Pets can help us survive major life events. Here Nicola Judkins tells us her story and how her dogs helped…

Six years ago my life came crashing down around me.  Within 18 months I had lost a marriage, a house in the Christchurch earthquakes and a business.  Everything I thought defined me was lying in a pile of rubble.  And I had no idea how to begin rebuilding.

I can’t remember how I came across the book ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, but one Sunday afternoon I sat down to read it.  The chapter that resonated with me the most was that of gratitude.
I closed the book and looked down.  My two dogs were beside me on the couch, their heads in my lap.

At that moment I felt grateful for the first time in what felt like forever.  I was grateful to have two gorgeous dogs that, no matter what was happening in my life, were happy to be a part of it with me.

As the days passed I continued to be grateful for their companionship.  And I began to notice just how intuitive they both were.  When I was feeling lonely they would come and give me a cuddle.  When I felt sad they would do something to make me laugh.

I began spending even more time with them.  We would go on long walks each day, because
dogs + nature = therapy.

Within time I began to feel better.  And good things started to happen again.

When I met my now fiancé he was living in Australia, while I was still in New Zealand.  It became clear one of us was going to have to move.  And since I didn’t have a house, and he did, the decision was easy.  But my dogs were a non-negotiable part of the deal. When I boarded the plane they were right there beside me.  Ready to begin a new life on 14 acres in the middle of a rain forest.  I loved seeing them roam about the property and swim in the dam.  It was my way of saying ‘thank you’.

Toddy is no longer with us.  He passed away suddenly in 2013 at the age of 11.  I remember watching him rolling around in the grass, enjoying the sun, the day before he died.  I kept thinking, ‘I’m so glad you got to spend your retirement years enjoying life and being a dog’.

Meg has recently turned 11 and is beginning to slow down.  It makes me sad to think that she may no longer be around one day.  We now have three other dogs as part of our pack, all with unique personalities of their own.  But the bond I share with Meg is different and very special.

Even now I thank Meg and Toddy on a daily basis for the wonderful gift they gave me.  And for being there when I needed them the most.

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