undoubtedly would have preferred staying with their original guardian more than being handed off to a seemingly more perfect family. Striving to keep your dogs under difficult circumstances would have taught you humanity, not getting rid of them.

  28. I would encourage some of our readers to bone up on alcoholism...a disease...just like cancer is a disease..not a moral failing...would you ask some on in end stage cancer to try to care for two huge dogs? He made the responsible choice. Believe me ...until you find yourself in the grip of alcoholism, you have no idea what this thing is. I had no idea. My husband, a PhD who had done post doc work at Harvard had no idea until they told him he needed a new liver..no respector of persons... Alcoholism is a disease process just like all progressive, primary and ultimately fatal disease processes..... recognized by the AMA as a disease.....how about some humanity in our responses for this very human man? I applaud him for his recovery. Only 3 out of 100 make it AA..alcoholism and drug addiction are killers...just check out the stats. Oxycodone is killing our kids and our adults...drug addiction is a manifestation of alcoholism...

  29. I know about alcoholism. Experienced it personally. Still think it is not a story of redemption. He is still feeling guilty and wants to hear he "did the right thing".

  30. Kim, those who suffer from addiction are fighting for their lives. Despite this fact, the author had the insight to find a stable home for the dogs so he could heal himself. His actions reflect love and selflessness. The lack of compassion and mercy in your comment while referencing humanity is appalling.

  31. Oh, man, this is so on the money. My dog Jim was a shepherd mix, a savvy stray that looked both ways before crossing the street and always had a gaggle of new friends around him. We were inseparable, even a trip to the grocery store gave rise to separation anxiety. Six years after adopting him, we both had knee surgery the same week and a few years after that I came down with late stage cancer just before he was diagnosed too, and i wonder if Jim somehow sucked the disease out of me so that i might live. When it came time to lay him to rest, I was three months into chemotherapy and digging his grave in the backyard. Pick and shovel. Sweat and tears. Nancy Griffiths "Great Divide" played on the patio speakers as Jim sat on the grass watching me, a knowing look in his eyes. A few hours later, the digging done, the vet came and Jim had a final bowl of chocolate ice cream, a last hug and scratch of his ears, just like Mr. Toutonghi's beloved Seismic and Glasgow.

    The feelings I had while tossing dirt on my dear, sweet friend's grave that evening ranged from anguish to surprising joy at having known such tender and unconditional love. I had never experienced such pain, sorrow, and inexplicable happiness. I cried for myself, wailed for Jimmy, and for a thousand lifetimes of welled up grief. And by doing so, I felt deeply alive. Thank you Mr. Toutonghi for bringing me back to that moment, and for leaving me with a smile.

  32. This is such a touching, lovely story. I can imagine every moment of it. I hope you are back to full health.

    I had to have my dog euthanized over a year and a half ago and I still think of her every day, and thoughts of her still bring tears to my eyes.

  33. Thank you, Sarah. It was sixteen years ago that I buried Jimmy and yes, I'm in excellent health.

    I like to imagine your precious dog looking down on you, sending and receiving the love still...

  34. you made me cry... it's to early to cry!

  35. Today, dogs generally, (with many exceptions of course), do not perform the functions they were likely domesticated for: hunting, protection and advance warning of intruders.

    But in many, many undocumented and unsung ways, they continue to save lives by being in our lives. They truly are one of the universe's great gifts to mankind.

    I know.....a dog saved my life.
    And if I ever realized that I couldn't give a dog a proper home, yes, I would place he/she with someone who could. No shame...only love.

  36. How could he give those two beautiful dogs away? He did not live up to his obligations as a guardian for those animals.

  37. Agree; except it's not relevant whether they were beautiful or not.

  38. Because he couldn't care for them! Why is that so hard to understand? He sought out a new home for them. That was a humane option; after all, he could have abandoned them.

  39. Your wife left and never looked back, never a kind word or any word. Maybe she was angry at you and felt like you had ruined her life as well as your own. You gave the dogs away to people who had a nice house and wanted dogs but who otherwise were unknown to you and you never once called to find out how the dogs were, if the adoption was going well, if the dogs you loved and who loved you were surviving emotionally. Even if you couldn't care for them didn't you care about them in the way that you missed your wife not caring about you?

  40. The author writes: "I didn’t drive by the farm after I surrendered Seismic and Glasgow. I didn’t visit."

    How do you infer from those words that he "never once called to find out how the dogs were?"

  41. I love stories about what dogs do for humans. Call me sappy. I waited until I retired to get a dog because I lived in the city and always thought it was cruel to leave a dog locked up in a house all day. He is simply one of the best thing I ever did. He makes me laugh every day, is just a constant source of joy and my motivation to hike every day.

  42. Oh my goodness. Heartbreaking. thanks for sharing this. It must have been so painful to write.

  43. My Akita was a handful however I loved that naughy boy. Dogs teach us many lessons and keep us sane.

  44. Both you and your ex wife bailed on two dogs you probably had no business owning in the first place and we are supposed believe something noble happened because you finally grew up and had children.

  45. Not just two dogs, but two huge dogs who cost a lot of money to feed and are a lot of work to care for.

  46. Where did you read that "we're supposed [to] believe something noble happened"? He was a mess, as he confesses here, and could not take care of the dogs, who actually were taking care of him. He mustered the energy and responsibility, little though it may have been, to allow them to go to a better home. You are perfect, of course: one understands that, completely. Others of us can relate to having failings, sometimes serious ones.

  47. My thoughts exactly.

  48. Shame on all the people who said your essay was moving and beautiful. Did they care only about the writing and not about what you are actually wrote?

    The shock of your wife's sudden departure must have been devastating, but it is at times like these that we can see the true measure of a man. When you gave those dogs up, you were found wanting. Some might say that I am being too judgmental, and that I do not know the whole story; but by your own admission, you did not want to care for them because you thought yourself too broken to care even for yourself.

    Somewhere in your self absorption, you decided to jettison those two animals because the burden of taking care of them outweighed the comfort they provided. In your thoughts it was just me, me and more me. Your pain, your suffering, your sexual and social deprivation. You knew that letting those dogs go was wrong, and you still did it. Honestly, I think I understand why your wife left you.

    Your story reminds me of drug addicts who choose the drug over their kids like you chose crawl into a bottle and massage that pain over your obligation to those dogs. Why should I or anyone else sympathize with you? Pain in this life is inevitable. How we choose to deal with it is not.

  49. I can't agree less. He couldn't take care of the dogs. He found them a better home. What did he do wrong?

  50. You understand why his wife left him. Really? She left him wiShe left the dogs too. And what about her parents? They didn't have room for the dogs. What is it about you that you are all over this guy at his heartbroken worst?

