What My Narcissistic Husband Did When We Lost Our Dog

It made me finally believe his diagnosis of narcissism.

dog laying down while owner is petting head Anna Kraynova | Shutterstock

My husband and I entered the veterinary exam room. 

I sat on the floor and placed Emma’s dog bed on my lap. I asked my husband to pick Emma up and place her on top of the bed. Our sweet girl’s aging body was burdened but she showed no signs of it. 

She was as pleasing and loving as ever.

I cradled Emma, hoping the security of her bed in her momma’s arms would bring her more comfort.

We waited for the vet to say our final goodbyes to a gentle being who loved us more than anyone deserves. She loved our babies. She tolerated every tug and pull of toddlerhood. 


She met a snorting deer face to face and stood as a protective shield while our son made his getaway. She spent every day running after our guys (her guys) in our yard. And every night snuggling beside them.

I glanced over at my husband.

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I was a wreck but he showed no emotion.

I said nothing because I realized I was lucky he even graced us with his presence. I knew this. I needed him there. I couldn't do this alone. I couldn't say goodbye to my sweet old girl. 

But I was wholeheartedly unprepared for my husband’s ultimate reaction.


Scratch that, I was shocked.

Before I get to that, let me tell you a little about Emma’s history with my husband. 

My husband and I got Emma when I was six months pregnant with our first child. She was a gorgeous Golden Retriever with the typical easy temperament the breed is known for. She was so little trouble that I used to call her the "un-dog."

Because she didn’t have any bad doggie habits. 

She didn’t dig, counter surf, get into the trash, jump on people, or anything else.

All she did was love her people…love her family.

Over the years, Emma would sit on her favorite bed gazing outside. Like most dogs, she anxiously watched the comings and goings of her people, of her pack. And in the meantime, she entertained herself with the antics of the deer and the squirrels.


Her window-framed perch was her happy place.

Every night she would get up to greet her human Daddy when he walked through the door.

Over time, age consumed her incredibly gentle body.

It didn’t matter. She would spy my husband’s car coming up the driveway and pry her body out of its comfy fabric refuge.

It took a lot of effort but love motivated her four-legged heart. She would walk a couple of steps to the family room door and wait with anticipation.

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And each night, without fail, my husband would walk right past her.

I couldn’t take watching it anymore.

"How do you walk past her?" I asked. "Can’t you at least acknowledge her and pat her on the head? Just say hello to her it will only take a moment. She's exhausting herself just to greet you."


My husband was unphased.

He wasn’t a dog lover.

It didn’t matter to Emma. 

She loved him as much as she loved our three boys and me. We were the ones who showered her with attention. We were the ones who couldn’t get enough of her. We were the ones who gave her treats. We were the ones who talked to her. We were her true people.

But Emma was a lover.

And she loved my husband even if he walked past her aging body every night.

The vet entered the office.

My heart couldn’t take it. Emma had asked nothing of me. She had never been any trouble. She had loved me. She had loved my children. She loved this man standing next to me.

I looked over at my husband. 


Not a tear was being shed. 

Don’t misunderstand me — Not a tear was even welling in his eyes. Not a single emotion was welling anywhere below his supposedly human surface.

He watched vacantly as our Emma was gently put to sleep.

I bawled my eyes out.

He acted like he was casually attending a business meeting. A stranger could see a sweet gentle animal put to sleep and have a hard time containing their emotion.

It wasn’t normal. It wasn't human.

Our ailing and aging dog was suffering and being mercifully put out of her pain. And my husband didn't feel a thing. There wasn't a hint of sadness in his body. 

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Did I understand my husband had been diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder a few years earlier? Yes.

Did the girl who met her college sweetheart at nineteen believe it? Yes and no.

I knew it was true, but the denial deep within me wanted to believe there was a real human somewhere within him. I witnessed the narcissistic cruelty but I held on to some level of what I believed was a deeper goodness.

I was fooled by the two sides of a narcissist. The cold and emotionally abusive man was undeniable. But the charismatic charmer also seemed real. 

But he wasn't.

A narcissist's lack of empathy means only one person resides within them, despite their alternating personas.


This man who vacantly watched a dog who spent thirteen and a half years loving him leave this world was the real husband I had married.

He was the college sweetheart who had fooled me.

He didn't have the ability to feel any degree of pain except his own. 


I thought back to the day he was diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder.

When the therapist told my husband he lacked empathy, he rejected the idea.

We had been through many months of marriage counseling and had just answered a battery of test questions. We met with the counselor to receive the results of those tests. 

"Why do I care if some dog falls through the ice on the evening news?" said my husband. 

It was a nod to one of the hundreds of questions he remembered answering. Our counselor explained these tests were industry standards in the field of psychology. And of course, nearly eight months into counseling this diagnosis was the culmination of more than just these tests.


I heard the diagnosis and it validated me. What I was experiencing was real even if the majority of the world would never recognize more than my husband's life-of-the-party narcissistic charm.

I should have run for the door but I didn't. I was in denial. I hoped for a miracle. 

Emma and I had loved a man with no ability to love us back.

This is what my narcissistic husband did when we lost our dog. He exposed himself.

It was too much to continue to deny. It made me finally realize who I was married to. 

It made me accept the diagnosis of a narcissistic personality disorder.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.