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My dogs are my lifeline.

I have three German Shepherds.  The Big One is six, the Middle Child is four and the Young Man is just four months old.  The oldest is my husband’s but the younger two are mine.

When I got my Middle Child, I was in the throes of a depression.  Work was challenging, my marriage wasn’t going well to say the least and my bipolar wasn’t having any of it.  Bringing a puppy into my world gave me a lifeline. It stirred  feelings of love and wonder and joy.  I told her that, too.  I told her that I didn’t think I had the ability to feel those things any longer.  Finding out I was still capable of feeling those things came just in time.

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Middle Child turned out to have a very nervous disposition and is an extremely ‘vocal’ dog.  I’ve had her to numerous obedience courses (including class given by one of  the leading police/drug dog trainers) and even left her with one of my trainers for a week-long boot camp.  Upon re-examining her lineage, I believe the breeder misinformed us.  Her father is from German lines and is Schutzhund III but her mother…well, questionable at best.

Over the years, Middle Child has been a very difficult dog.  And that’s how she’s taught me so much.  Not just because it’s, ‘so wonderful for people with mental illness to have a pet because it forces them to think about another creature’s well-being, blah, blah, blah.  Blah blah.” BS.  I have such a special place in my heart for her because I can relate.

We aren’t perfect.  We have genetic flaws that no one can do anything about.  We are difficult.  But we love unconditionally.  I understand when she just barks at what goes by out the window because I have generalized anxiety disorder, too.  I understand when my son and husband become frustrated with her behavior because I put them through the ringer as well.  And I get when she has days where all she wants is a rub and a kiss and someone to sit with her in silent understanding.

Over the years we’ve developed an exceptional relationship.  Because I’ve accepted her and love her so much in spite of her flaws, and she feels the same about me.  If only I could feel that about myself.

Middle Child is no longer the youngest in the household.  Young Man entered the picture back in March.  One Sunday during my hospitalization, my family picked me up for a day-outing and we went to the breeder.  We all chose Young Man together and he came home forever in April.

I have a new puppy to train and to love, to learn about and he has lessons to teach me about myself, I am sure.  Yes, he and I have bonded and all is going extremely well.  But even if he and I wind up becoming Certified Trackers, I will always have a special place in my heart for my difficult girl who has taught me how to love imperfection, look at anxiety in a different way and learn how to find joy in life.

She saved me.

And to this day, I tell her that every now and then.

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