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Challenge: We love our pets

Sometimes a broken dog is exactly what you need

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“This dog is broken,” I yelled from the front door. My husband leaned around the corner of the kitchen and shot me a confused look. “This dog is broken,” I repeated. “I just walked her four miles and she isn’t even winded. Clearly, she’s broken.”

Daisy Ray had only been ours for a few weeks before I realized that endless walks were part of her normal routine. While I quickly found myself annoyed with the prospect of racking up miles just to get this pup to calm down, I never could have imagined those walks would become the therapy I so desperately needed.

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Now, there are two versions of the story of how Daisy Ray came to be ours. The first is the one I tell at parties and to neighbors who ask “What kind of dog is that?” This version starts with me having a few too many glasses of Pinot Grigio, searching a pet adoption website, finding a cute little pooch named “Sunny”, and apparently submitting an adoption application for that pup.

Early the next morning, I received a call asking if I wanted to bring the whole family to meet that puppy. “I’m sorry, what?” is all I could get out before I agreed to bring my husband and kids to meet the tiny puppy that would soon become our Daisy Ray.

But that’s only part of the story. It had only been a few months since I had miscarriage that sent me into a tailspin of grief and depression. Soon after the loss of that pregnancy, our beloved dog, who my husband and I adopted thirteen years before, died in my arms.

I felt both losses deeply, but I would yell at myself for feeling so sad and heartbroken. Who was I to grieve a miscarriage when I had two healthy and amazing children? And I would say over and over, “Why are you still crying over a dog? It was just a pet.”

I would remind myself that feeling devastated and angry over these back-to-back losses was simply absurd. The truth is, I was overwhelmed with sadness and I felt shame about that sadness. I felt like I had to hold it all together and inside because that’s what I do and that’s who I am.

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So I hid my grief from everyone, but I was doing a lousy job of it. Looking back, I can see I was a shell of myself. I had zero patience for my husband and my kids. Everything annoyed me, and while I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of gal, my outlook on just about everything was pretty bleak. That’s when I started the endless apologizing for my crappy mood and behaviors, then I would cry and try to explain myself, and then I would internally yell at myself for being such a wreck. So yes, I was a ton of fun to be around.

One morning during my marathon walks with Daisy Ray, I took a break from listening to my usual true crime podcasts to find something a bit more uplifting. Because when you are wallowing in sadness, sometimes true crime is a bit much, right?

So I switched to Oprah for a few words of wisdom and some uplifting notes. “Come on, Oprah,” I pleaded. “Give me something good.” After choosing a random episode, it didn’t take long for Oprah to deliver.

The topic of the podcast was grief and then the words just hit me. “You can’t walk around grief. You have to walk through it. Walk through the grief.”

Now, I’m a very literal person so I took this message as a sign that I needed to walk right through this grief to the other side. So with a dog that needed to walk it out and my grief that needed to be walked out, we took off every morning on a mission to walk together.

Some days walking through grief meant being furious at everyone, everything, and nothing at all. On those days I wanted to jump out of my skin and scream at someone because I was so mad. Usually it was a car driving too fast in our neighborhood or the tree that had dropped way too many acorns on the sidewalk that was on the receiving end of my anger walks. But together, Daisy Ray and I kept on walking.

Other days I just cried. I’d change up our routes so I wouldn’t have to run into the same neighbors and dogs we’d pass each day. Sometimes the tears became too much and I’d have to stop to catch my breath, but a very impatient Daisy Ray would pull me along. I like to think it’s because she knew I needed to keep moving, but I think she just wanted to catch up to a squirrel. Either way, we kept walking.

After months of daily walks, I started feeling better. The hours and miles turned in a lot of self-reflection and allowing myself to feel and forgive myself for being so hard on myself during a really awful time. Walking through the grief, the anger, and the sadness helped me reach a new normal. I will always be sad over the miscarriage and will forever miss our first dog, but now I’m in a better place with that sadness. And I’ve allowed myself to say that it’s OK to be sad about these losses forever, but I can’t let it spiral out of control again.

Our walks are much more peaceful these days and our mission is just to get this dog to take a nap when we get home. Daisy Ray was exactly what I needed when I didn’t know what I needed. We’ve dubbed her my therapy dog, just one that doesn’t come with the fancy training. But I still contend this dog is clearly broken but so am I. That’s probably why we fit so well together.

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