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Dog Talk

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My dogs’ unconditional love is so helpful when I can’t love myself. Dogs don’t judge my weight, my income, or my status in life. To dogs, I am okay just the way I am.

When I was new to OA and first got a sponsor, I refused to talk to her about anything but dogs for three months because I didn’t feel safe. If this woman would put up with all my dog talk, I thought, then I could trust her. Thanks be to God; she hung in there, and she’s still my sponsor three and a half years later.

As I recover in OA and let human beings in, dogs have become less of my personal support group. But I find my dogs are always a great link to other pet lovers, especially newcomers, who are relieved to find we have something in common other than our compulsions. We share pet photos and stories.

Have I had to write about my dogs? Yes, I’ve done several Step Four inventories around dog issues. When I joined OA, I’d just bought Skye, an elkhound puppy I hoped to train as a therapy dog. She was a “barkoholic,” so I had to write about my neighbors and come up with action plans. Despite having free access to a dog door, Skye was very resistant to potty training, and she showed a definite lack of cooperation in her obedience class. Today, she is 4 years old and has been a successful therapy dog for the past two years, but my anger at her non-cooperation had to be dealt with over and over. That helped me address anger and resentment issues in human relationships too.

One of my sponsees decided to get a rescue dog, which I strongly encouraged because I knew walking the dog in the park would break though some of her isolation. It also gives us a shared interest beyond how she’s working her program.

Another sponsee asks for prayers whenever her dogs are sick or injured. She has problems with her finances, so veterinary bills are scary for her. I know the out-of control-with-money issue, but I am not that person anymore.

Last year, I had to euthanize my older dog. I thought God was unfair in closing his life out at 10 years. When his health complications began to multiply and his pain increased, I had to write about it several times. I had to talk it over with my sponsor and OA friends. At last, I was able to let him go with grace and tears, glad for our ten years. I let go and let God.

— Jo Ellen, Idaho USA

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