Early this year, about seven months post suicide; I was sitting at my computer aimlessly wandering through emails. My late husband’s email address was still active and receiving as I had not yet dismantled his accounts. He had an account with a site called NEXT DOOR. It’s a website that allows you to connect within your neighborhood to promote community, communicate real time with neighbors and happenings and go local. (www.nextdoor.com )
As I was scanning through the mail, a post on this site came up of a neighbor looking for a daily dog sitting situation for his very large and active Belgian Malinois. I clicked the link and responded that I was interested and gave my phone number before I even realized I’d done it! Once I clicked SEND, it hit me that I’d put myself out there. My mature, fear based response was to immediately delete my husband’s account and pretended it never happened! I didn’t think I wanted any kind of commitment plus I had three dogs of my own.
A couple of days went by and the matter slipped my mind (or I blocked it out) until I received a phone call from the guy looking for dog sitting. This was one of those synchronistic situations where I decided to roll with it even though my mind was screaming “DON’T”. Coincidentally, he was immediately able to bring the dog by my place for a meet-and-greet to see if we would all be a good fit. My “normal” at that time was far from normal. I was on edge, defensive and anxious a lot of the time, in relatively deep grief and quite scattered.
I have about ¾’s of an acre fenced on the water which is essentially my own dog park. The owner and McLovin’ the dog arrived (names have been changed to protect the innocent!) and things went great. We decided to give it a go which meant I would have McLovin’ daily for an hour. I was weirdly excited and scared at the same time. My heart recognized that this was a window of opportunity for me but my mind was telling me that it was a mistake to have a mid day commitment long term.
Our first day I thought—I LOVE this dog AND I’m remembering why I don’t want a puppy! But my heart was singing! This dog was a giant, pain-in-the-arse dose of presence! He’s smarter than me, curious and full of vitality which in dog speak equals trouble, opportunism and loads of adventure. He needed eyes on him at all times. This meant that my routine went out the window and I had to be fully alert and engaged while he was with us. This shift of focus was powerfully transformative. It allowed my mind to relax, my edges to soften and my heart to open again.
McLovin’ and my biggest dog, MacTavish, became best buddies instantly and my 2 little ones were equally captivated by him. He clearly liked us too, and his very being-ness created an entirely new dynamic in my home.
This giant puppy engaged my dogs in a playful and experimental way, bringing out the inner puppy in them and effectively eradicating the grief and pain that they’d experienced in the loss of my husband, prolonged exposure to his depression, as well as my grief and diverted focus.
I kept him in general 2-3 hours daily simply because it was so much fun. He brought a joy and lightness I needed desperately in my environment—in my home. This is so relevant because most of my friends were uncomfortable coming to my house as it’s ground zero for my husband’s suicide. I nicknamed him “McLovin’” because he’s the definition of unconditional love on four legs. He’s silly and affectionate in a full body, roll all over you and against you kind of way.
My mood never mattered to him—he was forever happy to see me and even more so to come to my house and play with the pack. If I stopped and sat, he’d immediately be on me—literally! He would sit or lay on me instinctively knowing what I needed to lay down my guard and navigate back to my heart.
Daily, when I left to get McLovin’, my dogs would wait at the window patiently for our return and then pine away for him when I took him back to his house. On days I would leave and come home without him, my dogs would howl and cry—berating me for coming home alone!
This is the beauty of synchronicity and taking chances—the willingness to go beyond fear and just roll with it! It obviously didn’t occur to my rational mind to bring in a new puppy pack mate as “healer” for my dogs, my home and my heart, and yet that is exactly what happened in the most unexpected, fun and joyous way.
In short—a situation I was scared to enter quickly became one of the most profoundly transformative opportunities in this very difficult year. A window of opportunity that I allowed myself to open, for which I will forever be grateful. And it came in the unexpected package of a very big puppy, who, to loosely quote the following song, “shone a light into my darkness”.
So here’s to leaping through windows of opportunity with reckless abandon!
Joyfully unpacking my heart,