I’ve always loved dogs – something about them just fills my heart with pure joy. Growing up, we had Toby the weimaraner, Charlie the rescue golden poodle, Rowdy the chocolate lab, and Molly and Patch the ranch dogs. I vowed one day, when I was in a place in my life where I had time to commit to owning a dog I would get one of my own. But as time would have it, years went by and my work and lifestyle commitments were not ideal for owning a dog. I was always on the go, but I never stopped thinking about getting a dog.
When my ankle took a turn for the worse, my spirit slid with it. I tried to push any negative feelings I had about it aside, praying for better days ahead and the courage to continue. It was a shock on the system to go from a life of fitness, travel, and adventure, back to a never-ending series of doctor’s appointments, additional leg surgeries and hospital stays – uncertainty became my constant. My days of running and being active stopped all together. I missed my life and how it used to be – I felt lost and consumed by pain. As the surgeries piled up, and pain continued on, the crutch life became steady. I started to wonder how long can I keep going like this? I wanted my life back. I remember the days and nights just laying in my bed in pain, reminding myself why it’s important to not give up.
In December 2018, my dad sent me a photo of a little yellow lab. His name was “no name”. He was found in a brickyard wandering all alone in a small town nearby my parent’s ranch. An older couple took him in and put up signs around town for several weeks, but no one claimed him. The vet put his photo up in a last ditch effort to see if anyone was interested in adopting him before he was to head to the pound. I guess God has good timing – my dad happened to see the photo that same day. I took one look at “no name” and knew this dog needed me as much as I needed him. Was it the right time? Probably not, but when would it be I thought? My parent’s rescued “no name” for me that day, and “no name” as I would come to find out, would later rescue me.
Duke, as he is now known, has been by my side through the last five surgeries and I know for sure I wouldn’t be in the same head space if it wasn’t for him. There have been days over the last couple years that I’ve just laid down not sure if I had it in me to keep going – not sure if I wanted to. And there Duke would be lying there next to me licking my face, looking right into my eyes encouraging me to get up. When you’re in pain, the last thing you want to do sometimes is move or get outside or talk to anyone. Duke brought me outside again. He gave me purpose. He grounded me, he gave me hope when I felt I had none. He found the light inside me that I couldn’t find.
There’s a song called God and Dog that I heard once at the Race for a Soldier Prayer Breakfast with #TeamExoSym in Gig Harbor and it’s never left me. If you love dogs and God, I think this song will touch you too.
As I sit here recovering from my 12th ankle surgery, my pal Duke is right here with me. I still have a long ways to go in my physical therapy and recovery, but I am remaining hopeful and thankful for the progress that’s been made over the last few years. (and Duke is too – I promised him we’re going to run together one day!).
Life can feel dark sometimes, especially when things don’t turn out the way we want them to or challenges seem to linger (A LOT) longer than we’d prefer, but we can’t give up. It can feel really isolating to be in chronic pain, exhausting, and disheartening, but don’t let it defeat you. Keep fighting even when you think you can’t and never underestimate the power of encouragement. Sometimes the simplest touch (or paw) can lift you up when you need it most. And sometimes, I think God uses dogs to remind us of that. #keepthefaith #nevergiveup #powerofthepaw