Do you see the adorable creatures in the photo above? They’re precious, aren’t they? These two dogs belonged to my ex-boyfriend.
Gabe, the one with the short brownish fur, was the most loving, considerate little dog. He could tell all of my moods and would make his mood respond to mine accordingly. If I was happy, he was overjoyed to be alive. If I was sad, he would curl up in my lap and just stay there with his head down. He was the ultimate best friend.
Bruiser, the one with longish black fur, was the most protective dog I’d ever met. He would protect his owner come hell or high water. Though he weighed only 12 pounds, he had a serious case of big dog syndrome. I, in fact, recall one day in which he notified his owner of a moose that was in our walking path, and barked at the moose until the moose turned around.
These two dogs were loving in their own ways, their own very different ways.
They came into my life at the same time as their owner, right around the point in time when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I was going through a major transition with my career, and overall, I felt quite lost within the universe.
What I used to believe was some kismet sign from the universe that this person came into my life for a reason, I now realize was him preying on someone in some of their weakest moments. It was a charade, a long game rouse to make me feel as though I could trust when I shouldn’t have been.
See, their owner had this thing about him – though he came across as loving, thoughtful and kind, he had an issue with lying. He lied all the time. About everything. He lied so often that I didn’t even realize how often he was lying. Since I’ve now recognized that my biggest toxic trait is ignoring red flags when they’re presented to me, I look back on life with a new found focus. Hindsight really is 20/20.
One of the first things their owner lied to me about was his age. That’s right – he told me that he was four years younger than he was. At the time I thought he might have just… been insecure, thinking I wouldn’t talk to him if I knew how wide our age gap was. So, I chalked it up to nothing.
Over the course of our relationship, as he continued to lie to me, I continued to give excuses for him, rather than holding him accountable for his actions. (Again, toxic trait = ignoring red flags)
He would lie to me about where he was, what he was doing, who he was spending time with. While I didn’t know all of the lies were lies until much later, I did know some of them when they happened, and I ALWAYS made excuses for him. At one point in time he actually tried to hire hookers using his Facebook messenger. I made excuses for him. I literally saw him trying to hire hookers through Facebook messenger and I told myself that it was nothing.
I told myself that it was nothing because it was easier for me to not fight with him than to face the reality that he was a pathological liar, manipulator, gaslighter, and abuser. Please note that I am choosing my words very wisely here. Every descriptor that I have provided, are truthful statements. Contrary to what the police might think, I am not a jealous ex-girlfriend out to ruin a man’s life. (If I were, for starters, I’d use his name so that this story could live on Google for it to live on forever.
While in our relationship, I looked at it as a stable, steady relationship filled with love, care and strength. I didn’t see anything wrong, despite the warning signs in front of me. Looking back now, I can see all of the times I made a mistake in sticking around and that embarrasses me. I am truly ashamed when I think of how many times I should’ve left and didn’t.
Fast forward to the first time I did leave (yes, the first time. I am ashamed of that fact too).
He used to wake up earlier than me and head off to work in the wee hours of the morning. So it was common that I wouldn’t talk to him until after I woke up and I wouldn’t see him until after he was done work.
One April morning (after having lied to me that he renewed his driver’s license in February) I got a phone call from Registries (where you renew your driver’s license) and the worker there was stating that someone was trying to use my credit card.
It was him.
While I was sleeping, he had gone into my purse and took my credit card. Now, he was at Registries trying to renew his driver’s license – something he’d told me he’d done two months prior.
There were a lot of feelings at play here for me. I was angry – that he’d stolen my credit card. It felt like a violation of my personal space, information and privacy. I was angry that he’d gone into my purse while I slept. I was angry that he’d been lying to me for two months about having his driver’s license renewed. I was angry that every time we’d been driving around for the past two months, we were doing so illegally because he didn’t have a license. I was sad because I felt like I must be a bad girlfriend if he didn’t think he could come to me and ask me to borrow money. I was scared that if I didn’t go along with the Registries employee on the phone, he was going to get in trouble. I was confused as to why any of this was my problem – but, in a moment of weakness, I told the Registries employee that I’d given him permission to use my card.
After that point, Gabe and Bruiser could tell that I was sad and they kept me company all day. Gabe sat on my shoulder, nuzzled into my neck, and Bruiser sat on my lap, ready to bark at any time if the fridge made a weird noise, or if there was a neighbour walking by or anything. They were protecting me in my moment of sadness.