  51. All I care about is the dogs, and yes you are not just judgmental but you are dead wrong.

    He was an alcoholic. The dogs were NEGLECTED. Yet he had enough sense to know he wasn't good for the dogs and despite his love for them, he gave them up. I say Bravo!

    Either you don't know what alcoholism is like, or you never cared for or loved a dog. Because if you were a dog lover, nothing would infuriate you more than watching dogs being neglected, and not being able to do something about it.

  52. Beautiful story. I wish you all the best. Thank you.

  53. This was wonderful. Thank you for being so unselfish to give your dogs away to people who could take proper care of them. Others will look at that differently, but who cares - you did the right thing. And congratulations on your sobriety, that's the best thing you ever did for yourself and everyone in your life. I hope you have a long and happy life filled with love.

  54. agree, 100%.

  55. This really struck home for me. My ex, without an advance notice, took the kids and disappeared to another state. Oh, and she left the dog, a yellow Lab. When I returned from work I thought I had stumbled into the Twilight Zone. But the lawyers worked it out, I got joint custody of the kids, and I got the house that I had paid for entirely.

    And that Lab became the best friend I ever had. She lived till 14, and her ashes will be buried with me. She never gave up on me and I never gave up on her.

  56. Exactly. If human beings could treat each other as such, what good life we would all have...

  57. What a moving story that speaks to the all-too common isolation of men, and the special role of dogs to alleviate that isolation. Relationships are hard, frequently fail, and when they do, men often have little in the way of social supports- family, close friends. They may be bewildered by the end of a relationship, as in this case, even if they were the root cause of it, eg, via alcoholism. The beautiful thing about dogs for men is that the language of "social" interaction with them is simple to understand- they love and provide contact and affection without even the need for words. I'm sure both men and women will enjoy this piece, but I wonder if the impact is different for men, who may recognize themselves in the protagonist.

  58. Excuse me? Why make this a male-specific thing? That interpretation is taking the (annoying) trend of victimization to an absurd level. And yes, this is a woman writing -- a woman who can tell you that breaking up is hard to do (cue the violins) for women, men, transpersons and (the new word of the day) non-binaries. The writer wallowed in self pity and selfishly neglected his dogs. In fact he cared so little for his pets that he walked away from them when his wife was moving out, and was surprised to find the dogs still there (unfed, abandoned) when he returned. Then when he'd had enough of his canine "friends" he dumped them into a stranger's car rather than driving them to their new home and inspecting the premises. The writer's character weaknesses are his won, and they have nothing at all to do with his gender. After all, his ex-wife abandoned the dogs, too.

  59. Dog is God spelled backwards.

  60. Every dog I have ever been close to, starting from when I was a child, has enriched and comforted me.

  61. I'm sure she was not at all happy leaving the dogs with the ex, but sometimes you have to save your own life first. I don't fault her.

  62. The one who truly abandoned the dogs without much thought or remorse was the wife. There was no love there at all.

  63. You have no idea what it is like to live with an alcoholic! Both my parents were alcoholics who abandoned us. It left permanent scars. To this day 50 years later i don't have much of a relationship with my brothers and sisters. Alcohol destroys so much. You should not comment on things you know nothing about!

  64. This story is about abandonment, not love. First the author and the dogs were abandoned by the wife. Then, then author returned the favor and later abandoned the dogs under guise of "it's for their own good." Animals are seen as disposable in our society, which is so greatly demonstrated in this essay.

    When you are responsible for a person or an animal you get yourself together and show up. You show-up everyday. You do the best you can do. You ask for help if you fall short. That is love.

    The author was not homeless or destitute or severely mentally ill. He had the means to hire one dogwalker. So one didn't workout, hire another one. A one hour commute, emotional problems and one irresponsible dog walker does not rid him of his responsibilities to those dogs. To his credit, a failed marriage didn't alleviate his wife's responsibility to the dogs either.

    Finally, did the author perform any due diligence into this new family? Perhaps the author did investigate the adopter's home and perform a background check, other than using the good condition of their home as proof that they were an appropriate family to take care of the dogs and not the type to keep them chained to a tree with no shelter, food or water or worse. At the height of his dogfighting days, Michael Vick had a manicured lawn as well. The adopter's statement "these are the dogs?" gave me further pause. But, I somehow doubt that the author took the time given his level of self-involvement.

  65. There is no greater self involvement in having dogs than being convinced that they only want you. While I (not a person in his situation) can believe he should have pulled his life together and kept his dogs, I also believe that there are times when giving up a dog or a cat to a better home is the right thing to do. And this certainly sounds like one of those times.

  66. "This story is about abandonment, not love." Well said. I needed to hear the A-word to get this piece. This story is the human interest equivalent of political spin.

  67. Read the piece! He was unable to provide for his beloved dogs and gave them to a family ready to love them and provide a farm life to these giant dogs. He did the right thing rather than act out of his own self-interest. Why are you so mean-spirited and obtuse?

  68. I'll start out by saying I spoil my pets.
    I allow them to manipulate me to some extent with their routines. I Have two Pembroke Welsh Corgis sisters. They were a couple of months older than people like when they get a puppy I spayed them to the horror of the breeder who contacted me a couple of years later to arrange breeding. I don't make money off my pets. And I could never part with the puppies no matter the price. If you aren't into daily brushing and vacuuming it isn't the breed for you. All working and herding class dogs shed but the Corgis seem to be champions at it.
    They think I'm a prince. I never walk past one without saying something. If I run to the store for 30 minutes I get the same excited greeting as If I'd been gone all day.
    This man gave up his dogs because he couldn't care for them in his sorry condition. And though the dogs wouldn't cared how little attention he could give them Dogs appreciate any attention they do get. 10 minutes of tug of war, same ball tosses are appreciated.
    But he couldn't even find it in himself for that. He'd covered it over in self pity.
    He did the right thing. He gave them to someone who could provide the life they wanted and needed and then worked to provide himself with the life he wanted and needed.
    There's an old question a person should ask themselves. Are you the person your dog thinks you are? When he gave the dogs up he proved he was.

  69. Long coat German Shepherd dogs don't shed!

    Seriously. They really don't. They blow their undercoat twice a year but they don't shed. Two weeks a years of fluffy undercoat blowing a year is a small price to pay for the love of a shepherd.

  70. My two cats held me up when my life fell apart: laid off from my job, marriage collapsed from husband's philandering, selling my house ... animals can be our anchors when all else is gone. Those dogs were his anchor to reality and helped him see how far down he had gone.

