How My Dog Helped Me Reprioritize My Overextended Life


I have a confession to make: I can’t remember the last time I took my dog Axle for a walk. Sometimes, I can’t remember if I fed him or not. He patiently walks back and forth between me and his bowl, placing his nose in it. I think his last bath was three weeks ago. I’m pretty sure he’s two weeks overdue for a nail trim, and his chew selection has significantly decreased.

Unlike me, he seems to see a light at the end of the tunnel and continues to patiently lie on the floor to watch my daughter play as I run around trying to accomplish everything. He used to be the anxious one, always wanting to be right where I was or panicking at the vet’s office, but it seems like our roles have reversed and he’s the calming one these days.

The face of no worries. Just soaking up sunshine! Photo by Meghan Lodge
The face of no worries. Just soaking up sunshine! (Photo by Meghan Lodge)

Like a surprisingly large number of the population, I suffer from anxiety. Sometimes, my anxiety likes to hang out with its best friend, depression. Together, the two certainly wreak havoc in my life. Most of the time, I’m able to keep both issues at bay, but all it takes is one thing to be the one thing too much that starts the spiral.

In this case, it was a car accident earlier this year. Fortunately, Axle was not in the vehicle at the time, and neither my daughter nor myself were gravely injured. Since the accident, everything has been an uphill battle, from the back and forth with the insurance company to finding something to drive, since my vehicle was totaled and not valued at much per their system.

That problem further added to my already stressed and stretched-too-thin life, which includes a full-time job, keeping up a household, raising a small child, and trying to also be a proper pet owner. It got to the point where I didn’t even feel like writing anymore, which is one of my fun passions. I had hit some dead-ends with a few leads, and, to be perfectly honest, I was a little bit relieved. I didn’t feel like dealing with the dog world. For whatever reason, I run into more mean comments from people in the dog world than anywhere else, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to handle it. I also felt guilty that I wasn’t putting out any content, and I felt like anything I did write was poor quality. (Editor’s note: It wasn’t. As you can see, Meghan is a wonder writer.)

Axle strongly believes in naps. Pictured: Axle, Josh Lodge Photo by Meghan Lodge
Axle, pictured here with my husband Josh, strongly believes in naps. (Photo by Meghan Lodge)

I noticed that I was falling short on a lot of things, including Axle’s care, but I just couldn’t seem to find enough time or energy in a day to handle everything. I didn’t want to let anything or anyone down, so instead everything suffered a little.

Then I started working on my article about a dog author named Belle. Belle has just published her first book, and her owner/translator, Terry Kaye, shared something that stayed in my mind long after I had finished the article.  Terry said, “I love writing in Belle’s voice because I believe that taking a step back from the craziness of our human lives and looking at the world through the eyes of a dog can help us remember what is important in life and ultimately help us live better lives.”

Axle believes in spending time with his friends. Photo by Meghan Lodge
Axle also believes in spending time with his friends. (Photo by Meghan Lodge)

I watched Axle. He didn’t seem the least bit upset that I hadn’t taken him for a walk in forever. In fact, he seemed happy to be avoiding the heat, the bugs, and the traffic. In a typical day, he took his time getting out of bed, had a drink of water and some breakfast, then went on his fence patrol outside. He’d bark at our usual passersby. Chew on a bone. Take naps in the afternoon sun. Watch my daughter play. Remind me to feed him. Play with the cats.

Not once did he seem stressed or upset that I wasn’t up to par on my pet parenting.

He doesn't look amused, but at least we're spending time together. Photo by Meghan Lodge
He doesn’t look amused, but at least we’re spending time together. (Photo by Meghan Lodge)

I followed Terry’s indirect advice and took a mental step back from my life to reassess my priorities. I started spending more time with friends and became more committed to my gym time. Somehow, when I started taking a little better care of myself, I found the motivation to get more things done at home, including spending time with Axle and our cats, playing with my daughter, and keeping my house somewhat neat and tidy. Each day is a little easier, and I know things will get better, but only if I continue to make sure I’m focusing on the important things in life. Thanks to my editors here at Dogster for being patient with me, and to the readers for being part of my motivation to keep moving forward.

If you’re stressed or feeling run down, take a moment to think like your dog. Watch them enjoy the present, without worry over the past or stress about the future. Breathe deeply, and remember, sometimes our dogs know better than us.

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