One day, I woke up as on any normal day and prepared to take the boys on a walk. I put on my best jacket covered in dog hair. I put my hair up in a ponytail and I proceeded to load the pockets of my jeans with dog bags. Nothing abnormal about this, I thought. Who needs to be in a fashion show to walk the dogs? Certainly not me. More dogs, less people. Always my thinking. And the dogs don’t care.
It was when I saw someone that I knew on this walk that I began to think. Who in the world was I? Once upon a time, I cared more about my appearance. And once upon a time, it wasn’t a struggle to make sure my pants weren’t inside out and that my shoes matched. I had always heard of moms who were too busy to get their hair cut or to shop for themselves. And I had turned into this. Although most days, I have to admit, I kind of digged it. So I forgot about myself. Again. But did I even care?
It is not that I think that I always have to look my best all of the time. I hike for miles a day, I spend my day feeding the dogs, walking the dogs, cleaning up after the dogs. I spend more of my day trying to clean the house with the dogs, yeah, it’s never-ending. And I would not EVER change a minute of it. But where do I fit in? I have heard it said before that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. And I never believed that this was true. Until a few weeks ago.
It was one of those moments where you look at yourself in the mirror, and you think, who in the world am I? I was preparing to take a trip to the town I grew up in, and being on the road for a year doing animal rescue, I had let a lot of things slip… including new clothes, hair cuts, make up and general normalcy for myself. I had spent a lot of time making sure that the dogs always were comfy and taken care of. And yes, that is important. But where did I fit in to my life? Who was going to take care of me?
I realized that I had nothing to wear on my trip home. In fact, I didn’t even have a suitcase. It had also taken me weeks to even buy my airline ticket, knowing that I was going to have to entrust their care to my husband. Although I trust him beyond measure, the truth was, I knew that no one could take care of them like me. And so I spent my days writing lists before my trip instead of buying new clothes. I stuffed my dog hair clothes into a dog duffel bag. Yes. You heard me. And as I got to the airport, I realized after my panic attack, I was by myself. And it felt weird. Who was this person I was with? I had forgot who I was without them.
As I got into a little routine away from home, I came to understand exactly how much I had been neglecting myself. It felt good to take a bath and not worry about how much time I was spending on myself. It felt good to buy my favorite drink at the grocery store and not head straight to the dog treats. But it didn’t feel good to be without them. I started to have another panic attack. Did I even want to take care of myself? Was there anything called balance?
Talking to my husband put me at ease, but made me upset too. There I was, over two thousand miles away, and they were doing just fine. And honestly, in some ways…better. Brickle no longer demanded to be hand fed, he was eating on his own. Digby was walking better on a leash, and they were content. How was this possible when I was taking care of myself? Didn’t everyone miss me? Wasn’t I the only person who could take care of them?
The answer was astounding to me. And if I had not taken this trip, it may have slipped by me. It was possible to spend a little time on myself while taking care of others. You may have reached a breaking point where you just are overwhelmed. But let that breaking point serve as a lesson. Your dogs need you to be happy in order for them to have the best life possible. Can you imagine having someone do everything for you…but feeling resentful at the same time? Would you be happy? Completely happy?
For me, taking care of myself while still being a good dog parent is going to come in stages. I have started to take runs by myself. So far, half hour is my max. I have started to go shopping by myself and trying my hardest not to feel guilty when I feel I need some time alone. When I start to feel the guilt after being gone even an hour, I stop and breathe. It may be air full of dog hair because I haven’t cleaned my car in over a year, but it’s a step.
Your dogs count on you and they are YOUR responsibility Bu never forget that you are important too. If you want to take care of your dog in the best way possible, take a little time for yourself today. See the difference a few minutes can make on your attitude. And I guarantee that the extra spring in your step will make for some happy pups.
-Girl Person (Rachael Johnson), 2 Traveling Dogs