    Giving them up was hard, but so was his realization that he wanted them to have a better life than he could give them. Finding them a good home was his first step to recovery.

  71. Made me cry. If we are lucky, we live long enough to love, lose love, and find love again. I am lucky.

  72. Alcohol causes so much turmoil in people's lives. My parents divorced because my father was an alcoholic. They are both good people, but my fathers addiction made it impossible for my mother to lead a healthy life with him. My father was devastated by the divorce and lived for many years after in a state of shock and self-neglect similar to the aftermath the author describes in this piece. Dad is retired and sober now. He is great company, but decades were lost to the disease of alcoholism.

  73. Thanks, Johanna. Yes, this is true. I'm so glad your father is sober, now. It won't alter or erase the past, but this time in the present is equally fragile.

  74. During a very painful time, I starting walking my friends' dogs and taking on dog-sitting jobs. I wasn't in a position to have my own dog, but even just this contact kept me going while my life slowly pieced back together. We humans are awfully lucky to have dogs and cats.

  75. My sophomore year of college, I lived in a dorm where the resident directors (a couple in their late 20s) were allowed to have their dog, a beautiful German Shepherd. Every afternoon I would race home from classes hoping I was the first one back so I could be the afternoon dog walker. I was miserable, bored and depressed. Walking this aloof and well-behaved dog through the university arboretum kept me going through those dreary winter months. I came from a no-pets home; now I have had several dogs. They are one of the best reasons to get up in them morning.

  76. jzzy55, your story made me smile. Thanks for telling it.

  77. NYT comments section: where perfect people come to judge those with flaws.

    I found the story quite moving and a very nice tale of redemption.

  78. We do more for our dogs than they do for us. When you have a relationship like that with a person, you often feel used. It's not that way with dogs. They surely manipulate us. But they really are dependent. So being manipulated is the bargain we make from the start. And if we do our part, they let us know and make us happy. Many of us prefer to be trained by our dogs than by our spouses.

  79. Such a beautiful and heartbreaking story - but still filled with hope. Thank you.

    Love dogs. Don't love the dog-loving people who love dogs MORE than their fellow human beings. They never realize it says a lot more about them than it does about the people they constantly judge - and will always find wanting.

  80. Due to illness, I was forced to leave my 2 dogs & house with a stepson I did not trust. His one redeeming quality is that he loves dogs. I was advised by many to give away my dogs, but like this man, they were all I had left. I returned home 3 months later to a home in chaos & 2 spastic dogs. They had been fed & loved a little, which was enough for me. I understand part of his situation, but do not know if I could have done that. He is clearly a stronger person for this. I wonder if he has dogs now?

  81. Well, that was disappointing! What lessons did you learn? Do you realize that dogs grieve the loss of others? They were loyal to you. This is indeed a sad story. I sincerely hope your former dogs were well cared for. I truly do. They had no say in the matter. Beautiful animals, dogs. Humans? Not so much !

  82. Following a rejected love relationship and being fired from too many jobs, someone once told me they had been on the verge of suicide. In the process of committing the act, they suddenly remembered they had a wonderful dog to take of--a dog who had stood by them through not much thick and a whole lot of thin. He stopped what he had intended to do, hugged his dog, and struggled on with his difficult life.

    He found another unhappy love relationship or 2 that ended, his dog died, but he keeps going. He never wanted another dog, but that dog got him across the bridge to the other side.

  83. They always do. Mine did the same.

  84. Boy. Some of the commenters care more about the dogs than about the man who wrote this story. Maybe they have never experienced hard times. On the other hand, it's easier to care for an animal than it is for a person. Thank you for writing this, for baring your soul, and having the courage to expose yourself to the kind of hard-heartedness that you probably knew would be coming your way if you published this. Hoping that all is well in your life now.

  85. My dog Charlie (a rescue from New York City's "kill" shelter) is my confidant, my pal and my responsibility. But I would never keep him if I knew that I was incapable. I would be terrified that he was being neglected or worse. I would do whatever I could to find someone who could do better. Shame on those who criticize Mr. Toutonghi for finding his dogs responsible caretakers. How ill you must think of mankind to assume that the family's motives were anything other than honorable. BTW, what "vetting" do you think the shelter did of me when I adopted my dog? Practically nothing. All I needed was a driver's license and the ability to pay a nominal fee.

  86. Turning his dogs over to a new and better live, was the moment that he knew he need to love himself and live a new and better life, this move brought him to a new reality. If you can't take care of two dogs, then how can you take care of yourself? His dogs were given to someone who could love them, care for them and want them. Dogs are replaceable, his sobriety and peace of mind is not. He doesn't mention if he went to A.A., I hope that he did and I wish him all the luck in the world. Not everyone shows the courage that he has.

  87. I did go to AA, indeed.

  88. Dogs aren't replaceable anymore than people are.

  89. Sometimes, love means letting go.

  90. This is a story of taking on too much responsibility at too young of an age coupled with an addiction problem. Luckily it appears the author has matured, is sober and can now reflect on his past. Life is a journey and those two big dogs shared a small amount of this man's journey.

  91. Thank you for doing the right thing and not abandoning your dogs. Congratulations on getting sober. Best of luck to you and your new family.

  92. It's unfortunate that it takes far to long in living to finally understand the transformative power of love

  93. Well, good thing you had dogs to practice on. Glad you found your way.

  94. Not a very nice comment. He was doing the best he could at the time and that is really all x anyone can ask. Thankfully he found his way. We should all be so blessed.

  95. So beautiful and heart wrenching. My dog helped me endure a serious health issue by just being there and letting me cry into her fur when I needed to and then showing me the joy of being in the world when I recovered. Animals offer a unique and sustaining solace.

  96. Lovely piece! Yes, our dogs are often more humane than we are, as we become increasingly detached from our surviving instincts. I couldn't stand the thought of giving my dog away or, for that matter, my kid. This becomes a thundering driving force in me to ensure marriage is working. No marriage is perfect and most needs work some sorts. My love for my dog and kid reminded me humanity all the time. It is then easier to accept the flaws we see in others, particularly in spouse. My own flaws, yes there are plenty, are also out in the open. We are all loving creatures and brought together initially by love, perhaps different kinds than what we have now. Humanity will ensure this love survives and we are happy. Humanity will always be here, as long as we live.

    Thank you for such a treat.

