How My Dog Saved Me

The Other Program: Al-Anon
June 2, 2016
The Joys of Living a Sober Life
June 7, 2016

How My Dog Saved Me

This was an original post last year, but I love it so much and wanted to share it again….enjoy (especially for all you dog lovers out there!)

I grew up with a terrier poodle mutt mix, Casey.  We got her at our local Safeway in Palos Verdes, California in 1974.  She was this black curly ball of fur with sweet eyes and a happy disposition, and we loved her from the day Mom brought her home.  She lived for 19 years and was a very good family dog to us.  Having a dog around was always normal for me and it was also always something I wanted and longed for in my adult life.  However, living my life the way I was in my 20s and 30s, I could barely take care of myself most days, let alone another living creature.  All my houseplants died within days of me bringing them home and I never lived in any one place too long to grow roots or have any normalcy in my life.  By the time I got sober, I had over 25 geographic’s.


In 2004, the year I got sober, I knew that I really wanted to get a dog.  I also knew that I needed to wait a while as I was just starting to get my own life in order trying to navigate an existence without alcohol and drugs.  So for a few years I was able to love on close friends’ furry creatures to get me ready until I could rescue my own pup.  There were only a couple criteria that were must’s for me on getting a dog.  One – it had to be a rescue dog and two – was that it had to be a real dog.  A dog that was floppy, big, dopey and lovable and that sat in the back seat of my car with windows down and mug out smiling with ears flapping in the wind.   I wanted a dog of some real substance.  Even though I grew up with smaller medium sized dogs, I leaned towards the bigger dogs of drool and girth.  I initially wanted a chocolate lab – sweet, loyal, sturdy and strong – great dog combo!


In 2008 I found myself four years sober and ready to embark on the possibility of getting my own dog.  My lifestyle had me single, living in a two bedroom ocean view apartment in southern California and working from home for a NYC based company.  I really wasn’t even sure I would be able to manage a dog full-time as I was doing a decent amount of weekend traveling and usually after work I was running off to a meeting or out to dinner with friends, and was gone for hours at a time. What kind of a lifestyle would that be for a dog?  There was also the financial aspect to consider.  A lot of unknowns were scurrying around in my mind and I had some doubts.  Trust God and the universe and see what happens.  I was hoping I could test that theory out.


I was able to dog sit for a friend of mine for two months while she had to finish her schooling in Seattle.  She had a Boxer name Vegas.  It was a great experience and it got me in training for my own pup.  After the two months were over, I was so sad to see Vegas go, but was now fully and madly in love with the boxer breed.  A couple weeks later, I went to the San Diego boxer rescue in East County, where this woman had over 12 Boxers (or boxer mutt’s) and about 20 Chihuahuas for adoption.  It was a surreal experience as I felt so bad for all of the dogs and wished I could adopt them all.  I gave her a nice donation, on top of my adoption fee, and chose the most loving one there.  Her name was Princess when I got her (really ? for a boxer) and I soon changed her name and Lucy she became.  I named Lucy after a Grateful Dead song and soon found out that Lucy was the second most popular female dog name in the country.  So much for being original.  I was Lucy’s third owner and it was evident someone had spent time training her.  I soon realized that she had rescued me and not vice versa because up until that point in my life Lucy was the second best thing that had ever happened to me.  Getting sober being the first, of course.  Here’s the thing, I was 41 years old and I knew I wasn’t going to have any children, so Lucy became my child.  Yup, I swore I’d never turn into one of those “dog people” and I surely did.  I saw the movie, “Best in Show” right before I adopted Lucy and I couldn’t fathom how anyone could get that bad.  Oh yes, that was me.   My “Busy Bee” is “Pinky the Pig”.


So this is where my depression story comes in and Lucy saves the day.  Soon after I adopted Lucy, I went through my first real sober life test, a break up.  Gasp! I had no coping tools to manage this kind of life event.  I was devastated and wasn’t mentally or emotionally equipped to handle this emotional disturbance.  My first instinct was to act out and drinking sounded like a good option at the time.  I won’t bore you with the sad sack details of how many boxes of tissues I went through and how I lost eight pounds in three days, but let’s just say Lucy literally saved my life.  I had to keep coming back for her now; it wasn’t just about me anymore.   I couldn’t leave her, I couldn’t abandon her, and I couldn’t go out and get drunk or high and not be accountable to Lucy.  It was all about her.  She needed to be fed, she needed to be walked, she needed my love and within a few months I bounced back from that break up a stronger and more stable sober person.  I have God and Lucy to thank for that.  I sometimes like to think that God and Lucy are one in the same – it may sound a bit crazy to you, but to me it makes complete sense.



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