Norah Mahony

A lesson from my dog. (Trigger warning – some parts readers may find distressing)

One year ago today Toby came into our lives.

He represented so much more than a new puppy. He represented love. Peace. Joy. Delight.

I placed so much representation on Toby that he was practically knighted from the beginning! This was a new start, a new addition to the family that would bring us closer together, he would show us how to love unconditionally & all that rainbow glitter crap that comes with getting a new puppy.

As most new puppy stories go, Toby was into everything and challenging to watch and train. Rainbow glitter was replaced with smelly dog poo everywhere and couches and leads ripped apart.  I was adamant that this experience may test my strengths but that we would come out of it a stronger family unit. Toby would be raised well and grow old with us! I visualised my children coming home from college and getting comfort from their family pets. So we went from day to day, and the good bits were very, very good and they made all the bad bits bearable.

Toby was a comfort blanket to my 2 youngest who always had one hand on his belly when they were in the house. He knew what his job was around the girls and he was amazing at it! The joy definitely outweighed the overwhelm and I reached out for support from a dog trainer and experts who guided me on how to do things right. I followed the advice as much as possible. Nothing would deter me from doing this! I had full control. I?m doing this right! I am seeing this through! I was looking at the bigger picture.

However, life never goes as you plan it and we can never fully have control of anything can we?

Toby is an energetic boy and when he was just 7 months old he got out into the garden as I was leaving to do the shopping and I ran over him with my car. In an instant I lost control of the situation.

As he sat by the side of the road looking bewildered, I knew that things had changed forever.

He came home from the vets 3 days later, miraculously, as I had ran straight over his head when his collar got stuck in the wheel. He was to get his full health back except his sight.

I had to deal with my own stuff over that time – sadness, guilt, overwhelm and all of the ?whys? and ?was it my fault and that I should have known he was there?s.. Toby wanted to be with me 24/7 when he came back, understandably. I slept with him downstairs for some weeks until he began to build his confidence back up again without his sight. Our bond became tight as he stuck to me and I almost became his eyes. He still played his role with the smallies amazingly well and they adored him, blind or not. Toby became his boisterous self again over the following months!

But now, noises became a reason to bark for Toby and so he barked a lot. Not understanding all of the little noises, his loss of sight made him question everything. It made it impossible for him to join me in my office for my client sessions. So with the kiddies in school Toby was left barking and alone for large chunks of the day.

I clung onto the reasons I brought Toby into our lives and believed that everything happened for a reason and tried to surrender to that. I often asked the universe, ?what is the lesson supposed to be in this horrific situation? Why would you place this experience on either me, Toby or the small girls who love him so much?? For a long time it seemed like I would never get the answer. I held onto the mantra that maybe this was the thing that was going to bring us all together and though my strengths were tested to their very limit, I loved every inch of Toby and saw the joy he brought to the girls’ lives.

However, the dynamics changed. Toby began to become distressed at being left alone and I had no other options with my work. Not working was not an option and I asked outsiders for their advice and support. Over time I realised that maybe the best thing for Toby in all of this, after all he had been through, is to be with a family who would love him 24/7.

Reaching out to Molly Moos in my despair that day was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I?m pretty sure my first words were ?I need help!?

I knew that if Toby left our home, the girls would be distraught. I also wondered how would I know for sure I would be happy and approve of the home that he went to? What if things got even worse for Toby?  It would be out of my hands. But I also knew the situation couldn?t continue the way it was.

Things happened so fast after that message. But they were in alignment from the beginning. The first messages to Molly Moos & the first phone call with the foster family & I knew they could build the future for Toby that he deserved. Full time human support and guidance where he was never left alone again.  Seeing his first birthday party breakfast online was heart-warming and heart-breaking all at the same time – but I could see how content Toby was. I had made the right choice.

Did I ever truly know I was making the right decision? No!  I questioned it every day when he first left. I cried. The girls cried. They begged me to go and get him back and I toyed with the idea but where would that leave Toby in a weeks? time when I had to work or we had to go out? Alone. So I decided that there was no going back and Toby went to his forever home just after his 1st birthday where he is loyally loved and supported 24/7.

It was a year ago today that Toby came into my life. And yes, I do still believe that everything happens for a reason. I?m not aware of the full series of lessons for me out of this experience yet. But I do know that I have learned a few things this past year, here?s 10 I can think of:

–          Raising a puppy is HARD

–          Sometimes, It?s better not to jump into situations without careful planning

–          You can?t control the outcome of anything in life- holding on tighter just makes it worse

–          You can love someone with all of your heart and still let them go

–          Sometimes what?s best can be hardest

–          Don?t plan too far ahead, live and enjoy each moment, it can all change in an instant

–          It?s ok to re-evaluate as you go along. There is no right or wrong, only what?s best

–          You don?t need to look outside you for peace, joy and delight. They are already within

–          My family is complete and full of love already

–          Love is the beginning and the end. Choose Love.

I?m not writing this to explain my reasons for giving away my dog. I?m writing this partly for myself, to bring together an understanding of the last year and what it has taught me. But also to share with anyone else who might be struggling with any big decision in their life. Know that it is OK to re-evaluate things as you go along, there is no right or wrong, only what?s best.