Dogs Heal In More Ways Than One
Dogs heal in more ways than one.
Two and half years ago, I received a Facebook message from a friend; a six-month-old puppy named Marley was dropped off at doggy daycare and the owner refused to pick him up. The owner said he no longer wanted the adorable shepherd/collie mix with the floppy ears and fluffy tail.
The message read, “Lorene, you need this dog.” I went to meet him the next day and fell and in love at first sight. Those floppy ears were too cute and too soft for words. I wanted to take him home but was convinced that my work travel schedule and living solo in a downtown loft was not the best living situation for Marley. He deserved a big family that could provide him lots of love and attention, a backyard to run in and other dogs to play with.
Marley picked me
The next day I received a phone call from the daycare saying even though Marley met so many loving people who wanted to adopt him, he picked me. The daycare promised me I had nothing to worry about. I was assured this lonely puppy didn’t need a big back yard to play in, all he needed was my love. I was officially a dog parent and suddenly not the only living creature in my loft. I hoped I could keep both of us alive.
Having a puppy was serious work. He needed to be housebroken and learn basic obedience. There was crate training, debilitating separation anxiety, endless vet visits for vaccinations, kennel cough and more. At one point, he lost 25% of his body weight for no apparent reason. It took a few months, a whole lot of money and love, but I nursed him back to health. Slowly, I helped him heal and promised to always be there for him.
Suddenly, it was time for Marley to help me heal.
Stress is a huge asthmatrigger for me, and 2015 certainly had more than a few stressful moments. First, my mother passed away. The following month I was laid off from a job I loved and poured my heart and soul into for six years. I downsized from my downtown loft to a tiny studio apartment across town. I was unemployed for six months, surviving on small consulting jobs before being offered a position across the state. That meant a quick cross-state move, the challenge to find an affordable apartment in a very expensive city, and the anxiety that comes with starting a new job in a new city. Whew. It was overwhelming.
Helping me through it all was my four-legged roommate, Marley. He licked away my tears and cuddled on my lap whenever I felt sad. He brought me his squeaky toys to cheer me up. His puppy energy level required long walks, so we took advantage of my forced time-off and hiked through canyons and state parks. We played fetch on the beach, sat under giant redwood trees and climbed a 10 million-year-old volcano. We marched in parades and shared crepes in our favorite outdoor cafe. Slowly, he helped me heal.
Marley has taught me so much about life and unconditional love. He never seemed to mind when I stopped to catch my breath or use my rescue-inhaler. He was just happy to spend time with me. He reminds me to be in the moment and to enjoy each moment to its fullest.
There are many things to consider before adopting a dog, especially if you have asthma. But there can be a lot of health benefits too, also important if you have asthma. Data shows the simple act of petting a dog can lower your blood pressure. Dog owners tend to be more active and social, combating loneliness and isolation that often accompany chronic illness such as asthma. If you can't commit to becoming a full time dog parent, you'll find lots of love volunteering at your local shelter or rescue.
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