The Hardest Part of Leaving

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Almost every person that I’ve spoken to has asked me this question: “Is Thor moving with you?”

For those who don’t know, Thor is my border collie mix. He’s kind of my world- which may sound crazy but, hey, I think dog people will understand. He’s my everything. I adopted him from North Shore Animal League when he was eight weeks old, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He sleeps in my bed, he goes on errands with me, I take him on hikes, I talk to him about everything- he’s my best friend, and even after just four years together, I truly can’t imagine my life without him.

And that’s why it breaks my heart that he can’t come with me to Tallahassee.

Don’t get me wrong: I want, more than anything, to take him with me. I want to let him hop in my Jeep and drive him all the way down to Florida. I want to take him to my apartment complex’s bark park, to bring him to student dog meet-ups, to walk him around the city. I want him to be a part of this journey so badly it hurts. But, ultimately, as his human mom, I have to do what’s best for him. That’s what I committed to when I brought him home four years ago. That’s the responsibility I took on. So, no matter how much it hurts me, I know I can’t take him with me. It wouldn’t be fair.

Thor is a border collie mix (the shelter said he was a lab, but isn’t that the default for any little short-haired, black-furred puppy? I see pit bull, his DNA test said bull terrier; he’s a mutt. But he’s definitely got collie). He’s super high-energy. He needs to run every single day, and he needs lots of walks. He’s also one of the most anxious little things I’ve ever met. It’s just his nature. He’s been that way since he was a puppy, and he never quite grew out of it. I joke a lot that I got him to be my emotional support animal, but wound being his emotional support human. He needs lots and lots of attention, and thrives when he’s around his people. He’s the kind of dog that follows you from room to room. He’s a herder who likes to round the household into the living room so that he can sleep comfortably in the middle of us all. And while I, with the help of my parents, am able to provide all of this for him in New York, I don’t see our routine being sustainable once I’m on my own, in law school, in a brand new city.

Thor needs a house. He needs a yard to run and play in. He would go stir crazy in my two-bedroom apartment. He needs more than a park bark. He deserves more than that. And I know that, even if I went to every length I could to set a routine for him in Tallahassee, even if I jetted home after classes every single day to make sure I was there for him, he wouldn’t have the quality of life he deserves.

I know that he’ll be in the best hands imaginable with my parents, who I sometimes think love him more than they love me (listen, I don’t blame them - he’s kind of the best). I’ll also be able to see him on my hopefully-frequent visits to Long Island. He will be okay, and I will be okay.

But the thing that, for lack of a better term, sucks the most is that I can’t explain to him what’s happening.

I can’t tell him why I’m leaving. I can’t make him understand why I’ve been packing up all of my things, or why I’ll be gone for month at a time. I can’t explain to him that I’ll be back, but that our time together will be short. He won’t know where I’m going or why I’m going there; he won’t get why I’m not snuggling up with him at night anymore, or why I can’t take him with me on this particular adventure.

It kills me. It absolutely guts me that he can’t understand me when I tell him that I love him and that I fully intend to come back for him when I have the means to.

Throughout this process, I’ve tried to remain as positive and upbeat as possible, but this particular aspect has been the toughest to find a silver lining for. It’s harder than leaving my job of six years, than leaving my hometown, than moving away from my family for the first time in my nearly twenty-six years. It’s harder because the people I’m leaving at least understand me when I say, “Goodbye for now. I love you, and I’ll be back soon.” He’s a dog, and we don’t share a verbal language, and I can’t tell him these things in a way that will get through to him.

This was never part of the plan. When I adopted Thor, he was meant to be fully and wholly mine. He was meant to go with me when I moved out of my parents’ house. We were supposed to go on a long life journey together, to share in everything, to be partners. He’s my little buddy, and the hardest choice I’ve ever made is the decision to leave him in New York.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve thought of throwing in the towel. I got good offers from schools closer to home, and I don’t know if I can make you understand how incredible tempting it was to ditch Florida in favor of a closer school solely because it would keep me with my dog. Ultimately, this wouldn’t be the right choice. More specifically, it wouldn't be a choice made with the right reasons. Logically, I have to think about my future career. I know that Tallahassee offers me a lot of opportunities that would be harder to come by here in New York. I also know that law school is a three year commitment, and that there’s nothing stopping me from coming back to Thor after those three years. I have to make the best choices for both of us, for the best reasons, and I truly believe that that’s what I’m doing.

And with that decision made, all that I can do nowis make the most of our time together. I can take him for walks and hikes, I can take him for rides in the car, I can shower him with all the love I have and then some. I can make memories with him. And I can promise myself to do the same whenever I do get to see him.

But it is difficult. It’s the hardest part of all of this, and I know that it will hurt. I know that the sting will last for a while. But I also know that it’s a choice made out of love, and that Thor and I will be okay. We’ll absolutely be okay.