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Daphne came into my life in December of 2008 as a Christmas present from my roommate and friend. I had come home from work late and when I walked in, she announced she had an early gift for me and to close my eyes. She disappeared back into her bedroom and laid into my arms this little white pup burrowed into a towel.
My heart instantly fell in love as we rode together to Walmart to get her a water bowl, some food, and the collar she would wear for the rest of her life. I named her Daphne. She was my constant companion for the next 11 years and just going a day without her was misery-inducing. Last weekend, I had to give her up because her kidneys had failed, and now I have lost my partner.
For me, and many like me, our pets are our partners. They fill that place in our lives that need love, compassion, friendship, and the need to feel comforted where people are not there to provide it. They become that emotional rock we all need.
I got Daphne when we were both pups. I had just transitioned months before her, and so we were brand new to this world. At the end of each night I went out to the bars looking for a date or a companion and I failed, 'cause I failed every single time, but Daphne was there at the door, waiting. And her snuggling up next to me on the bed or couch when I felt alone and unloved helped ease those feelings just a bit.
Daphne even saved my life a few times. Not from a fire or any other sort of accident, but from ending it myself. I have wrestled with depression and abandonment issues my whole life, and those times when I felt so terribly alone and unloved she was there. Since Daphne came into my life I managed to only find one relationship, and they cheated and left me after less than six months. Yet Daphne was there. Every time when I thought about doing it, I thought of who would take care of Daphne, and how much it would hurt her for me to go away, so I chose to press on.
You see, not all of us are lucky enough to find love and partners in our lives. Not all of us were blessed with good looks, a fit body, money, or even a community to find love in. Finding a person to love is not as easy as finding a cute face to swipe right on. There are those of us who live where there are no safe gathering spaces to find partners, and there are those of us who have grown older and there are fewer available people around us. Many of us had partners but time or circumstances have taken them away from us, leaving just empty holes in our hearts. For folks like this, for people like me, our pets fill these spots.
Daphne was always at the door when I came home. She would not only paw at the covers on the bed to burrow in and share her warmth, but more than once, I woke to find she had stolen the covers, and would growl when I tried to steal them back. When I would have company over, those few people I got to come over, she would firmly plant herself between me and them because I was hers first and foremost, and she would be damned if they didn't know that. We shared meals, walks, time in the sun. Life decisions were made around her because I never wanted to do anything that didn't include her. She was my partner.
For many of you, pets are pets. They live in your house, you feed them, you shelter them, and play with them; obviously you love them, but they are just pets. If they left, you, of course, would be broken hearted, but soon get a new pet, and life would go on. For many of us, for people like me, it's as devastating as losing your life partner.
We rarely, if ever talk about the aspect of LGBTQ life that is loneliness. We often present our community as one huge party, filled with hook-ups and one-night stands. We cheer those who find partners, have children, and celebrate loving and accepting family members, but we forget how much loneliness can be part of our experiences. We rarely want to talk about those seniors in our community who lost all their friends and partners due to age or disease, especially AIDS. We don't want to much reflect on those chubby, unfashionable, nerdy queers who hold their drinks close to their faces like a security blanket, lurking on the edges of the dancefloors, weakly bobbing their heads to the rhythm. All they want is to find that person they can dance with, to share their interests, and maybe if they're lucky, their love with, but still they go home alone.
Many of these folks, like me before Daphne passed, weren't completely alone. Daphne knew when I was sad and would snuggle with me. She knew when I was happy and would bounce, squeak, and bat her paws. There were times when she was stubborn and fight with me, and there were times when all she wanted was my attention and I was too selfish to give it. We hated being apart, and when she started to feel sick, I bought a puppy camera so I could keep an eye on her. That's when I learned she really did sit by the door all day waiting for me to come home. So when she was too sick to pick herself up to greet me with whines and barking, I knew she needed to go the vet. Within days, that dog that had filled my heart with the love I needed in my life, that it seemed no person would ever give me, could no longer even gather the strength to lift her head. Last Saturday, I got a call from the vet to come quick. It was time.
That little puppy wrapped in a towel was now wrapped in an old sweater. Too sick and weak to breathe without an oxygen mask, fading in and out of consciousness, I decided that the last bit of love I had to give her was to let her go, and within just a few seconds, my life partner was gone. She was the love of my life. I feel no shame in saying that. Not all of us are blessed to find a person to love us in this world that seems to hate us and tries to legislate us out of existence. I'm one of those people. Some of us find that love that no person seems willing to give us in a furry, four-legged partner, and mine is gone, and I'm alone again.
Amanda Kerri is a comedian and regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaKerri.