Today, it has been almost seven years since I binged or purged, and shelter animals continue to play an important role in my recovery. Not too long ago, at a rundown shelter in Los Angeles, I met a an oreo-colored pit bull mix who looked a bit like Petey on The Little Rascals. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, and outwardly, it may have appeared like we were going on a walk or playing with a tennis ball, or sitting in a kennel. But what we were really doing was opening our hearts to each other, and I found her heart to be as sacred as a quiet prayer. She loved so easily, even in this cruel world. And the simplest things–a warm touch, the sound of her name, grass beneath her paws–lit her up on the inside.
When I found out that she hadn’t survived–that she had been euthanized–I cried for a long while in the employee bathroom. I cried so hard that one staff member came up to me and questioned if I had it in me to “do this work.”
I didn’t have words right then.
But now, I know that feeling deeply is a sign of strength, not weakness.
And loving deeply is what we are here for, not numbness.
And even when it hurts, love is a kind of medicine.
We need it in many doses.
Copyright 2016 Shannon Kopp, author of Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life
EDITOR’S NOTE: There has been a lot of research about how animals can help make us healthy or healthier. For more information, check out this article: Pet Therapy: How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other