Day Eleven | 31 Days of Thanksgiving

[Jen Marsik Friess is one of those folks we met as a result of social media.  Jen is one of the partners at Volare Public Relations.  A big heart and tremendous focus on achieving her clients’ goals, she has quickly become the “go to” gal for public relations.]

I’m Thankful for My Dog

I worked on some ideas for this post before I went to see my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My notes are all business-y, about all the important connections I’ve made since I moved to Metro Detroit in March 2009.

But right now all I can think about is my dog. She died Monday.

Nala was almost 12. The vet JUST said he was surprised how well she was doing; a German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, she was the best of two breeds with average lifespans of only 10-13 years.

I even mentioned that conversation to a few people, how the vet managed to scare me; but I made it a joke and laughed it off. So I’m feeling the irony a bit now.

The kennel called me on Sunday to say she was at the vet. I was in Des Moines; all I could do was ask questions and say yes. Thus began a rollercoaster of bad, then better, then bad, then a lot better, then the worst. When we got home Monday she was in surgery; the vet told me not to come since I couldn’t see her, anyway. She died before they could complete the surgery.

So right now I’m struggling. I’m shocked and so, so, so sad.

I got Nala when she was 12 weeks old. My then-boyfriend wanted a dog; I thought it was ridiculous, but you can guess what happened next. We broke up two years later; turned out HE was ridiculous and she was coming with me.

Over several years of Nala’s life, I had a home office. When she wasn’t in the house, it truly felt empty. If my husband was gone, too, I felt uncomfortably alone. That’s hard to acknowledge, because I’m pretty independent: I needed her around.

She helped transition me into life post-boyfriend and helped break in the husband; she guarded homes in four states and was my faithful companion through five job changes. We logged a zillion miles running, walking, hiking and I’m sure trespassing a few times, too. When my job stress was through the roof, the most important part of my day was coming home and taking her out.

I’m probably going to be riding the cliché wagon for a while as I get through this, so get on-board with me for a second. The moral of the story is, be grateful for what you have. Of course it was hard to appreciate her when she threw up in my closet, but for the million times she came bounding up to me, acting totally delighted to see me, what’s a few minutes of cleaning the carpet?

I’m thankful that Nala forced me to behave like a grownup. I don’t have children of my own, so she was the one living thing that needed me. I think, I hope I took good care of her. In addition to making me a responsible adult, she helped me decompress (mental health: check!), forced me to exercise (physical health: check!) and gave me a reason to explore. She made me feel safe (nothing like an 80-lb, vicious-looking, barking dog to keep people away), loved and needed. She filled up space in a joyous, galumping-around-the-house way. She made me happy.

Before you slap the “Crazy Dog Lady” label on me, know that I lost my dad two years ago and I understand the difference between that grieving process and where I am right now. But pet owners know the powerful presence of their animal in their lives. It’s important, valuable and something to be thankful for.

Go hug your pets, people!

[Here’s the link to all of the 31 Days of Thanksgiving posts.]

0 Responses to Day Eleven | 31 Days of Thanksgiving

  1. Jen,
    No, you are not The Crazy Dog Lady; you were Nala’s Mama. Especially when you do not have kids, your pets ARE your kids. You look forward to them meeting you at the door at the end of a long day. You smile when they smile. You hurt when they hurt. You mourn when they are gone.

    I am so sorry for your loss! Be good to yourself at this stressful time.

  2. Thank you for your understanding, Barb. We have to stop and appreciate the good things when we’re in the moment. DJ’s post for Day 12 is the perfect example!

  3. Jen,
    What a lovely article. You put into words what most of us can only feel. Thanks for sharing it with me and the rest of the readers here. I can only imagine how I’ll feel when this day comes for my 15 year old Gretchen and 14 year old Fritz. Nope, don’t think I can prepare for it!

    See you soon,

  4. My heart aches for you – truly… I know from personal experience the pain you are going through. Unconditional love from a pet is one of the greatest blessings we will ever receive and one of the hardest to lose/let go. I will keep you in my prayers.

    This little poem really helped me visualize where my sweet pup (Morey the Min Pin) is waiting for me – on the other side… I hope it brings you some comfort too.

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