Seven years ago, when my first marriage of fifteen years unexpectedly went belly up, I was involuntarily launched on what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey. There are other names for this kind of experience. The writer Elizabeth Lesser calls it the Phoenix Process. Dante called it “the dark woods.” Whatever you call it, it’s a time of upheaval, pain, and eventually, transformation.  And to be sure, the year I spent ending my marriage and recovering – perhaps from the marriage as much as the divorce – was one of the most powerful and potent of my life. I still look back on it with a sense of respect and awe.

What I didn’t understand for a long time, though, was that the year of my divorce was only the beginning of a much longer voyage. Life had a great deal more in store for me than merely the end of who I was in my first marriage.  I would spend the next half decade learning nothing less than how to love well, and what it meant to be loved well. Those are taller orders, and far more enriching ones.  To learn those things is to be rearranged at an atomic level. I had a long path to walk.

Through it all, to my infinite gratitude, there was a dog. If a soul dog is an animal who accompanies you along this sometimes painful and often terrifying road, then clearly Thomas fits that description. I found him at the Oregon Humane Society in July of 2006, after the death of our dog, Boo, of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Three years earlier, I had lost the dog whose heart I’d stolen from my ex-husband, a mischievous Golden Retriever named Whiskey who had gone with me into the wilderness the first time. That July, I was ready for another companion, and I found Thomas after carefully considering what I wanted in a dog, and poring over many photos and breed descriptions.

A big dog, I thought at the time, is what I wanted. I love big dogs, and I believe in author Cat Warren’s observation that life seems less frightening with a large dog at your side. I had other requirements, too: A male dog, a little goofy and not too serious, and eager to follow a trail.  Thomas was and is all of those things. And yet, it turns out he is so much more.

Spring06 295He was eight weeks old when I first met him at the shelter in Portland, Oregon, and a bit shy and frightened. He was a beautiful puppy, a mix of Border Collie and Siberian Husky, and something mysterious in our interaction drew me to him. His shyness didn’t deter me. He allowed me to hold him and pet him, but he wasn’t overeager about it. He had no real reason to trust me, this tiny puppy on his own for the first time in a shelter, but he did.

“He’s the one,” I whispered in the tiny meeting room, more to myself than anyone else.  When we went back two days later to pick him up, he was freshly neutered and ready to go. I slyly handed my ex-husband the car keys and prepared to carry Thomas out. A friend of mine who had worked in shelters told me her theory that the person who carried a puppy out of a shelter was the one he was most likely to bond with.  I wasn’t sure that was always true, but I was leaving nothing to chance. I wanted him to be my dog.

I put in the effort wherever possible to achieve that. I trained Thomas in the hills and mountains of Oregon, Montana, and Idaho, where we lived during the first 18 months of his life, as he quickly grew into the big dog I hoped he would. He came out of his shell almost immediately when we brought him home, but he was wonderfully behaved from the beginning. I’d never had such an easy time house-breaking a dog. At eight weeks old, I praised him once for peeing outside, and he never had an accident inside again. He was ruining me for other dogs.

And then came the dark day when I was sitting at my mother’s kitchen counter back in my hometown of Indianapolis, messaging with my ex-husband, and all of a sudden life had changed, over my objections. I was stunned at how swiftly my life had altered itself. I didn’t go back out west for almost five weeks. I stayed with my mother and absorbed my new reality. I also needed time to accept that I would be moving back to the Midwest from my home in the mountains, because I simply didn’t have the strength to go through a divorce without the support of all my family and friends. Then one day, I realized two things: First, I couldn’t simply leave everything I owned in Idaho for my soon-to-be ex-spouse to dispose of. Second — and much more important — I wanted my dog.

Shortly after that epiphany, my brother and I flew to northern Idaho to pack my things and drive them back to Indianapolis. I had instructed my ex to be somewhere else during my visit, but my stomach was still kinked and knotted when I pulled the car into the neighborhood where I lived before the world had changed. When I left in late April, there was still snow on the ground. But now, in early June, the trees were flowering and the grass was just on the edge of overgrown. I felt deeply disoriented. When I put the key in the lock, took a deep breath and opened the door, Thomas was standing just beyond it, wanting to know who was entering the house.

He didn’t know me.

