A week rarely passes that I don’t think about John.
Anytime I try to tell someone about him I immediately feel my heart stumble, and the words start stacking up in my throat like cars at a busy intersection. I don’t believe I’ll ever forget what he turned to me and said as we sat together in our wellness clinic. “This little dog kept me from killing myself,” he said, looking down at his chihuahua, Leroy.
I also think about Gary and Marie.
Their stories aren’t quite as direct as John’s, but they still reveal how life-altering our friendships with pets can be. During Marie’s treatment for cancer the only thing to get her moving when she felt like giving up was her dog, Precious. And Gary, the disabled veteran, heartbroken and alone after his senior dog died, grieved so hard that he suffered a stroke and was stuck motionless in his bed for days until someone found him. A new stray – full of energy and spirit – has given him his smile back.
This is what we mean when we talk about the power of pets. It’s the way they accept us – unconditionally – regardless of how we look, what we think, the clothes we wear, or how we smell.
Pets show acceptance without holding back. We’re sharing our own stories to reveal how true that is.
Liz M., Veterinary Clinic Supervisor
When I was 18 years old I moved into my first house, very shortly after returning home from college unexpectedly. My roommate’s friend came over in distress with her 2-year-old shepherd mix. Circumstances had changed and she could no longer keep him. He very quickly gained a special place in my heart and I knew I was going to do anything and everything I could to give this handsome, fluffy boy, Koda, the best life he could have.
I didn’t know what the next chapter in my life would be, but I was glad I wasn’t going to go it alone. Most weeks we would find an adventure to go on, whether it was a hike, a trip down to the lake, a car ride to grandma’s, or just a walk around the block. He was happy just being my P.I.C. (partner in crime). But he was also around on the days when I went back and forth about what road to take next. He would lay next to me and let me hang onto him until I built up the courage to jump the next hurdle. He taught me so much about patience, loyalty, love, and dedication. He gave me purpose in life and has always been a constant source of happiness and comfort.
Amanda G., COO
Lily was rescued from a cruelty case and when I first adopted her, I knew that she would probably never be a “normal dog.” She was reluctant to trust–to the point that she wouldn’t play with toys or eat in front of me for several months. She would tremble at any sound and would constantly pace around the house. She eventually came around and began to trust me; it seemed like it was overnight that she was sleeping in bed with me and cuddling with me on the couch. Lily is my best friend and has been there for me through some dark times.
We came to find that Lily has IVDD a few years back. We thought we were going to lose her during her first episode. The thought of not having her in my life was crippling. She has now had three episodes that caused her to lose mobility of her back legs but after three surgeries, physical therapy, and her own determination she is still walking and is more active than ever.
Throughout the years, Lily has helped me overcome depression, self-doubt, and feelings of defeat. Lily has shown me the true power of forgiveness and grace. She has shown me that the heart does heal and that there is life after trauma and that there is hope, always. As she is growing older and her eyelashes have turned white and her muzzle has turned gray, she is now teaching me the value of living each day to the fullest and that life is fleeting.
Bre W., volunteer services coordinator
My sister, Deb, and I were adopted by a wonderful family, but she struggled early on with the effects of Reactive Attachment Disorder, which makes it very difficult to relate to others and accept love. Bud and Bill were pretty stereotypical “lazy” hound dogs that wanted nothing more than to sleep in a droopy pile at your feet and maybe eat a treat or two. They were the most easy-going dogs I’ve ever met, and the effect their calming presence had on my sister was powerful. I think they helped change her life. If she was upset, they would sometimes be the only thing that could calm her down and help her feel safe. Years of unwavering gentleness from her slobbery, short-legged best buddies helped her learn how to give and receive unconditional love.
Kelsey C., call center supervisor
There are days when functioning just isn’t something I can do very well. On those days, Astrid makes me (oh yes, she’s 100% in charge) lie on our sofa so she can climb up and lie directly on top of me, all 90 lbs of her, and lick my face until she knows I feel better. She doesn’t mind hanging out with me when all I’m up to doing is re-watching dumb TV in my pajamas all day, and she doesn’t mind the days when we go out and are productive members of Society together. She knows me inside and out, and she has been there for me, unfailingly, when I’m struggling. The fact that she loves me the same on the bad days as she does on the good days is what keeps me going.
