I’m always inspired by stories where someone survives a tragedy because their pet rescued them. I glance at my two dogs, Bailey and Sierra, who are sleeping on my sofa and wonder if they’d pull me from our burning house or alert a neighbor if I was knocked unconscious. I watch them sleep contentedly, Bailey with her head rested on the edge of the sofa and Sierra stretched out on her back with her paws straight up in the air. Would my beloved couch potatoes be able to rescue me in a crisis? Well, they’ve already rescued me once, so I shouldn’t have any doubt that they would do it again. They didn’t save me in the traditional sense, but they rescued me nonetheless.

When I first realized I was getting divorced, I broke down. I couldn’t breathe; I gasped for air. I ran into the bathroom, threw the door shut behind me, stripped off my clothes and climbed in the shower. I squeezed my eyes shut as the water enveloped me, hoping I could keep the tears from coming but they came anyways. Hot, salty tears streamed down my face mixing with the shower water covering me in diluted tears. The pain however wasn’t diluted. It was raw and harsh and kept hitting me blow by blow until I collapsed on the floor of my tub hyperventilating.

The life I had planned and the life that I thought I was living ceased to exist in that moment. The path that I had been walking had brought me to a cute little cul-de-sac house where I lived with my husband and our two dogs. I believed that the cookie cutter happily ever after was just around the corner. But, I never rounded that corner. Instead I was thrown violently off course. I could ignore it, I could refuse to accept it, I could even try to will it out of existence but the fact remained: my marriage was over.

Once I accepted the end of my marriage, which was a feat in itself, I moved out of my cul-de-sac home and filed for divorce. The only thing I cared about was getting custody of my dogs. Nothing else mattered to me. Luckily, he agreed to let me keep both the girls. I left most of the furniture behind and moved into an apartment and started a new job. I felt shell-shocked that my life had done a 180-degree spin. I was unsure of what to make of this new life that had been thrust upon me – the life of a divorcee.

Bailey and Sierra were happy to leave the tension filled house we had been living in and settled quickly into our quiet little apartment. I kept looking into their beautiful brown eyes and asking them, “Now what?” I never expected them to tell me how to survive my divorce; I just wanted to share my bewilderment with someone. As we adjusted to our new life, I realized that they were in fact rescuing me from my divorce and showing me how to live again. Here are the survival tips I learned from my dogs.

Survival Tip #1 – Get Out Of Bed

When I just didn’t want to face the world and I’d rather pull the covers over my head, my dogs lovingly reminded me the most important step in getting on with your life: get out of bed, already! They’d nudge me with their noses, woo at me to make sure I was awake and then go paw at the door until I agreed to get up. Their persistence reminded me that it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day and I have to get up and get on with it. Battling the urge to put off reality wasn’t easy but it was the first step to creating a new life.

Survival Tip #2 – Stick To A Routine

Our daily routine includes: morning walk, breakfast, nap for dogs/work for Karen, night walk, dinner, late night potty break, and bedtime snack. Whether I felt like it or not, this was what we did every single day. I didn’t have to wake up in the morning and ask, “What am I going to do?” I had my routine. My dogs taught me that simply putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the basic requirements of each day made for a successful day – and that was good enough.

Survival Tip #3 – Explore Your New Surroundings

Bailey and Sierra didn’t hesitate to head down new trails and explore what the new apartment complex had to offer. They fearlessly sniffed here and sniffed there and investigated everything that caught their interest. They embraced the change as an opportunity to see what new things they could try out. They taught me to start going out again, even if it was just to Barnes and Noble to get a new book. I soon found new stores and new parks and new restaurants that I could enjoy.

Survival Tip #4 – Be Friendly To New People

I didn’t know anyone that lived near our new apartment and neither did the dogs. This fact didn’t stop them from walking up to each and every new face we encountered to say hello. They’d head straight for them, wagging their tails and sniffing hello. In watching their friendliness, I realized it was time for me to start being friendly as well and to quit wallowing in loneliness. I started talking to more people and opening myself up to new friendships. It wasn’t long before I’d created a great group of friends.

Survival Tip #5 – Keep Pulling Forward

When I go out for a walk, Bailey and Sierra head straight for our normal walking path. It occurred to me one day that they never bothered to look behind them. They kept going forward, stopping once in a while but always moving on. They taught me that I needed to stop looking backwards. I needed to quit looking at the life I used to have and start pulling forward into the new life that was waiting for me.

  1. Laurice says:

    Great article!  My husband and I divorced a year and a half ago and it’s probably the best thing that ever happened.  I was miserable.  However, once we gain the courage to face our demons and overcome them, it’s amazing how life can improve exponentially.  The BEST thing you can do is stay positive, open your heart and move forward.  Pursue your dreams and passions.  I even started blogging (something I never considered doing) about my experiences of getting out of that pit of self-destruction.  Kudos for jumping in and moving forward!  You rock!

  2. Helen Shultz-Kamadulski says:

    Good advice for anyone going thru any loss really, including that of a marriage or of a job and lifestyle and even the loss of a loved one.  Thanks.

  3. Janet Pal says:

    So true, Helen! My own two furry little bundles of love have gotten me through some difficult times. They truly are man’s/woman’s best friend :)

  4. John Wilson says:

     Good article.
     I have always found that whenI am disoriented in life, the doing the basics is the way to get back into the groove.
      Out of bed, eat, move, get going.  
      My question of trying new things – is it going to kill me? If not, and it meets my morals, I give it a try.
      Congrats on having the dogs – dogs are full of love.
      Cheers,
      John D. Wilson 

  5. Ruth Hannah says:

    Great advice  also for we who have illness or disability come into our lives.   Every time I walk my dogs I will be reminded of   ”Keep Pulling Forward”.  Thank you, Ruth Hannah The Allergy Whisperer

  6. Melanie Hope says:

    I went through something very similar – and if it weren’t for Abby (my Golden), I would never have made it. I like the way you broke it down into steps. So true. I’m glad to hear that you’re healing!

  7. cglass says:

    I really loved this story.  In fact I almost went to tears.  Thank you for sharing it with me.

  8. Developing a routine following a divorce is absolutely key to recovery. It will help the individual in question to feel ‘in control’ and this will help to alleviate anxiety.

  9. Our Mom Spot says:

    This is a really great story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Dogs are so full of love and affection.

  10. Daisy says:

    Great post! Truly enjoyed it!

  11. Tanya says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart and your journey.
    It has been 8mths for me and I too was SO thrown off by the collapse of the life I knew.
    Great steps for moving forward. I’m going to bookmark this post :)
    Health and happiness to you.

  12. Josephine says:

    It seems it was meant I come across this blog as I only suffered a major major blow (the fourth time) of another infidelity my husband seems to be having fun with….. so here I am, booked this morning mediation sessions for property settlement and full separation and obviously, when the period is complied with, file the necessary divorce application.    But family has been so supportive including my very own sister-in-law who understands where I am coming from….and the pain I am going through right now.  
    I will definitely follow your simple tips.   And, get myself a pet….
     

  13. Josephine says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.  It inspires me and help me realise that although the pain, this pain I am feeling right now, will heal….

    I better go shopping tomorrow for my pet.