It only lasted a second or two before his curious expression dissolved and he realized who was standing in front of him, but my five-week absence had left a mark. My heart, which was already in pieces, splintered again. I sank to my knees in tears, and accepted as many tongue swabbings as he had to offer. I promised not to let this happen again.

From there, I moved into a small bungalow in my hometown with my son, and my new life felt less frightening with the big dog in my house. We walked all over together that summer. I had to walk long distances every day to vent the pain, confusion and fear. When the feelings knotted me up, the only solution was to put one foot in front of the other until they quieted. Thomas faithfully accompanied me for many miles that summer. At night, he slept on my bed, and issued a fierce and protective bark whenever anyone he didn’t know approached the house. Possibly mirroring me, he developed a practiced side-eye; his first reaction to strangers was no longer trust.  People had to earn it with Thomas that year.

So when the time came, about a year later, that I met a fellow backpacker and started tentatively and nervously dating him, I warned him about Thomas when he first visited my home. He’ll need a little time to warm up to you, I advised Travis. He doesn’t like most people at first. Travis listened, but didn’t seem concerned.

When he pulled into my driveway one June evening in the waning light, I opened the door and let Thomas out of the house so they could meet on the more neutral territory of the lawn.  Thomas ran to the driver’s side door of Travis’s car, his tail wagging briskly. Travis opened the car door, greeted Thomas and scratched his ears, and submitted to a thorough sniffing. There was none of the usual hesitation, no customary period of character evaluation. No one had gotten through that easily in a long time.

I don’t really subscribe to the belief that dogs have an unerring sense of human virtue; I think it was more likely something confident and unafraid in Travis’s demeanor. But I will say that the relationship probably would have proceeded differently if Thomas had been unalterably opposed to him. But instead, he received Travis with an air of expectation, as if to say Good to see you, man. Glad you finally got here. Now let’s get on with things.

Thomas, now getting on in years, is still my dog, but only barely. He has our combined three children to dote on. He is the family mediator and therapy dog. If he feels that a wrestling session between Travis and the boys is getting out of hand, he’ll step in and make his displeasure known. When he hears raised or upset voices, he quietly slips between the two responsible humans, as a gentle reminder to govern strong feelings. When anyone in the house is ill or not feeling well, he has an uncanny ability to identify it, and will take up a position near the patient until the situation improves. When Travis and I separated for a few months a couple of years ago, he resumed his position as my protector and defender, but remained as enthusiastic as ever in his affection for Travis, until we came back together again.

Thomas was Best Dog at the wedding. Photo by Sarah Fleming.
Thomas was Best Dog at the wedding. Photo by Sarah Fleming.

On the morning of my wedding, I woke up before everyone else in the house, and Thomas and I bounded downstairs to greet the morning together, as we always do. But this time, when he came back in from the yard, we sat for a minute on the porch. Thank you for bringing me here, I said. He licked my cheek. And then we went back into the house toward his bowl.

More photos of Thomas can be found on The Trailhead’s Facebook page. Most of them involve his habit of stealing my pillows, except for the one of him enjoying a glass of chardonnay.

254 thoughts on “Through it all, there was a dog

  1. I love this so much, Jen. There has always been a dog there for me as well — a big dog, a little goofy. I’m so very happy for you.

  2. How is it that your saddest stories never bring me to tears as this one, of trust and love and long-term companionship, has?
    I love this story. I hope that Thomas knows how lucky he is.

  3. This really gave me teary eyes Jen.
    Congratulations Jen. May your marriage be blessed with love and companionship always.

  4. This warmed my soul because it was beautifully written but also because in a way I’ve gone through a similar experience. Last year, I found myself broken physically, emotionally and spiritually. I went to live with my mother for a few weeks that quickly turned to an eight month stay. My mother’s dog, Cujo, hadn’t seen me for 2 years but he recognized me instantly and the excitement with which he welcomed me lifted my spirits. Over the months, there were 8 dogs in all that helped me in their own little way each day to heal. They were there everyday, from the first day when I was in dejected mood to the day I was leaving, optimistic about the future and honestly happy with life once again. I miss them everyday and I can’t wait to have a dog of my own. A companion that will be by my side through it all.

    1. I think dogs just have the knack of connecting with us on a purely emotional level, and so they can help us heal from there. And with eight of them — that’s quite a team. 🙂

  5. I am so grateful to have seen this, thank you so much for sharing.

    I hadn’t heard the term soul dog…but I’m pretty sure mine came back as a cat. Is that a thing already? A soul-dog cat. Catdog. Doggen? Kippy…puppen?


