A Lifeboat in the Ocean of Grief: How Our Puppy Brought Us Joy

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My mom was in hospice care when she met our puppy, Remy. Never a fan of dogs, she looked at his wriggling, fluffy body disdainfully and said, “I won’t visit your house if he’s there.” Suddenly remembering that she was in her last weeks of life, she gave a sad little laugh and joked, “Never mind!” Then she whispered, “I hope he brings you some joy.”

Neither of us knew the depth of pain that our family would feel without our matriarch. We adopted Remy while my mom was actively dying as a desperate, proactive attempt to combat our grief. What would we do without her warm hugs, sunny smile, or expert advice? I knew how lost we would feel, but I couldn’t predict how much it would hurt.

After researching dogs that help with grief, the Newfoundland breed was at the top of the list. I knew we couldn’t handle a dog over 100 lbs, but a Newdle (Newfoundland and poodle mix) was the perfect fit. I tearfully convinced my husband Antoine that this puppy was a “need” and not a “want”, found Remy online and filled out the adoption paperwork immediately.

Remy, at 12 weeks, settling in with us

Two days later, our family of five traveled to pick up our spirited, cuddly, furry addition. Reya (13), Maxwell (5), and Aria (3) have been begging us for years to get a dog. It never seemed like the right time in the past, but in the midst of drowning in sadness, Remy became our lifeboat.

Training him and teaching basic commands took our minds off the unbearable reality of my mom’s body slowly deteriorating from cancer. When she passed away, we could count on him for hugs and to lick tears from our faces. He became more than a distraction or a diversion from our grief; he brought light to a dark place.

Our little fluffy light in the darkness

A year old and a whopping 80 lbs, Remy snuggles every night in bed with Reya, plays tug-of-war daily with Maxwell, and follows Aria around like the proverbial lost puppy. He provides company for my husband Antoine, who works from home and has made us all more active by playing with him and going on family walks.

For me, he’s a symbol that life goes on after grief. Before she was diagnosed with cancer, my mom visited me way more than my dog-parent siblings. She was terrified of all domestic animals because of childhood trauma and used to quip, “At least one of my children has a pet-free home!”

Remy is a daily reminder not only that my mother is gone but that she wants me to be happy. He has been instrumental in rebuilding my crumbled spirit. My sweet, furry little scamp is helping me crawl out of the pits of depression. I’m sure my mom is looking down from Heaven, shaking her head as she watches this huge dog prance around our house. I have a feeling she’s smiling too.

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