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Challenge: We love our pets

Finding hope after losing a pet you love

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Every dog happens for a reason and no dog owner can define their pet with just a single word, especially after it leaves us. Saying goodbye to the pet you love is like having all of your nerve endings exposed, and more often than not, we outlive our pets, and have to face that agony. At the same token, I simply couldn't imagine not having a dog. Going down the unpathed roads of life with a dog by your side can be the most nurturing experience us humans can have.

Our girl Sam came into our life when Bobby and I decided to take our relationship to the next level. I gave up my life in New York City, to follow with whom I was undeniably smitten. After graduating NYU Dental School, Bobby chose to serve his country for nearly six years. Our first duty station was in North Carolina.

dogs

While shopping for our first home together, we saw a bunch of foster dogs waiting to be rescued. And there she was, hiding behind the others, and I knew she needed us. I picked a beaten puppy with the prettiest brindle coat and saddest of eyes. She was the one. Opening our doors to our new furry friend was easy. She provided so much comfort and love during the 13 years we had her. She was there for every celebration and every fall. I had several traumatic losses during this time, and Sam was there by my bedside. If she were able, she would have handed me tissues.

The bond my husband had with Sam was beyond special. He adored her and took her everywhere with him. If he could have, he would have put her in his backpack when he deployed to Afghanistan. They were so in tune with one another, we used to always joke that she spoke English. We didn't know what mix she was, all we knew is that she was a street dog. Her constant love and devotion to our family was insurmountable, making our goodbyes harder than we could have ever imagined. As a family, we learned the true meaning of companionship during our 13 years with Sam.

rescue dog

We have all heard there is no greater bond than that of a dog and its owner. Sam was living proof of that. She protected us when unwanted prowlers were lurking, and would even alert us when one of our kids opened the front door. The intuition and response levels dogs have never ceases to amaze me. It's no wonder dogs are so instrumental in nursing homes and hospitals as animal assisted therapy.

When Sam passed away, there was a void too difficult to process. We had three children, and I was pregnant with my fourth. We were crushed she didn't live to 'see' baby Brody's birth. Watching our other dog Shelby grieve and long for her companion truly hurt our soul. That's when Bobby's friend from North Carolina starting posting his litter of pups. It was then that we decided to take the plunge, leave Sam's dog bed right where it was, and heal our broken hearts.

silver labs

We chose the pup third from the right. She came all the way to San Diego from North Carolina. Our sweet niece took her on the plane to get her settled in her new forever home. It was love at first sight. Our baby Brody was only a few months old, and we wanted to get them comfortable with one another from the start. We are no strangers to introducing pets to our children and we knew to keep them as close as possible. It wasn't a problem for me to facilitate this relationship, as I was home getting our baby settled into new routines.

Mabel's positive impact and infectious energy shined on our family so brightly. Everyone grieves differently, and there are some who would never get another pet, so as not to 'replace' the one they lost. We understand that, and certainly took a little time to grieve, but those were five of the more difficult months our family has faced together, as a unit. We knew that our hearts were ready to love another dog. If I can be overtly honest, Mabel instantly helped us heal. Our sobering reality of not seeing Sam again was replaced with a newfound collection of dog tales, curated just the way you'd imagine - some destructive and some heartfelt. She has opened our hearts and reminded us how to feel that kind of love again.

puppy and baby

The day-to-day of being a mom of four, with two dogs and a career can be hectic, daunting and leaving me to why the heck we added to the chaos with a new puppy one year ago. However, I can't deny that I am struck by the fervor my children have expressed with welcoming Mabel into our home. And for baby Brody, an instant playmate from the moment they met. They are truly like siblings. They slept together during those first few months, and now display a relationship like a brother and sister would. They fight, they play, they cuddle and make up. The connection they have is so honest and innocent, and watching it as their greatest spectator, their mom, has been such a privilege.

We are so grateful we took the plunge with Mabel, or what my husband likes to call her, Mabel-ine. There is no doubt in my mind that she causes much havoc, from eating our dining chairs, to our guests' shoes, and every one of Brody's toys. But, we quickly forgive her unwelcome chewing, because she has stolen our hearts. I have learned through the years that dogs are the glue that bind our families, and Mabel has certainly found a place within our home, and our hearts.

birthday dog

For our family, there's nothing else that could produce the wonderment, or sometimes heartbreak, quite like a dog (or two) could. Going through those spectrums of emotions together brings us closer as a unit, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

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