    I could probably pull a few more out.

    Dat. Cog.

    1. I’m indebted to a friend of mine, the author Jon Katz, for the term “soul dog”. His theory is that a soul dog leads you to certain places in your life. I’m pretty sure a Dat Cog could do the same thing. 🙂

  6. This is interesting to know that you have considered so many quality in a dog. It should be big male dog who follows the trail. Nice story indeed. Really the dog looks beautiful and I’d like to have one like this in my home 🙂

  7. Great post. Ah! Joseph Campbell. Years ago I studied everything Campbell. The challenging times, in my opinion, are worth it to be able to see more clearly and know the truth of who we are. I love your writing skills and the substance behind your words. Thanks 🙂

  8. Wow!
    My vet says that a dog goes after his parents and i am sure the great things Thomas has must have come from you.
    Really loved this post. And now almost you said reminding me of my dog Jimmy, I’ll go pet him for a while
    Great post and congrats on the marriage!

  9. Truly lovely story. Our dog is a Kelpie x Border Collie – the loyalty traits are really remarkable (we have the added kelpie trait of her constantly having to check where we are and ’rounding us up’!)

  10. My dogs are my best friends! I have an Irish wolfhound and a doberman. They are so loyal and can tell well I need some extra love when I am having a trying day!

  11. This is a beautiful story, it highlights the fact that dogs are more than just animals they are human being of another kind!!! Amazing and heart warming story, really appreciate you sharing this story with us.
    Regards, Chaitanya Haram 🙂

  12. This brought tears to my eyes, truly I am having a hard time not letting them fall. This just hit the right cord, I feel so strongly about my pug, The Dude. He has been there with me through everything, I don’t know what I would do without him. Having a best buddy is hard to find, but when you do it lights up your life. Beautiful story and I’m really very happy for you.

      1. Aww.. thank you! He is the best little companion. I don’t know what I would do without him. And he abides…most of the time hahhaha

  13. This is such a beautifully written article!
    Absolutely love this line- “learning nothing less than how to love well, and what it meant to be loved well. ”
    This post just gave me major feels over my deceased cat. I guess we sometimes find a part of ourselves in them!
    Great blog! 🙂

  14. I am a dog person,and cannot think that they are sometimes mistreated. They always glad to see you and they never hate you even if they get mistreated …love dog

  15. I love it that you’ve put a very great emphasis upon the ‘presence’ of your dog. I’ve had a German Shepherd, Sweety; but after her death nobody seemed to understand that my sadness about her loss was genuine. Her loss felt as though I had lost a protective figure, a sister, a best friend, a mother, a mentor, a therapist all at once. But when I started explaining this to others, all they merely thought was that, I was just exaggerating it!! I’ve stopped explaining my love for dogs (with such details) since then. But every once in a while, I find people like you, who do really value the mere existence of a dog. You’ve really made all the dog lovers proud through this post of yours. It’s awesome. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Different people may go about grieving in different ways, but I think it’s a mistake for someone to assume that just because it’s a dog, the grief is somehow not as real. I think there’s a very old and hardwired emotional connection between dogs and people, and I think if you love a dog, you will most likely deeply grieve a dog. I get it. 🙂

  16. Just stumbled on your post cause I am a sucker for anything about dogs 🙂 And then you said you had a dog named Boo…and was automatically entranced. I too, had a dog named Boo…and he was my
    Thomas (although probably a lot more naughty) who was my constant companion after breaking up with my college sweetheart after a 4 year relationship. Boo was the reason I got up in the mornings and was my constant protector as a young single woman in the big bad world for 15 plus years. He has been gone since 2005, yet not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Dogs are great friends…I am now on my 3rd and 4th dogs (my 2nd passed on in 2012 at 15.5 yrs), one just turned 2 and the other will turn 3 at the end of July…my dogs are my world! Thanks for sharing your story…and Thomas looks like a great dog (big fan of the border mixes!).

