As I struggle with infertility, my dog is my biggest comfort

The heartache of infertility may seem insurmountable at times, but at least one woman yearning for a child reminds us that sometimes comfort is found in the unlikeliest of places, even in floppy ears.

Marija Mandic | Stocksy United

I fell in love with my husband over Facebook messenger. One day, after weeks of flirting and admiring each other’s pictures, we discussed our mutual fondness for dogs. I told him, “Unlike humans, dogs are unconcerned with concealing how they feel. I love that their tails are connected to their hearts.” I was playfully referring to a dog’s inability to control the movement of its tail when overcome with emotion. He took it literally, replying “Wow, that explains a lot.”

I nearly laughed myself off of the bed. Instantly, I fell hard for him.

On a Saturday afternoon a year later, upon returning from our honeymoon, we drove 90 miles to claim our new 10-week-old fur baby: A long-haired dachshund we named “Lucy” at first sight. We proceeded to ooh, ahh, cuddle and baby-voice all of the way home.

Until my husband jerked the car over to the side of the road because she vomited (projectile-style) into my neck.

Such a scenario was an indication of what was to come. One evening during week two, she made my freshly-shampooed ‘do her personal toilet while my husband and I were watching television on the sofa. Week three would go down in history as including the moment I watched—shrugging my shoulders and sipping my coffee—as my red stilettos were graced with her unapologetic stream of urine.

Reflecting on those agitating first few weeks, I had no inclination of the ultimate anti-depressant—the godsend—she would soon become for me.

She was my company in a lonely town

A year later, my husband’s evolving career led us away from my family and friends in Nashville, temporarily relocating us to a sleepy, slower-paced town 200 miles away. I was a grumpy blend of disheartened and homesick. “This town puts me to sleep faster than a bottle of Nyquil!” I ranted to every listening ear.

I even accused the Whole Foods of having an inadequate chocolate candy selection. The town’s scenic mountainous views, while gorgeous, weren’t compelling enough to eject me from my heaviness.

My dog was, though.

Her 11-pound blend of affection, feistiness and floppy ears provided an abiding dose of joy. The pleasure of waking up to her paw resting on my face each morning carried me through that disorienting period of adjustment.

My furry companion on the bathroom floor

My husband and I have been trying—unsuccessfully—to conceive for almost two years. One morning fairly recently, I stumbled to the bathroom to perform my deed on the formidable stick. I have become such an expert at taking unsuccessful pregnancy tests, I could have done it drugged and blindfolded. But, that month—I was certain it was our month. Finally, the heavens were going to part and grant me with the sight of not one but two glorious lines.

I rehearsed what I would say when I placed the call to my husband informing him of the long-awaited news. I sat on my hands for those three golden minutes—my stomach a pool of dancing butterflies—before slamming into the cold, hard earth once again.

Nope. Sorry, girl. Not your month.

I was angry. I was wounded. I wanted to spit right at that agonizing, gaping absence of a line. I wondered if the universe was punishing me for all of my shortcomings and trying to tell me that I was not fit to be anyone’s mother. I sobbed helplessly into my already saturated ball of tissues.

With evidence of so much beauty, love and lightness in the world—driving straight through my heartache and filling the darkness—it was impossible to remain sad and heavy for long.

A few moments passed before I was greeted with two almond-shaped brown eyes peering up at me, the whites of them making an appearance as she turned her head to the side. Her chin rested on my toes as she gazed up at me adoringly. As I reached down to pet her, she nudged my hand with her snout before proceeding to roll over and melt into a puddle of syrupy flirtation—employing all of her wiles to beg for a belly rub.

All I could do was allow the laughter to steamroll its way through my pain, evaporating my tears. Instantly, my frustration and despair were trumped by love.

As odd as it may seem to a person who has never emotionally connected with a dog, she is a reminder of life’s steadfast offerings of delight. It’s easy for one’s state of contentment to yield to day-to-day frustrations: That distracted driver yakking in the lane next to you, that barista who gave you herbal tea instead of strong coffee when you’re running late or that pulled muscle in your back forcing you to cancel your exercise class—just when you announced your dedication to the cultivation of that Olympian-like body.

Life is abundant with those annoyances, and we often allow them to swallow us and seem mightier than they are. We often make whales out of lowly minnows.

This past January, for example, I recall thinking to myself: this is the longest, dreariest, most torturous winter of my life. Will spring ever come? But then I saw her paw prints in the snow.

Once again, perspective hit me like a pie slamming in the face. My pessimism was hijacked by delight. Because with 11 pounds of affection, feistiness and floppy ears—and, ultimately, the evidence of such beauty, love and lightness existing in the world driving straight through my heartache and filling the darkness—it was impossible to remain sad and heavy for long.

Lacey Johnson
Lacey Johnson
Lacey is a writer and journalist residing in Nashville, Tennessee, and has a degree from Belmont University. She has been published by Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Day, YourTango, Skirt! magazine and in a variety of other online media sources and print magazines.

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