  97. Thank you for an honest account of your personal experience with grief and responsibility. I particularly enjoyed this essay because to me it sported the virtues of a one-person nonfiction narrative told by someone whose main profession does not involve literary writing. The author tells his story in a fairly unadorned, straightforward fashion and it reads like a confession or a diary entry and thereby the narrative becomes more credible. Some other essays in Modern Love use highly elaborate language with vivid imagery and artful use of other literary devices that sometimes I wonder if they're really personal. (Not that I doubt NYT's fact-checking routine, but it's that sometimes their stylistic choices make it hard for me to believe that it's a story told by "normal"--that is to say, unprofessional writers--people.) I felt like the writer was talking to me in person. It was an intimate read.

  98. Dog is my co-pilot. I love that bumper sticker. Dogs have been my greatest teachers, of unconditional love, acceptance, and loyalty. Humankind could learn a lot from dogs if we would just slow down and be. In rural VT in 1958, a child of 5, we had a doberman/police dog cross my 2 brothers and i loved. Suddenly, Fritz was no longer, father saying he was shot by a hunter, yeah right. Fast forward 20 years, Molly 1978-1992; a springer spaniel, rekindled my love, and helped to heal my PTSD past. Since Molly there has been big Charlie 1999-2006; a rescue golden golden who had a seizure and died in my arms, Sadie 2006-2013; a rescued copper golden, Rudy 2003- ; 4 mo. old abandoned puppy on Hwy 101 (Olympic peninsula), and Barney 2012- now 4; Viszla adopted from a already too busy family 3 yrs ago. I will always have a dog or 2, even though mention of my previous dogs will bring me to nostalgic tears. Pain of loss yes, but years of love are worth it.
    A dog is not a throw away item, no more than a human. When adopting a dog, it is for life. If unwilling to shoulder that kind of responsibility, look within. Seems the author, when reminded of his dogs when kissing his daughter, still feels the guilt of abandonment. We carry those scars with us forever.

  99. He is still sad about it, but I think he did the right thing. His life was pretty out of control and he had the sense to realize it, but my guess is he'll never stop feeling that scar, as you say.

  100. Exactly! I think he feels guilt and wants to hear how "he did the right thing". He should feel guilt. Guilt is a normal emotion.

  101. Truly, truly beautiful and heart wrenching. Thank you for sharing it. I moved to Idaho from the east coast and live with 14 rescue dogs (and one perfect puppy I treated myself to just this week). They teach me more about love, life, responsibility, compassion and caring than anything and anyone I have ever known ~ and the crazier this world seems to get, the happier I am with my choice to do this. Even though everyone, including my own parents, tell me "I'm nuts."

  102. You did the right thing by the dogs. I am very glad you found the strength to get sober and stay clean. Many try and few do. I am certain you are grateful every day.

  103. I am indeed.

  104. As far as I'm concerned no justification is valid. As a prior commenter stated, I'm sure the shelter where Seismic was obtained would have been willing to take her back. He didn't even investigate the people where the dogs were going, didn't follow up to see how they were doing. And before that he didn't even take the most basic precautions to make sure the dogs were safe at home, had the proper food and water. He worried about the police fining him! Pets rely on humans for caring. They cannot express even the most basic fears to someone else. So they are MORE vulnerable than children. This man is just trying to publish a narcissist essay to make himself feel like a hero. Not doing it.

  105. In my opinion, when one acquires a companion animal (by adoption or purchase), you are responsible for that animal for the rest of its life.

    Furthermore, I would bet a lot of money that the rescue agency through which they adopted the second dog had a policy that the dog should be returned to them if the couple could not keep the dog for any reason.

    I understand this man was suffering greatly. But the animals should not have had to suffer in this way.

  106. I will probably keep my beagle until she dies but dogs do not perpetually grieve when they change households. I believe if I was separated from my beagle, she, being well adjusted, polite and housebroken, would have no trouble finding just as much happiness in her new family. Sure she would be happy to see me, but she is not dependent on me excessively. Who knows her new family might even have better food options and a softer sofa with a sunny spot.

  107. All living things suffer at some point. Mr. Toutonghi's suffering began to affect his dogs and he responsibly found a stable home for them to forestall further harm. It appears he used the space this gave him to reflect and heal. None of us are perfect. Compassion and support are in order here.

  108. Thank you for sharing this, and for having enough sense and kindness to give up Glasgow and Seismic during such a difficult period in your life. As an ex-rescuer who has convinced many individuals and families to give up their dogs, I know how hard it is to make people realize letting go is better for the dog and better for themselves, yet it feels like giving up a part of your body & soul.

    Enjoyed the happy ending.

  109. One of our pooches came to us by way of a local shelter; she was about four at the time. It's unclear why she was given up for adoption, most probably related to medical intervention required for stones of some type (successfully competed at the shelter, and only requiring a special diet subsequently).

    Did she miss her previous human(s) ? Hard to say. I would wonder that when she would whimper and lightly bark in her dreams, or when I realized how much she loved hanging around in the kitchen when we cooked (unlike our other dog). But she seemed a happy, relaxed and very responsive pooch from the outset.

    We had eleven wonderful years with her, with much love and caring and presence all around. I think she would agree that you can't ask for much more than that in a companion, whether human or canine.

    And maybe we just never saw any of her grieving.

  110. Edo, I have adopted many shelter and rescue-society dogs. (I have one handsome, ex-stray fellow lying next to me right now, in fact.) While some of the dogs come to me a bit shell shocked and timid, or even hand shy from rough treatment, most of them hit the ground running, so happy to have found someone to care for them. They do not mourn their previous owners. Dogs are pragmatic creatures who live in the moment, and they know a good thing when they see it. They also know when a caregiver is dangerously unreliable (the writer of this essay) and will act out. But after experiencing abandonment -- perhaps even being a stray for a while -- and being caged up in a noisy, frightening shelter, finding a new home and family is a joyful second chance for a dog. The only unquestionably clear mourning I have ever seen a shelter dog display was by a surrendered dog who had belonged to a child. The dog was depressed and shut down in his kennel, but whenever a child walked by he stood up and went to the front to follow the child with his eyes, trying so heard to be noticed. Broke my heart.

  111. Thanks for the comment - sheds more light on what a lot of us are struggling with in the piece.

  112. You admit here that in general dogs don't appear to grieve for past owners as long as all their needs are met by new owners. Yet you have judged this author harshly. My impression was that he was thinking about the dogs when he decided not to follow them into their future home in the sense that he believed they would make the adjustment better.

  113. Greetings from Middlebury, where there are many beloved dogs.

  114. You had me — until you abandoned your two dogs that loved you. Just as you were waiting for your wife to call and say she made a mistake, those dogs were waiting for you to call and bring them back to their home.

  115. Finding a safe home for dogs when you realize you aren't capable of caring for them looks to me like finally taking responsibility, not abandoning them. Sounds to me like the dogs got what they needed, and ultimately, so did the author.