    1. Wow, another Boo Dog! I haven’t heard of many other dogs named Boo. Ours was a cocker spaniel, chow/German Shepherd mix. She looked like a black lab puppy all her life. She was quite the canine specimen. Ran the house. 🙂

      1. My Boo Dog lives on, on my license plate…I have a vanity plate that says BOO DOG 🙂

  17. I have Sabina. She is my “heart” dog. My husband and I raised her from the time she was 8 weeks old for an organization that places service dogs. Last year my husband unexpectedly passed away, and Sabina now retired is the reason that I am getting up everyday. She is bossy, and sassy, (and big! I love big dogs too), and of course she is helping to raise the puppy we had when he died. I am very sorry your marriage ended, but happy you and Thomas were able to find love again. Beautiful post.

  18. This is the first post I’ve read on this blog – how fortunate I am to have stumbled across it. This went straight to my heart. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. 🙂 Animals just get it, and you are so lucky to have such an amazing companion!

  19. Congratulations Jen on ur marriage nd truely a dog is the only creature which has a great sense of human emotions, conditions nd everything else around them.Stay blessed mate ☺

  20. Oh a Happy Ending! 🙂 I enjoyed reading your blog. I related to your thoughts on dogs having an “unerring sense of human virtue”, I have noticed both dogs and cats amazing ability to sense evil and bad character traits in humans. I had a psycho ex boyfriend and whenever he came over to my house my two male tom cats (Mojo & Oscar) would hide under the bed and behind the bookshelf… ominous signals which i ignored! So i agree with you – if Thomas hesitated upon first meeting Travis then your relationship could have proceeded quite differently. Interesting. Congratulations!
    @UrbanLWarrior / Twitter

  21. That was beautiful, Thomas seems like the perfect companion for you! You had me a little teary-eyed several times (which is a little awkward actually because I read this at work), I enjoyed all of it. Both you and your puppy seem made for each other, and I’m so, so happy that you found him that day in the shelter.

  22. This story is so beautifully written. Thomas is one lucky dog, and you are lucky as well for having him (and Travis) by your side. Congrats on your wedding!.

    Dogs make the world a better place. Humans can learn so much for them. Thank you for sharing!

  23. What a beautiful, heartfelt post. We recently had to euthanize our aging dog, Lucy. We rescued a black lab named Shadow. He was attacked viciously by a dog at a dog park a couple weeks ago, but your story reminds me so much of him and his unwavering loyalty. Thanks for writing, it really was moving.

  24. What an absolutely beautiful post. Having experienced similar turmoil I know how hard that journey is … One I’m still on ! Hurray for you my lovely xxx

  25. I’ve just began a blog myself. And as it grows I hope it’s half as good as yours. The way you worded this was just beautiful and I was able to picture this whole story in my head. You did a fantastic job, please share much more. I’ve been inspired. Maybe check out my blog a teenager chronicles and tell me what you think =D

  26. This is the first blog I’ve ever read on wordpress, found on my first log onto Reader, whilst following the handy ‘get started’ guides! It is such a wonderful and honest blog, which I not only enjoyed, but can relate to on different levels, perhaps that why my eyes teared up a little! Thank you for sharing your story.

  27. This is beautifully written. I am glad there was a dog there for you. I was always around cats growing up and they were great listeners. When you have no one else to talk to, your pet is always there. This makes me miss those times greatly but I know my husband and I will be getting a dog, soon, so I am excited about that. I love your blog, by the way.

      1. You’re welcome!
        Sadly, I can no longer have cats either. My husband is allergic. It makes me a little sad but I will get a dog so that makes it better.

  28. I have some tears in my eyes. This was beautiful and not only because it was ‘about a dog’. I too came through a very dark time in my own life on the end of a leash. Beni is gone now (died in 1997) but he saved me from myself by his simple presence and unwillingness to ever do anything but love unconditionally. We can learn from them, our canine companions, and I’m glad you were able to move on and open your heart to another human.

  29. I have never married but I have had a pretty special dog that have help me through some rough times “Timmy” was his name. Really appreciate you post.

  30. What a beautiful story. The love our furry family members give is so sweet and pure, they definitely lend strength to survive difficult and lonely situations. Thank you for sharing!

  31. I have been fortunate in the dogs I have had by my side since I was a little girl… It’s always a beautiful thing to read about someone else who knows that kind of companionship.

  32. Reblogged this on PBW & Beyond and commented:
    Dogs are wonderful creautures. Although they are known to be man’s best friend, they have an nice way of communicating to their owners.

    My dogs are named Tussy and Warrior. I lost their mom (Nita) to death at the beginning of this year.

