My Living Purse


Recently, I said goodbye to a dear friend and companion. Millions of people have a dog story; this is my story. December 2008, I felt a coworker’s excitement about getting her kids dogs for Christmas. As I listened in, I had the thought of wanting a dog for myself. When I made the decision to get a dog, I was having thoughts of ending the dating courtship dance with a man I had spent seven months getting to know. And if the relationship was going to end, I did not want love to leave my life. A dog would be the love I needed to fill the space within me that longed for unconditional acceptance.

After listening to my coworker, thoughts of a dog consumed my mind. I immediately went to my office to search the website of the local humane society. I found and settled for a dog named Diva. My plan was to adopt Diva and change her name to Rocko. The name Diva was (and still is) a turnoff to me. I did not want a high maintenance dog. After work I went to the Humane Society to visit Diva. We were put in a mock living room to meet and hang out with each other. Diva was all over me. I remember the counselor telling me that behaviors can heighten when a dog finds its forever home. At that time, I was not one to fear a physical challenge, therefore, I was going to make Diva my dog, but, I also wanted to sleep on it. Getting a dog was a big decision. Plus, I knew I was going to lie and sign a form stating that where I rented approved animals.

The next day, I called the Humane Society, ready to start the process of adopting Diva. I was informed that Diva was at an adoption event at Petco and was promised to a couple. I was so upset that after work, I went to the Humane Society to voice my frustration about the possibility of a promise being broken and Diva missing out on her forever home. Because patience is not in my top 10 virtues, I decided to look again at the animals ready for adoption. All the animals were the same as the day before, except there was a dog named Teddy Brumlow.

Teddy Brumlow sat at the front of the cage alert to his surroundings. His paperwork reported that he was returned because a child in the home had allergies. Through the shelter cage, I touched his paw, and he did not move. Teddy Brumlow was not afraid of me, so, I requested a visit with him in the mock living room. I waited on the living room couch for the counselor to bring him in to meet me. Once inside, Teddy Brumlow was placed on the floor. He immediately came over to me, smelled me, then went on to other more interesting smells within the room. At that point, I remembered the warning of the counselor from the previous day. Behaviors, both good and bad, increase when an animal finds a forever home. I no longer needed to voice my opinions about Diva and broken promises. I was going to take the risk with Teddy Brumlow. What risk? The risk to nurture and care for something more than I was caring and nurturing myself.

I was going to take the risk with Teddy Brumlow. What risk? The risk to nurture and care for something more than I was caring and nurturing myself.

Having a dog in my life gave me the opportunity to repair a little girl’s broken heart. As a child, I experienced physical abuse, verbal abuse, and molestation. I received messages from my mother that I was not wanted, lovable, acceptable as is, pretty, worthy, valuable, or likable. I remember overeating my mom’s leftovers to earn her love. My father could not be in my life because he was married to another woman and they had a daughter. Every little girl wants a daddy. I remember thinking of ways my life would be different if I had a dad. These thoughts consumed my mind when my mom was physically violent towards me. In my late teenage years, these thoughts ended and shifted to putting pressure on myself to “make it” without the help of a mother or father. Reflecting on that memorial thought, I recognize personal determination and the importance of strangers in roles of gate keepers that helped me along my journey. In the final months of high school, a stranger in the role of guidance counselor processed the paperwork to help me go to college at the last minute.        

I only went to college to get away from my mother. By my second year, I was failing and on academic probation my third year. Because of one Dean, who before she left the University presented my academic record for retro-active academic withdrawal, I was given the opportunity to prove myself. It was in my third year of college that I started meeting with a college counselor, learned to say “no,” honor time, commit to priorities, take responsibility, and be alone. With those behavioral changes, I graduated college mentally and physically healthier.

In 2002, the year I graduated college, unintentional weight loss occurred. In 2003, weight loss continued through intentional changes in physical activity, tweaks in food choices, and diet pills. In 2004, I eliminated alcohol for an entire year that resulted in additional weight loss along with increased physical activity, laxatives, and diet pills. The year 2005 was a repeat of 2004. In 2006, my mom died, I prayed to God over a scale for no or very little weight gain after a week of going through the planning, preparing for a burial, and the funeral repass. In 2006, I entered a relationship within a month of my mom dying while continuing diet pills, little to no carbohydrates, exercising every morning, and exercising after “bad” meals. That relationship ended 16 months later when I got lost in grief and he turned his attention to another woman. Intense fear of regaining weight continued when dating a man who said I love you and changed his mind. He regretted saying I love you; and I stayed. Two months later I ended the relationship. It was in that relationship that I adopted a savior, a dog named Teddy, and ended the war against myself.

Teddy was a beautiful creature. In caring for him, I ended destructive dieting behaviors (restrictive energy intake, intense physical activity, laxative and diet pill abuse) and started feeling. Experiencing emotions was new to me. Weight gain in childhood protected me from feeling the physical beatings suffered, food numbed the internal negative feelings I experienced after molestation with a mother who blamed, and eating was the action needed to suppress my unwelcomed and unwanted voice. Getting a dog did not change me overnight; however, I was changed. Having Teddy in my life gave me the opportunity to rid myself of the residue of experiencing a traumatic childhood. I did not mother Teddy the way I was mothered. I did not ignore him when he was hurt by two spider bites that resulted in severe arthritis. I hugged and kissed him a lot. I was happy to see him every day. I missed him. I thought of him. We worked together as a marriage and family therapist and therapy dog. I carried him with me in his absence. And now that I am in the reality of Teddy no longer being in my life, I am eternally grateful for the 12 years he enhanced my life and made me such a better human being. I love you, Teddy.

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