  116. Please don't be so judgmental. We are called upon to love each other with our faults. And we all have faults.

  117. That's some confession. You will get no absolution here. I've known people in similar or worse circumstances who would never have considered giving up their dogs. I doubt very much you have learned anything if you are writing an essay in which giving up your dogs is somehow now understood as a virtue.

  118. The virtue was in his finally understanding that he could not care for the dogs; that they deserved a home in which they were not only loved, but properly cared for.

  119. There is nothing wrong with relocating dogs to a better home with more responsible owners

  120. He suffered from giving up the dogs and realized the humanity behind all of interactions with human and with animal. This will benefit him for the rest of his life, perhaps some of us as well.

  121. Sobering (no pun intended) and beautifully written piece.

    I commend Mr. Toutonghi on his recovery and suspect that Glasgow and Seismic found love and stability on their farm.

    Having had the good fortune to love and be loved by numerous rescue pets over the years, I am confident that those who adopt rescues are overwhelmingly animal lovers.

  122. In our neighborhood, a couple were divorcing. Their dog, Sweetie, was always
    coming to my house because they were away and would never want to leave.
    I left a note on their door that I would like to have Sweetie and find
    him a good home. I advertised after about 2 months and a very nice couple
    drove down from another town and agreed to take Sweetie. I drove Sweetie
    to their home and left him sitting on their sofa. I hadn't driven 5 miles before
    I began to choke up and realize I didn't want to be without Sweetie. I turned
    around, called them from the car, apologized and said I was coming back to
    get him. They were nice and understood. When I went inside to retrieve him,
    I just broke down at the sight of him. He was with me 7 years and died in
    my arms. Loved that dog.

  123. Paul: Thank you for sharing your story. I'm a friend of Bill W too.

    Dogs are hallowed beings.

    When the first wolves came in from the wild to form a symbiotic relationship with man and become dogs, the establishment of civilization and the concomitant Ascent of Man was immeasurably enhanced.

    I have a Flat Coated Retriever named Luna who is extremely loving and intuitive. I love her like a child. She protects my family with her loud barks every time a stranger approaches and is always happy to see us. She is 10 and near the end of her days and my heart will break when she passes.

  124. Wow, what a great read. To this day, I miss the toy poodle I grew up with, and the cat that my wife adopted shortly before we met. When our marriage sadly and suddenly, (for me, anyway), fell apart, she left the cat with me. I know it destroyed her to do that...but uprooting an aging cat that was already in declining health would have been terrible for the animal. It's still one of the most selfless things I've ever seen anyone do...and just one of many reasons that I still love her as much as I do. Our little girl held on for several more months...sitting calmly in my lap as I gave her her nightly fluid injections until it was her time to go. She was a reason to live when I needed it most, and I'll always be grateful to both her and my wife for that. Thank you for sharing this story. Wishing you all the best with your reclaimed life.

  125. So glad you did the right thing by your dogs as hard as it was to do. I got my dog because cold person just dumped her by the side of the road. Recovery from alcoholism is no small thing. Wishing you and your family the best.

  126. Oh this takes me back to 1999: sudden unexpected financial ruin. Left America with a tiny amount of cash and my 2-year-old golden retriever Willow for a 5th floor unheated walk-up studio in Barcelona. Worked in the soup kitchen, cleaned houses, taught English. That wonderful city and that dear dog (and the previous 11 years as a friend of Bill's) rebuilt me from the ground up. Two years later I was head of a philanthropic organization that worked with the city's arriving displaced populations. Two years after that Willow and I returned to America. Finished my BA and just earned my MA and teach Latin, Spanish, and French. Willow died in my arms at age 13. In her honor she lives on in my social media name @willowbarcelona. A new dog now leads me to good works. Her name is Sloane. Regardless that you felt you had to provide a better life for your dogs, they were there to save your life when they most knew you needed exactly that. They must have given their new family great joy too. They had completed their most important life's work in you.

  127. This is a story of animal neglect verging on abuse. Those dogs weren't bent on saving or consoling the writer, but trying to survive his shockingly inadequate care. Always happy to see you when you returned with food? Well, of course they were: they weren't sure you were coming back to feed them. How could anyone walk away from his house, where he knows his two dogs are cowering in confusion and fear while his angry wife and her hostile family empty it of her belongings, with law enforcement in attendence...and not check on or care whether that wife is taking the dogs with her? That level of coldness and self-centeredness is beyond my comprehension. And then, after all the harm he has done to the dogs, he can't even take them to their new home, but dumps them into a stranger's car. How unbelievably awful.

    Dogs are not children. They are not practice children. They are animals with specific needs. If you cannot meet those needs, please don't buy, adopt or keep dogs. Don't use them to patch holes in your life, enhance your image, or decorate the back of your truck. Don't get them as toys for your kids. They are living, breathing, smelly, messy, destructive, time consuming, noisy, excreting animals. They also happen to be affectionate, funny, loyal and charming, and completely worth the trouble they cause. But if you don't love dogs as dogs, do the species a favor and stay away from it.

    (Thumbs down on the illustration, showing dogs hanging out of the back of a truck, btw.)

  128. The writer, w/ the help of his dogs, successfully overcame his alcohol addiction, (& the rude & surly treatment by his in-laws). The local police's overlooking legal notice reflects badly on them.

    His wife's undermining tactics reflect badly on her as well. A direct, candid discussion w/ her husband would have likely prevented her from manipulating the local police dept & her parents.

  129. During the most stressful period I had ever faced in my work life, Betsy found me. A black cocker, dumped in my neighborhood after having pups, she saved me. I took her in, and was forced to walk her morning and evening, and those moments together forced me to see that the world contained more than me and my problems at work. I was not the best companion to Betsy over the years, but I tried to repay a little of what she had done for me. I will always love that pup.

  130. Mr. Toutonghi,

    How much did you know about the new owner? Did you check out where they would live? You were the only owner Glasgow ever had, did you wonder how she adjusted? Did you bother to call the new owner to see how they were doing? They helped you, how did you make sure they would be well taken care of? You got sober, terrific. Personally I know it is not easy. Not such a nice story for those two dogs. Why share? What are you trying to unload? Guilt?

  131. Interesting question, Veronica. Really I think that my story is about taking on too much responsibility when you're young. It's also about recovery, and alcohol abuse. I regret deeply having surrendered Glasgow and Seismic.

    I imagine that the response here is similar to what someone would get if they wrote about putting their children up for adoption.