    With a dog in your life, there is always a lesson to be learned feom your relationship with them. By the way, it’s also a therapeutic relationship.

    Do enjoy this piece from Jen.

  33. Such a sweet story! I too saved an animal from the shelter hours before she was too be put down. She has brought so much joy into my life and even through the toughest of times has always been there for me. Thank you for your story! Very good read.

  34. Loved your dog story. I raised a dog, Barry, an american blond lab to become a service dog. He is now in training to become a service dog. I still miss him every day. I know how much of an emotional support a dog can be!

  35. I love your post. I remember my dog and how she went from being my ex’s dog to belonging to me. You have a great writing style.

  36. Beautiful. This brought me to tears and I felt so much happiness for you and the bond you share with Thomas. This was so relatable and am so thankful I read this today.

  37. I’m more of a cat person but lately I’ve been wanting a dog and I love this story ! Congrats on having a strong bond with your dog and having a healthy dog as well 🙂

      1. Thanks, I’ve been obsessing with Rhodesian Ridgebacks lately, I think they’re the dog for me 🙂

  38. I’ve always had dogs and tell anyone I am in a relationship with I will not be without one. The girls I have now have always been there and I would not want my life to be any different. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Thank you for this post. Thomas sounds amazing. I too had a dog that was a soul. He was older when he came into my life. A black wolf mix, large, menacing looking boy, but so loving, protective of me in particular, but also our whole community. When he passed neighbors came to offer their respects. I hope you have many years with Thomas!

  40. I enjoy reading about people and there fur friends fur friends are a special lot I have had several or the last sixty years and they are beautiful to have in ones life

  41. I loved this and related so much having gone through very similar things. I finally got my first dog in adult life nearly three years ago and have learned and healed so much through this relationship. Its a love affair that never ends.

  42. Wow what an awesome read! I have a German Shepard who mirrors this description and I can relate completely. They are the most unconditional loves we may ever have on earth. A dog is an amazing soul. Glad you found Thomas! God bless!

  43. Told very well. We recently lost our dog to cancer. She was adopted and I had her for 10 of her 13 years. Through the ups and downs (including divorce) I don’t know where I would be without her.

  44. This is a beautiful reflection of man’s (or in this case women’s) best friend. I can’t wait to start a journey with the dog I am going to purchase in the near future!

  45. I’m glad WordPress Discover brought me here today. I love your story. It reminds me of my own (brutal) Indianapolis divorce and the dog who helped me through it, and I’m grateful today to feel a commonality and to be reminded of my dear old companion. For me, it wasn’t walking, it was driving, that helped me through. Old roads with history. I’d fold the back seat down in my little station wagon, Gracie would jump up and in, and off we’d go across the Midwestern states. Such great times together. Gracie was very old when she died two years ago. Here’s her story.

    ps. I lost a dog to autoimmune hemolytic anemia as well. Terrible.

  46. This is beautiful. My family actually moved and left me three states away to finish college. I get to come home maybe…twice a year for usually a month at a time. I actually studied in Japan for five months this year, so I was home for an even shorter time. But every time I come home, my dog is beyond excited to see me. She’s a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix named Lucy. And I swear she looks forward to my coming home more than my parents.

  47. Wonderful story, beautifully written. ❤
    As for myself, I don't know how I could have gotten thru some hardships I endured if it wasn't for my loyal, loving and all knowing dog and kitty family members.

  48. Thomas sounds like a great dog. I had a great dog named Lulu for thirteen years. We climbed mountains and went kayaking together, she’d sit up front and jump off every time she saw a turtle or a deer and almost flip the thing over. Coolest Lab/Pit mix ever.

    1. I would love to have a boating dog! Thomas, alas, is wonderful, but the neurotic in him would flip right out if I put him in a boat. I’m guessing it’s the lab part of your dog. 🙂

      1. When I was a kid, I just wanted a huge dog so I could sit on him and he could take me to fun places 😂 I also wanted a turtle for that reason too HAHA

        Thank you! I wanna adopt, but I don’t think anyone’s gonna leave behind a St Bernard (which is good because no dog should be hurt or left behind) or an Akita/Shibe (they’re not even big but their faces are hilarious)

      2. I KNOW RIGHT?? IT WOULD BE perfect.

        I had this fantasy of like riding a turtle down a hill with the turtle on a skateboard. I mean I don’t know how I was gonna stay ON the turtle but A DREAM is a dream HAHA

        For some reason I thought they would move faster in my mind, but maybe they would be super fast with a person on them (no one’s ridden a turtle before so WHO KNOWS)

      3. YESSS I remember that video, man I wish we could talk to animals. There would be so many benefits. Then again it would also be kind of creepy when the animals are in heat 😓

  49. Beautifully written, Jen, I’m so glad WordPress highlighted it again. I have both a shelter dog and a shelter cat sitting on my lap as I type this on the laptop, and the cat is looking none too pleased that he is not center of attention.