Amanda A., call center customer service specialist
One day we had a gentleman who bred Labrador Retrievers come in to the veterinary office where I worked with a five-week old puppy. The puppy was in pain; x-rays showed that her foot had been crushed and she needed her toes amputated. The breeder agreed to the surgery. I assisted with the surgery and was holding her when she woke up. I felt an immediate bond. When the breeder abandoned her and refused to pay the bill, I decided to name her Evelyn, Evey, for short.
She came home and lived with me in my apartment. From that day on, Evey and I were inseparable! Over the course of 12 amazing years, Evey and I moved probably close to 15 times. She always adjusted. As long as we were together we made it work. When I was down she was there. When I needed a friend she was there. When I needed a cuddle she was there. When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, she was there. She spent every day and night by my side after my surgery. She wouldn’t leave me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months later, I didn’t have to explain my feelings. She knew. She stayed beside me day in and day out after my double mastectomy.
One day, I had my foot on her chest and noticed a weird lump. I knew something wasn’t right and took her for an X-ray. It showed that her lungs were completely riddled with cancer. Evey never showed me. She never showed she was sick and hurting. She was being strong for me. She needed to make sure that I was going to be alright before she let me know. I took her home and called a veterinarian friend and asked her to perform the euthanasia at home. I could not bear the thought of my baby being scared in a weird place and wanted her to be comfortable in her last moments.
Rae L., community resource coordinator
Zulia came to SNKC as a four-day old puppy who needed her life saved. After seven weeks being bottle fed by all of us, and being kept alive each night by her foster mom, Liz, she rallied and began to thrive as a funny, active, loud puppy.
I didn’t know I would be adopting Zu in those seven weeks she was around as a foster. But in the sixth week of her life something changed in the way I looked at her. She fought so hard to live in the very beginning and truly struggled. I had my own struggles around that same time. I was in an ATV accident and wasn’t able to walk for four months. Besides the physical challenges, I wasn’t prepared for the mental challenges that came after the surgery, physical therapy, and the work I had to go through to get back to normal.
Zulia and I both had a rough year last year but we managed to rally in 2018 and get through it together. I knew she was the one for me when I saw how much of a fighter she was, which inspired me to fight through my hard times as well.
She has taught me patience, discipline, understanding, and persistence. I’ve always had “easy” dogs but Zu is different. She is challenging me each day to be a better dog owner and caretaker. Zu gives me something to care for, focus on, love, and be loved by. I jokingly call her my therapy dog but in all honesty she has been so good for my all around well being.
Zulia starts my days in the best way with a hug each and every morning. She wants to spend the first few minutes just loving me and I really can’t imagine starting a day any better.
Michelle R., CEO
My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for many years. Finally in 2015 we were so excited to find out we were going to have a baby. I was leaving work on a Friday when someone came into the clinic and tossed a little 5 lbs Chihuahua on the floor and said.. “please find this flea infested dog a home” and ran out. The poor thing ran into a corner. When I reached down to scoop her up she was shaking uncontrollably. It was late in the day so I decided to just take her home for the weekend. When I got her there, we gave her a bath and she settled right in.
Early in the morning I woke to severe pain and rushed to the hospital where I found out I was having a miscarriage. I was devastated. Later that day when we got back home all I could do was cry. That little Chihuahua jumped up on my lap and just kept licking the tears away. She would sit in my lap and just stare at me with the most loving, tear filled and grateful eyes. She wouldn’t leave my side. The bond was so immediate and I never expected it but she just gave me that consoling I needed as well as something to focus on since she was in need of help, too.
I believe it was destiny that she came to me at that time and is now my precious tiny baby that is still always looking out for me, protective of me, and makes me feel so loved and needed.