    To me -- in the final analysis -- I couldn't care for my two, dear big guys the way that they deserved to be cared for. They deserved better. They deserved a family, and space to run, and people who could care for them. I was a total mess. Maybe I should have persevered, and kept them, but they would have been through a lot over the rest of their lives.

    I had also just lost my spouse. So, I was grieving that.

    I shared, I guess, because this was my experience of being human. I understand why the reaction is mixed. Thanks for your question.

  132. Pauls -- Just remember that people react out of their own issues that may have nothing to do with you. You recognized you couldn't give your dogs the life they deserved and so were right to give them up. You're brave for sharing this with the world, and for facing your demons and making a good, responsible life for yourself. All the best.

  133. Thank you for the original piece, and your responses to some of the comments. PERHAPS you made a mistake in giving Glasgow and Seismic up, but as Peter C says elsewhere - no pet judgment here.

    Check out the movie "Get Low" with Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek. I thought of you after watching the movie.

  134. You couldn't take care of yourself at that point in your life. You did the right thing to give the dogs to people who could take care of themselves and their dogs.

    The folks who are giving you a hard time about giving them away don't seem to notice that you and the dogs were both dumped by your wife.

  135. Thank you, Pauls, for writing your beautiful essay. It made me cry.

    When I got divorced three years ago, it was my husband who moved out, leaving me alone in a house full of things, and ghosts. I couldn't go into any room except the guest bedroom; I barely used the kitchen because he was the one who cooked, and it was too painful to even open the fridge. The divorce had been a long time coming, and it was my decision, but it left me so raw and numb that my life and all of its routines felt unreal. The only thing I did besides going to work and occasionally showering was walk my dog. She cuddled me, she tapped me with her paw when she wanted a walk, she looked at me with her sensitive brown eyes as we sat on the floor together and ate pizza. At my most depressed, when I could barely even get out of bed, I got up for her. The responsibility of caring for another being who needed me was just enough to keep me from going.

    Eventually I moved out and made a new life for myself. My dog is still with me, still my friend, my companion. My new partner loves her, talks to her, dotes on her like she's his child. He knows she saved my life.

  136. My two rescue dogs are lying in bed with me now. I took them when a husband threatened his wife with dumping the dogs while she was at work. The rescue group offered to separate the pair who had been together for nine years which I thought was too sad to imagine - first to lose their home and then to lose each other. So I took them and we are all growing older and more decrepit together.

  137. I would take my daschund over any human being on the planet! Humans are a vile species.

  138. My brother, who lives next door, is a high functioning alcoholic. He is physically and emotionally abusive toward his family and friends. Yet, he has always been able to take care of his two dogs, a bull mastiff and a blood hound. His relationship with these dogs has allowed him some sense of normality in his otherwise chaotic life.

    Pets can also provide comfort and love when families are having a tough time. A number of years ago, I went through a bitter divorce. My two youngest sons were only five- and seven-years old. We were visiting my family in the Midwest when my husband called to say he wanted a divorce. My other brother, the sober one, bought us a Shih Tzu puppy. When we got home, we discovered that my husband had emptied most of the contents of our house, including our beloved Golden Retriever. I never saw her again.

    Our sympathetic vet gave my sons a kitten. I don't know what we would have done without our new pets. They always provided a sympathetic ear and non-judgmental love. My sons' cat, at age 14, died last year. My dog, who is now 15-years old, is growing frail. We have added new cats and dogs over the years but we will never forget the originals and their redemptive qualities.

  139. Thank you for writing this Pauls. This is such a touching story. I definitely learnt humanity from my dog Bodhi.

  140. This is a beautiful, moving, honest confession. Of course the writer would never give up his two dogs today, but at the time he wasn't doing so well and couldn't care for them. He at least found a good home for them, but I am sure the two dogs felt abandoned or always believed he would return. They also knew that he had placed them in a safe place where they would be fed, protected, amused and loved.

    This article actually moved me to tears at this part: "For their part, Glasgow and Seismic were always glad to see me, always confident I would be bringing dog food or a cheese pizza, providing a walk or giving them a bath. They believed in me when no one else did, not even myself"

    There are always those who comment about how we show too much love to the non-human animals, and why not shower this love on humans instead? But those who really have love in their hearts can do both. Besides, we humans are animals too, as equally deserving as other kinds of animals, but but not more so. I haven't all the answers, but I know one of them: Never fault a person for showing love to a fellow creature and to his or her dogs in particular!

  141. Thank you, Pauls, for writing your beautiful essay. It made me cry.

    When I got divorced three years ago, it was my husband who moved out, leaving me alone in a house full of things, and ghosts. I couldn't go into any room except the guest bedroom; I barely used the kitchen because he was the one who cooked, and it was too painful to even open the fridge. The divorce had been a long time coming, and it was my decision, but it left me so raw and numb that my life and all of its routines felt unreal. The only thing I did besides going to work and occasionally showering was walk my dog. She cuddled me, she tapped me with her paw when she wanted a walk, she looked at me with her sensitive brown eyes as we sat on the floor together and ate pizza. At my most depressed, when I could barely even get out of bed, I got up for her. The responsibility of caring for another being who needed me was just enough to keep me going.

    Eventually I moved out and made a new life for myself. My dog is still with me, still my friend, my companion. My new partner loves her, talks to her, dotes on her like she's his child. He knows she saved my life.

  142. See very little humanity here. Lots of narcissism. But that is par for the course for the Times' Modern Love column. And then this one went off and reproduced! Geezus.

  143. I'm also a person with feelings who reads the comment section on his article... I did indeed reproduce. And I'm not proud of what I did. Not at all.

  144. Thank you for the essay and sharing your experiences. Do not let the ever-hovering gnats drive you inside, out of the sunshine.

  145. Mr. Toutonghi,
    You gave up your dogs because you loved them and knew they needed more than you could offer at the time. You made a compassionate decision by giving your dogs to a family better able to care for them.

    I "see very little humanity" in your comment.

  146. People sure can be judgmental.

  147. My dear. You didn't abandon the Dogs. You took care for them. When you couldn't even care for yourself, you took care of the Dogs who were relying on you.

    You did just fine. Don't worry about silly people. Your Dogs loved you for taking care of them, and that's exactly all that matters.

  148. I have been where you have been: the dog as the anchor. You did the right thing, and you never forgot. As someone who has had dogs all his life, trained dogs, backpacked with dogs, and held dogs in my arms as they died, I found your essay both about the dogs and the human bond as true as anything I've seen in the ML columns.