    I lost my sweet Spot girl almost two years ago to lymphoma. I thought my world would crumble. But when Sadie (a border collie mix) joined us, my heart grew in ways I could never imagine possible. She has driven me crazy and downright mad, but oh how she has saved my life with her soulful blue/brown eyes and incessant happy energy.

    Thanks for a beautiful piece of writing. It’s cold and icy outside, but inside my heart is warm. -Christy

    1. Thank you for letting me know, but I am not a literal adherent of the Bible, which was written by human beings with an agenda. Which is, of course, the only way that such a pinched and merciless notion — that someone whose husband abruptly left her for another woman is precluded from forming another satisfying and loving marriage until the man who abandoned her dies — could ever arise in a sane mind.

      Now, I intend to leave your comment here, as well as my response to it, but I do not intend to hijack this thread into an argument over religion. So we can keep our brief interchange here and allow others to make up their own minds. But if there are further responses along this line, I’ll likely just delete the entire thing. We’ve each had our say. Peace to you.

      1. I happen to be a follower of the bible and I in no way had the reaction of the commenter to your story. I was simply scrolling to see ehat others were saying and how your writing affected them.. Sorry, but this jarred me for reasons other than you may think. Some people like to upstage others so that they can push their agends. It’s like when I am at a seminar & someone has paid for the time and room so that they can sell their product or service and there is always someone in the room giving out their business cards. I always throw away the business cards of the intruder. Consider that done for that time of post.

  50. I loved your post! It was very sweet and touching, I also had to go through so many obstacles and struggles however my sweet little dog who sadly passed away less than a month ago was always there for me. It’s difficult at times and I miss her dearly. Reading this just really warmed my heart. Thank you!

  51. This is one of the sweetest posts I’ve ever read. Really warmed my heart and made me want a big dog that much more, one day. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  52. I too am walking that journey and I too have dogs to walk it with me. Not sure I could make it every day at this point if not for the unconditional love and acceptance that they show every day! Great Blog!

  53. Very nice writing but I am left wondering what happens next. Is this a series and you just end with the dog licking your face for now? Please don’t take this as an criticism but an honest observation.

      1. That’s been stirring around in my head for quite awhile, actually, and it may happen yet. A lot of it has been written already, and it’s a matter of synthesizing it into coherence. Thanks for the suggestion. Appreciated! 🙂

  54. Thank you for sharing your story, a truly inspiring one, honestly written. Having experienced a similar trail of events, appreciate the difficulties you outline in your story… How challenging life can be and how comforting your pet can be in those times? Well done, a good read!

  55. I enjoyed reading this post. I can relate so much as I do also have dogs. Yes dogs. They are 3 and currently living with us. There’s always a man’s bestfriend. Ever. Thank you for this article. So happy for you and for Thomas. 🙂

  56. Thank you for sharing. I can relate to your story. I went through a divorce in 2010 after 20 years of marriage. Unfortunately, I walked away from everything including my best friend, Hunter. I took him with me at first, but he couldn’t handle the move so I returned him home. I decided to volunteer at a dog shelter and fell in love with my Shelty, Chandler. He has been through quite a bit with me. I enjoyed hearing how your dog helped you through your difficult journey as well.

    1. So interesting how we find our dog loves. It’s sad that you were parted from hunter but so good you found chandler. Divorce is such a wild and woolly path, and so unpredictable, and different for everyone.

  57. Thank you for your story. My dog has only been with me for 21/2 years. She’s a staffie cross like no other and a rescue dog. I have a son with metal health problems who in this time caused a great deal of worry and heartache. Then I was serially diagnosed with cataracts, heart failure and diverticulitis within a few months of each other. My dog made me smile every day, and without any training, would fetch my partner if I was upset or ill. She is now being trained as my assistance dog and I could not have survived the last two years without her. She is a gentle joy in my life and my security to go out alone.

