Last week, Scooter wasn't feeling well. He's been having some tummy issues and kept getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and sometimes seemed uncomfortable. This is not too unusual, given the fact that he is 12 (at least, we found him 11 years ago as, we guessed, a one year-old stray), but still, we thought we should take him to the vet and get checked out.
When I say 'we', I mean his 'dad' and I, his other primary doggy guardian and caregiver. Not my husband, but my ex-husband, Chris. Though we have lived apart for more than 3 years now, we are committed to raising Scooter and his 4 year-old Schnoodle 'brother', Biscuit, together. Sharing decisions and expenses and custody, one or two-week stints at a time.
While I don't think this is a rare situation, it is still far from common, at least this is what I gleaned at the vet's office, where the admin and the vet tech still seem confused by the arrangement ('you're not married to Chris anymore? Don't you want me to take him off as emergency contact? Why are you still coming here if you live across the state?'). The vet himself is an old friend, though - in fact I used to be his priest - so he takes it all in friendly stride. It's nowhere near as complicated and potentially painful as sharing the custody of children, and so there is a lot of room for grace.
And this is one reason I continue this arrangement: unlike with children, of course, with pets there is the option of letting go completely. There are two dogs, there are two of us, we could have each taken one and then been out of each others' lives, and the dogs would have been fine. And we considered that during the separation and divorce process.
But beyond even the thought of how much I love both my pups and couldn't bear to be without either of them, there was also how continuing to share them has helped Chris and I to forgive one another and move on. Staying in some kind of relationship has forced us to be partners in this one thing, and it has helped us continue to be some kind of family. Still part of the same pack, I guess you could say.
This, for me as a Christian, and as a priest, and as someone who has struggled with how to understand my divorce in the context of my faith, has been a blessing. I still think divorce is a sin, the breaking of a bond and loosening of a vow we promised always to keep. I don't regret my divorce from Chris, but I do repent of it. And I work to make amends to him, to the community that supported us in our marriage, and to God. Sharing the dogs helps me do this, one day, and one vet visit, at a time.
Scooter is fine. We are all fine. We work to get better every day, we rely on a love that doesn't come from us but does heal us, and we give thanks for the places where our broken parts are forgiven restored. We just keep sharing.