That night when he came home from work, he was preemptively angry with me. (This is where I realize the gaslighting comes in) He had worked himself up all afternoon, thinking that I was going to be mad at him when he came home (and rightfully so) that he worked himself into being angry at me.
When he came through the door I was given a decision – I was to forgive him, or I was to forgive him. That’s all there was to it. He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to hear that I was angry with him, or why I was angry with him. He wanted it to be ignored, and for everything to be fine. He was very aggressive in his trying to convince me that everything was fine.
I told him that I did not accept that.
In a fit of anger, he went downstairs to… I don’t know. He clearly wasn’t interested in talking about what caused him to steal my credit card, so I decided I was going to go for a walk. Perhaps, if he was wondering where I was, it would prompt him to think twice about the fact that we needed to talk about how violated I felt.
That wasn’t the case.
He didn’t even notice that I was gone.
About an hour later, when he came back upstairs, I don’t recall exactly what he said but it was along the lines of ‘Have you decided to forgive me yet?’ Also that I needed to stop being a bitch to him and stop reading too much into this.
When I told him that I didn’t forgive him, he yelled. He screamed. He pounded his fist against his open hand. It was one of the scariest nights of my life, to be honest. I thought he might hit me. And, since he was considerably stronger than I, I knew it wouldn’t be good for me if he did.
The audacity of a man to steal his girlfriend’s credit card, and then be angry with her when she wants an apology. That’s the kind of emotional abuse that, looking back, I now realize I dealt with on the regular.
At this point, he decided that he was going to go to bed. Bruiser and Gabe were sitting on me, as they believed they were protecting me, I am sure. He called them and said ‘we’re going to bed.’ and something along the lines of maybe I wouldn’t be such a bitch in the morning.
Bruiser and Gabe did not go to him.
He called them a few more times and they did not leave my side. This made him extremely angry. More so than he already was. He said something along the lines of ‘You’re my fucking dogs, you’ll come when I call you’ and he walked over to me and ripped Gabe out of my hands, picking him up by the skin on his neck. The dog was struggling to breathe and he didn’t care.
When I told him he was hurting Gabe and that he can’t do that, he responded with something along the lines of ‘they’re my dogs, I can do whatever the fuck I want to them’ and he turned around and threw Gabe at the wall.
He threw a six pound dog against the wall.
It was horrifying. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I was so scared I couldn’t move.
Bruiser, realizing that he’d just hurt Gabe, started barking angrily at him as Gab scampered off towards the corner crying. In response to Bruiser barking at him, he picked up Bruiser by the neck and threw him against the wall.
Bruiser ran off immediately. He ran and hid in the far back corner under one of the beds. Gabe was still in the corner where I could see him. I don’t really remember what happened after this point, other than my saying I was going to call the police and that animal abuse could put you in jail. He stormed off out the front door, got in his car and drove away.
At this point in time, I scooped up Gabe and went to go find Bruiser. I couldn’t coax Bruiser out of the deep corner of the room under the bed where he was hiding, so I thought of what I knew of the dog, he would stay there all night and I could grab him in the morning when he came out.
This all took place in a very small town. I think the population was 5,000? There wasn’t anywhere for me to go. I didn’t know anyone except for my ex. There weren’t busses. I didn’t have a car. The one taxi driver in town stopped working at 5:00 pm every day. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of options.
So, I took Gabe and I locked myself in a room.
I slept on the cement floor of that room and Gabe stayed curled up next to me the whole night.
The next morning, I got my things and I left. I paid $100 plus dollars to get a ride to a hotel in a nearby town and I stayed there until I could get someone to come and get me.
I should’ve stayed away after that.
I think it’ll probably be a decision that I look back on for the rest of my life with regret that I ever talked to him after that. But sadly, this was not the end of our story. Though I had left, I continued to answer his text messages and phone calls. I don’t know why. I would say love. Perhaps some of it was out of love. I think some of it was out of sheer, misunderstanding and stupidity. I wasn’t looking at how awful our entire relationship was. I was treating it like it was one mistake he made, instead of it being the cultivation of months of mistreatment, gaslighting and emotional abuse. I’m ashamed to admit that I talked to him after that. I’m ashamed to admit this wasn’t the end of our story.
Why didn’t I call the police that night? I can’t tell you. I was afraid? I thought the police might make it worse? I honestly don’t know. I should’ve called the police. Perhaps if I had, I would’ve had more strength to stay away after I left. Perhaps this whole story could’ve stopped right here.
But it didn’t.