  58. Thank you so much for this story of human/canine bonding. I have had two similar situations my now ex-husband and I adopted a 7 year-old cocker from some friends. Brewster loved my ex, but he was my dog. When we had fights, Brewster stood in the middle facing me, as my security officer. When I slept in the other bedroom, he slept with me. If I cried, he would be right there. When Brewster got bone cancer in his shoulder at age 11 and we had to let him go, the marriage totally fell apart, with me leaving within the year.

    My second (current and forever) husband and I decided we wanted to get a dog and ended up with Violet, a border collie/samoyed crossed with a boxer. We also got her as an 8 week old pup from friends. It was love at first site, and while she loves my husband (for walks and play-time), she is first and foremost my dog. We both have arthritis and sense each other’s pain. If hubby and I fight, she shakes (thankfully it doesn’t happen often). She hates loud or shrill noises and runs to me for comfort. But if I am in pain, ill or crying, Violet is there with kisses and will not leave my side.

    I am so glad you have Thomas!

    1. I bet it’s the border collie in her. Thomas is the same way, in that he is very emotionally intuitive, and can just sense discord, or pain or illness. If there’s a sick person in the house, that’s where you’ll find him. He’s the house therapist/mediator/emotional manager/nurse. It’s one reason I just love a BC mix! And like Violet, he is close to everyone…but still very much my dog. 🙂 Thanks for sharing – I love hearing others’ stories.

  59. Someone famous who I can’t remember said the best writing makes the reader laugh & cry — this blog does all this, as well as remind us to hug our dear doggies. Thank you!

  60. My dog, Poppy, came into my life just before my first big relationship went belly up. She was my constant companion, best friend and patient support through the whole life changing event. She now lives with my doting parents as I followed my dream and moved aboard. I hope she will be able to attend my wedding this year as well. I love the term soul dog. We are both truly blessed. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

  61. I am a big dog person myself; have had German Shepherds in the past, and now have a Belgian Malinois (Lucy) and Yellow Lab Mix (Allie). My kids are all out of the house now, so these dogs are mine and my husband’s babies! They are about 18 months old.

    1. Ooooh, a Malinois! I understand they are quite amazing in the scent tracking department. Plus it just be quite a barrel of energy to have two pups under 2 years old!

      1. Yes, she is a great sniffer for sure! I love my dogs; I enjoy taking them on walks, because they are so energetic and keep me at a good pace.

  62. I came to your blog while I was thinking about the Rumi poem about the wine that moves you. I enjoyed that post tremendously, and then came to this one. I grew up with many beloved dogs, in Indianapolis no less. Now I live in Sweden and am expecting my first baby. We have two cats, and I am so tired of people, well one person maybe, telling me I’m going to put my cats aside when the baby comes, especially as one is getting older and has failing kidneys. Eight years ago I made a promise to him I intend to keep. My boss tried to tell me if it came to medicine for my cat or a new bicycle for my daughter, I would choose the bike. That’s not part of the promise I made to my little buddy, and frankly doesn’t fit my values at all. It was heartening to read about your relationship with your dog through so many trials. That’s what our animals are for us too (my husband and I), and I expect them to be a source of comfort and friendship in the trial of new motherhood too. You strengthened my belief in that.

    1. Wow, it’s interesting to me — and kind of sad — that people are telling you that. That wasn’t my experience at all. I do think parenting gives you some perspective, but it certainly never diminished my love for my animals. I had three dogs when I brought my son home from the hospital almost fourteen years ago. I remember laying him down in his bassinet next to our bed, and our smallest dog took up a position at the foot of the bassinet, and growled at the other dogs when they came too close. That’s when I knew our family, including the dogs, was merely changing, not fracturing. 🙂

      Nowadays, one of the things that binds me with my son is our shared love of animals. So in that way parenting has only increased my love for my animals.

      So to all those people telling you that, I issue a great big “WHATEVER.” Congratulations on your expanding relationships. 🙂 And I’m glad you liked the Rumi post too! 🙂

  63. what an amazing, heartwarming story.
    I had a soul dog as well, and she’s been gone now for a couple of years. Right now I have a soul cat (LOL), but there will again be a large dog in my home. My soul needs it.

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