Dogs In My Toolbox

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Top Dog Sam.  He's been with us since 2003.

Top Dog Sam. He’s been with us since 2003.

There is a toolbox in my heart.  It’s filled with all sorts of things that help me navigate through my days and keep my life on the straight and narrow. When I begin to feel a bit off, anxious, or fearful, I can reach in and pull out something that will bring relief, slow me down, and get me back on track.

My tools include things like taking time to sit and meditate, choosing to take a hike, or a quick walk around the block. My weekly Yoga and Pilates sessions also figure in as tools as well as my cross-trainer that I can jump on anytime and work off a bit of anger or frustration. My weekly phone chats with dear friend, Sharon, who lives too far away to have tea with in person, brings me laughter and helpful listening when they’re most needed.

There are lots of books in my box as well, like those written by Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron, that can straighten out my thinking when I’m in a quandary and need a bit of inspiration. Poets like Mary Oliver, Mark Nepo, and David Whyte are also on the shelf. A goodly number of memoirs are stacked inside. I love them because they help me to see how others navigate troubled waters. Some of my favorites includethose by Cheryl Strayed and Mary Karr.

But some of the best tools I’ve ever had were dogs and cats. A year and a half ago Molly left us to join my other deceased companions somewhere over the rainbow. She was the love of Sam’s and my life. She left a hole in our hearts that nothing could fill.

Very Special  Molly

Very Special Molly

Over time, Sam and Bill seemed to become one with each other but I was feeling a bit left out. To try to even things out we adopted Terry, last summer. He didn’t last very long because he beat up on Sam, as well as on much of the furniture. Thankfully he is now with another family with two little boys to keep him busy and no other dogs to be jealous of.  But Bill was heartbroken when we had to give him up and didn’t want to try another dog in fear that again, it too might not work out. We both get very attached in very little time. He told me he might be open to trying again after the holidays. I agreed, while that hole in my heart just stayed put.

In the meantime, I followed Animal Connections on Facebook. They are the folks who had rescued Molly from a terrible living situation. Over the last six months I’ve watched one sweet, little dog after another go off to their forever homes. One little guy in particular caught my attention.  He and his brother were given up by their family, who for one reason or another could no longer care for them. I knew that I couldn’t take in two dogs and figured I’d never get to meet the one that looked a bit like Molly.

Brody, four years old, and as sweet as can be.  Ear-do #1.

Brody, four years old, and as sweet as can be. Ear-do #1.

I followed Brody and his brother, Morgan, as they were sent off to a foster home, getting in a car accident on the way.  Though Brody wasn’t hurt, he was scared and ran off into the woods and couldn’t be found. Crazy me didn’t sleep well that night, worrying about a little dog I’d never met.  After he was found the next morning, I was relieved and ecstatic that he was back with his brother.

The holidays came and went and when I asked Bill if he was ready to try another dog out, he said no.  Sam seemed to be happy on his own and was more Bill’s companion than mine. They were both happy and out of respect for them, I gave up expecting that I’d fill that empty corner in my heart.

Then just a week ago, I got a message a friend who works with Animal Connections.  It seems Brody and his brother had to be separated because suddenly Morgan was beating up on his smaller sibling. She said that Brody might be a great fit for our family and asked if she could bring him over to meet us.  I hesitated before showing the email to Bill, but ended up pleading my case and he gave in.

Brody, Ear-do #2.

Brody, Ear-do #2.

Brody has been with us now for a week. I adore him and the hole in my heart is overflowing with love and a little fellow who jumps up on the bed in the morning when the alarm goes off, and kisses me awake.  Sam at nine years and possibly feeling a bit arthritic is not as playful as he once was, but seems to enjoy having Brody for company.  And of course, Bill is as much in love with this little guy as I am.

How about you?  What’s in your toolbox?


  1. Gail Livingston says:

    Hi Joan dear,
    For a minute I could not figure out how to respond to your post, though I know I have in the past. Just wanted to tell you that your writing gets more and more exquisite all the time. I am so happy for you that you’ve persisted in writing your blog and in moving along toward doing a book. Your story of doggies in your toolbox both fills my heart and breaks my heart since I so recently lost my baby Papillon, Flapjack, to a wild animal. The grief has been great. My remaining dog, Bhanu, looks so much like some of the fuzzy ones you have had, and I never thought a dog’s heart could break so horribly as hers has. She looks and sniffs everywhere for her longtime companion and has exhibited some bizarre behavior at times. My tender-hearted homeopathic vet found a little collar for her that puts out pherenomes that I can’t smell but that block her from smelling her friend everywhere. She also had to take doggie Xanax for a few days. My attention to her has not helped me write, but has opened and deepened my compassion for all living beings. May they all be liberated rom suffering. Bless your heart for all you have meant to the animals the Universe has brought to you to heal. But how do you deal with the loss? The Buddhist monk I learn from says we choose to suffer or not, but if we let ourselves get attached, then we will suffer if we do not let the past go and really be in the present. I am trying and doing better.

    I am somewhat where Pema Chodron was in her post you attached. I am doing some spiritual practice I hope will release me from the anxiety and near-terror I sometimes feel. Thank you for sharing that. And come to see me sometime when you have time while visiting Lisa. Doggies always welcome. A pen and trails galore.

    With fondness,

    • I know that grief, Gail, and it isn’t easy. I hope you’ll find peace with time. Perhaps another little dog? There are so many that need homes and love. They do help us leave the past behind and heal a wounded heart.

    • Gail, I am so sorry for your loss. This response was so beautiful and heartfelt and touched my soul. Sending you some hugs.

  2. A delightful match for all!

  3. Thanks Patti, we are so happy with him.

  4. You are such an inspiration to me. Brody looks wonderful. You also are such a big part of what keeps me going and I treasure every word spoken and shared with you.

  5. I’m so happy you’ve added this sweet little guy to your family. I think animals are such a vital part of keeping us happy and healthy and balanced, and they deserve so much love for all they give us humans.

    • Thanks, Becca. Animals are certainly a vital part of my life and I know they are for you too, along with that growing grandson of yours!

  6. I’d love a dog but it’s just not feasible in the desert.
    In my toolbox? I never regret going for a walk. Or sitting on my doorstep with a cup of tea and listening to the call to prayer – it always puts me back in the right place.

  7. I hope to one day experience the sound of the call to prayer!

  8. This morning called me to re-read this post and I am so glad that I did. If you ever doubt the power of your work, come back and re-read these and the comments that follow. Missing you and your voice although when I read your work, I hear you reading it to me. How lovely.

  9. Thank you for all of your encouragement. It sounds like it’s time to talk. I’ve missed our chat this past week. Let’s connect!!