  149. What a judgmental thing to say.

  150. All three of my cats, two gone now, taught me how to be a better person. The first one I was fostering for a friend of mine till she could find a home. I kept perstering her, when are you going to find her a home, when, when, when. When she finally did find her a home and the new owner came to pick her up, the minute they were out the door, I realized I made a huge mistake. I had fallen deeply in love with this little creature who had wormed her way into my heart. The next day my friend called and said the new owner didn't like Doll (that was her name). Well, you can guess the rest....Doll and I were together 17 years. She taught me about love.

  151. Great story. Thank you. Did your two dog feel betrayed when you gave them away? Did they remember your walks, cheese pizza and the anguish you felt when you found them, confused, when your first wife left? This is sentience; true, plain and simple - 2 cents plain, thank you.

    Try that with 4-year old twins who have never had the chance to do anything wrong but they still ask you, "Why?"

    It's just love. A beautiful story.

  152. reading between the lines, it sounds like these dogs were neglected and abandoned much more than is otherwise described in this self-serving article of supposedly learning something that responsible dog owners who care for their dogs and stand by them through both the good and bad times are already know; nothing for the writer to be proud of here; and substance abuse seems to have contributed to the problem of his lack of good character. Finally, his former spouse also should share some of the blame here by leaving her dogs with someone who was clearly not capable of caring for them.

  153. Cynicism destroys magic. It is your choice to see one or the other.

  154. I think he did what he had to do. He recognized he wasn’t capable and rather than continuing to neglect the dogs he took care of them the only way he knew how. He wasn’t even taking a care of himself. The story is a life lesson learned and told. It is sad and poignant and well told in my opinion.

  155. Dogs are a lifetime commitment. They are not possessions to abandon or give away. The writer & his ex are obviously people who should never have had dogs in the first place. Just because the culture prizes children more than pets because children benefit consumerism doesn't make children more in need of absolute devotion. Pets are a lifestyle, not a fashion choice or a piece of furniture. Maybe if we imagined dogs as good Tibetan monks reincarnated to bless us & help us rise to our best selves, we wouldn't be so cavalier about dispensing with them when they just aren't convenient.

  156. Ah, judging others is such an easy thing to do. Somehow I doubt this man foresaw his plight when he got the dogs in the first place. How many of us do? Life happens and it often is not according to script. The dogs did not ask much of the writer, and when even that was too much for him, he researched a place where he could take them to live out their years with care. He should be commended. At least he eventually accepted blame for his circumstance, which is more than some people can say for themselves.

  157. It is hard to see what your life will be. If you are perfectly able to see your life you are in the minority. So what we learn from dogs is forgiveness. Dogs know something that humans don't: We are not perfect. We try hard and we fail. We try again. There is not a bad life, just failure to keep trying. That's the wisdom of being a dog: forgiveness.

  158. A Dog Has Died By Pablo Neruda
    Translated By Alfred Yankauer

    My dog has died.
    I buried him in the garden
    next to a rusted old machine.

    Some day I'll join him right there,
    but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
    his bad manners and his cold nose,
    and I, the materialist, who never believed
    in any promised heaven in the sky
    for any human being,
    I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
    Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
    where my dog waits for my arrival
    waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

    Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
    of having lost a companion
    who was never servile.
    His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
    withholding its authority,
    was the friendship of a star, aloof,
    with no more intimacy than was called for,
    with no exaggerations:
    he never climbed all over my clothes
    filling me full of his hair or his mange,
    he never rubbed up against my knee
    like other dogs obsessed with sex.

    No, my dog used to gaze at me,
    paying me the attention I need,
    the attention required
    to make a vain person like me understand
    that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
    but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
    he'd keep on gazing at me
    with a look that reserved for me alone
    all his sweet and shaggy life,
    always near me, never troubling me,
    and asking nothing.


  159. Pablo Neruda CONT:

    Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
    as we walked together on the shores of the sea
    in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
    where the wintering birds filled the sky
    and my hairy dog was jumping about
    full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
    my wandering dog, sniffing away
    with his golden tail held high,
    face to face with the ocean's spray.

    Joyful, joyful, joyful,
    as only dogs know how to be happy
    with only the autonomy
    of their shameless spirit.

    There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
    and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

    So now he's gone and I buried him,
    and that's all there is to it.

  160. Am I the only one who thinks it's odd that a farmer happens to be looking for TWO LARGE DOGS!? I grew up in Chittendon county Vermont and as in most small towns, word gets around. However, Vermonters are famous for minding their own business! I suspect the farmer got word (the dog walker perhaps?) that two dogs needed a better home, and placed the add for the writer to find and hopefully decide to give his dogs a better home.
    I am glad the dogs got a good home and the author found his way to a good life!

  161. That was my thought as well.

  162. Definitely not odd, it's called Livestock Guardian Animal. There are a number of breeds specifically for this, who live for the animals they protect. While these St Bernards were not raised to be LGA, having large dogs in a rural locale, a farm, is often better than small dogs. These can often become a meal for the wild animals living in the area as well. And large dogs need space, and a farm has lots of that.

  163. Well aware that farms need large dogs. It is odd to have an ad for two, just when there were two dogs nearby improperly cared for. Also seems the farmer took them without testing their temperament and ease of being near livestock. It seems quite a coincidence!

  164. I've been the Person who took in your Dogs. Thank you for realising that what they needed most from you was to be let go. Thank you for loving them that much.

  165. How did the dogs fare? What were their lives like? What happened to them?

  166. I don't think they meant literally, they had taken the author's actual dogs. I think they meant they have adopted other peoples dogs and understand that sometimes the best and most loving act you can perform is giving them up.
    Which it is, something some people here need to meditate on a bit.

  167. Thank you for this essay. I wish you all the best.

  168. My first dog arrived I was forty-five. Very little was easy with him around. He started me on the (still unfinished) path to learning how to give to others.
    He opened my heart like no person could. Possibly because, I project on to people and react to my projection. Sam just was. I had to come to his way of being or be run over (quite literally, as you'll see if you read).

    Thanks to this author for bringing tears again to me. Remembering the how I was taught to love by a big crazy black mutt.

  169. I enjoyed this article and felt the loss of my beloved cat. From reading it, it is obvious how difficult it was to give the dogs away, I don't read it as being uncaring. Interesting how others perceive the same article. Guilt can be a very negative emotion to hold on to. We are all (usually) doing the best we can (apart from those with Antisocial Personality Disorder :).

  170. The writer writes poignantly about one of the most difficult times in his life. The beauty of his story is he can illuminate his weakness, his despair, his utter inability to care for himself, and by extension, his animals. It is a character strength, not a flaw, that he recognized this. His animals needed more, so he did what was needed to provide for them. Thank you.

