At the end of 1997 I was thirty-two, living in Richmond, Virginia and in a relationship that was approaching its third anniversary. My boyfriend and I were happy enough, I thought. We shared a rented house, cooked meals; accumulated electronics, bad art and two dogs. Then one day I realized I wasn’t happy at all. But there we were: living together with a pair of dachshunds circling our feet. The break-up was my decision. As we were in the process of moving into separate places, my now ex-boyfriend said he didn’t think the dogs should be wrenched apart just because I’d decided to wreck everyone’s life. He wanted to keep them both. I knew he was hurt and angry, but I also knew that the dogs were very attached to each other (they spent every waking and sleeping hour together, cleaned each other’s ears, stared into each other’s eyes with gummy affection). After much hand-wringing, I consented, stipulating that I wanted to see the dogs on a regular basis, maybe take them every second or third weekend. I wanted visitation rights.
A week later, my ex called and said we needed to meet. He claimed to have some papers for me to sign that would assure his being able to get the dogs proper veterinary care in the event of an emergency.
Something was afoot, I knew. What vet would refuse to treat an animal because the paperwork wasn’t in order? But I felt too horrible about instigating the break-up to say no. I also felt exhausted. I hadn’t been sleeping much, was weepy at the drop of a hat, was antsy and eager for this segment of my life to be over. I told my ex I would meet him on my way to work but that I wasn’t up for another argument, not today. I was about to start a double shift at the bar, about to embark on a nine-hour conversation with strangers, wherein everyone yammered and I had to listen and keep a stupid grin plastered on my face while I poured drinks and cut lemons.