Karen with Bailey & Sierra
How My Dogs Saved Me from Divorce by: Karen Jerabek
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.
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This article was previously published in Dog Living Magazine and on The Mini Marriage Website.