  171. I would urge the Times to reconsider allowing reader comments here. There are so many unkind, judgmental and misguided comments that add nothing to this great, lonstanding column about love. These are personal essays that usually, if not always, take a lot of guts to write. Why subject the writers to this unpleasant aftermath? I would be deterred from sharing a deeply personal (and possibly very helpful) story, seeing some of the reactions I see here on a regular basis.

  172. I love that you loved them enough to give them up. So many times what's held us together through the worst times, the lousy times, hasn't been the bank account or the house or even the kids. It's been our animals. Who would get them. Who would have to live without them. Who might love them more/better/forever. This might be my favorite Modern Love of all. Beautifully written. Beautifully given. Thank you Pauls.

  173. Paul, this is a beautiful story. Thank you. It reminds us that families can be complex and interspecies, and that family ruptures affect everyone. I'm so glad that the dogs found the farm, and that you found sobriety, peace and happiness.

  174. I am not a person who regards animals in the same way that I regard people. I think it is OK to farm out pets to other people. That said I have a cat now 17 which I have had for most of her life and will allow her to live out the full extent of her span. What I wonder about is why some people fill up the small space between them with 300 pounds of dog. From the start this could be a sign of not wanting to be entirely alone with another person. What is important here is that a human being overcame alcoholism. In expressing himself honestly the author was willing to paint and unflattering picture. I believe he did so to shine a light on some universal truths.

  175. I think it is a good idea to allow comments on the modern love section. It exposes the inherent narcissism that many of these contributors seem to suffer from. It is well and good when the community offers censure for for acts exactly like the one this author did, namely abandoning two very large dogs at a "farm." In typical alcoholic fashion it is always all about them and their excuses. Is this part of your 12 stepper program to say sorry to those you have hurt? Next time try to keep that part private and maybe as penance, privately go donate time or money to an animal shelter. I would say get a dog, but you can't handle them.

  176. Hopefully, the author has grown up a lot. I think that's the point of the story.
    Why are so many commenters so vicious?

  177. My biggest advice to any couple considering a life together is to rescue a puppy first. There is so much you learn about yourself and your mate that wouldn't come up otherwise. All of those little inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with caring for a puppy are very similar to what goes into caring for babies and can shed light on how you work together. The joy in a new puppy is also a healthy distraction from our selfish tendencies.

  178. I am glad you found a home for the dogs. It was the right thing to do. I say this as someone who took in a dog, a two and a half year old neglected German Shepherd, adopted from the humane society where he had been given up by owners who whom he was too much.

    My beloved German Shepherd lived a glorious twelve and a half years with me, pampered and loved. A brilliant dog, we took every training class I could find. At age fourteen, I taught him to pull a dollar bill from my back pocket when I said, 'Show me the money!'

    He was nearly fifteen when he passed on of old age, and I still miss him every single day.

    The author was unable to take proper care of his dogs. He was an active addict in crisis, and while we can all wish he had been able to overcome that quickly, it does not work that way. This was not a man who gave up his dogs because they no longer matched his couch. This was a person struggling, and failing, to care for them.

    Unlike many, he did the right thing. He found a good home when he could not be one. He did not, as some do, abandon his dogs in a literal ditch, on a highway, in a park, or tied to a storefront.

    Let us be as dogs, and show this man a loving, forgiving heart. He has worked hard to do better--and succeeded.

    I have taken in dogs like his, and I will do so again. I am glad that he took the steps he needed to take to get better, to care for himself, and slowly, to care for others. I bet his Saints would be proud of him.

  179. "Let us be as dogs" is a great mantra.

  180. So, I never even got to the rest of the article. The surprise clean out of the house is extreme. His wife got to simply strip the house and leave him nothing? What kind of law enforcement officer got behind that as an entirely appropriate act, complete with legal parerwork and due process? I would be wanting the badge of any officer that used their authority to help one party completely empty the joint residence, without court/divorce paperwork showing that such was duly authorized. As he clearly was caught by surprise, I'm guessing she did not have any.

    Yes, it sounds like a bad marriage, but it takes two to argue. Just emptying the house suddenly, without a divorce proceeding is flat out ilegal. The note, telling him that he had an obligation to take further care of her (as well as the dogs) -left for the man with the now empty house, seems amazingly one sided.

    For those that might be willing to take her side, just imagine - what if the roles were reversed, and it was the woman left with an empty house....

    Perhaps the author can further clarify?

  181. It doesn't take 2 to argue!

  182. This is not so much a story about dogs as much as it is about one man's failure to take care of dogs. Or himself. I don't think the dogs taught the author enough humanity. He gave the dogs away like they were property. This is a story of failure without much payoff in the end. I found this piece to be depressing and it does nothing for my faith in humanity. Since he went on to have kids, he could have at least told us that he's teaching his kids not to treat our canine companions the same we he treated them.

  183. Your comments to and about the author are cruel.

  184. I think you misread this piece. Life isn't about "payoffs"--it's a process of growth and gaining understanding. He felt he couldn't care properly for the dogs.
    Maybe he didn't ask enough of himself--that is likely. But he couldn't at the time, and he tried to give them a more appropriate home. When we're shaken by life's crises we can barely function much less care for two big dogs.

  185. What the author did was cruel and Nigel is right

  186. Beautiful and heart wrenching.

  187. I've had dogs all my life and could not live w/ o one.
    In my view he did the responsible thing, assuming he vetted the new owners more than he elaborates in his piece.

  188. Could you have at least called the dogs' new caregivers to check on them? Make sure they were being properly cared for?

  189. "They taught me how to be human. Or how to be a better human, to put somebody else’s needs before my own."

    When did that lesson get taught? The article mentions abandoning the dogs at home multiple times without food, then leaving them with strangers and never following up to check on their condition. When exactly did the writer learn from his dogs to be a better human?

    Perhaps it was after his daughter recently cried out in the bathroom, but before he got around to checking on her. After she had gone to sleep and had stopped needing him.

    Lying down next to her anyway, the author reports, he enjoyed the closeness. That is not so different from the treatment he provided to his ex-wife and ex-dogs.

  190. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Having known (indeed having shared a house with) many alcoholics, junkies and dopeheads, some of whom died young, some who gave up their habit after years of destructive behaviour, some of whom have just kept going, they all had and still have one thing in common: complete self-absorption and self-obsession.

    Drunk, high, intoxicated or sober, it was and still is always about them — and only them. They've never done a decent thing in all the time I've known them unless it was somehow to gain a benefit for them down the track.

    There's something fundamentally flawed in the alcoholic's and addict's character. They can't help it. They were born that way. And nothing can fix that flaw. The 12-step programs merely allow better social function. It's just the way we humans are.