Blowing Bubbles with My Dog

Recent events have me, like many of us, feeling untethered. I was making good progress on my depression. I was getting out more, volunteering, talking to people at the dog park, all things I can’t do right now. It’s an additional element of the pandemic that sprinkles more discouragement on top of the physical and financial fears that so many are facing globally. So, while I don’t feel like I’m making much progress, I’m proud to say that Stella has come a long way.

When I adopted her, Stella had a LOT of fears. Bags of potting soil, kites, people wearing big hats, bicycles, snowmen, car rides, piles of rocks, the list goes on. For the most part, she’s faced them all. The neighbor’s animatronic Halloween decorations were just too much for her and we had to cross the street, but those are meant to be scary, after all. She tends to be afraid of things that look unusual (to her) or regular things that are in unexpected places. But as long as I put on an air of confidence and stroll up to the scary thing, she can pluck up the courage to approach and give it a good sniff. Our most recent endeavor has been… bubbles.




At first, she was uneasy. She backed away from them and skirted around their path to get away. Then, she crept up to one that had landed on the ground without popping. She leeeeaned in close, and- pop! Her head flinched back and I could almost see the gears turning as she tried to comprehend where it had gone.

A few more bubble-blowing sessions and we have successfully conquered her fear.

She is now completely indifferent to bubbles. No joy or delight whatsoever. She can be so playful when it comes to other games, but she just doesn’t care at all when it comes to bubbles. They’re almost an annoyance to her, popping on her fur while she’s guarding the backyard. I mean c’mon, bubbles are the most frivolous, fun thing ever! Ah well, I’d call that at least halfway successful.




How Running Helps My Mental Health

I really wish that my dog, Stella, was a good running buddy, but she’s just not. First of all, she refuses to do the entire 3.5-mile loop that I run. She’ll reach a point where she turns around and sits on the path, facing back the way we came. I’m jogging in place, pulling on the leash and cajoling her into moving, to no avail. If I start to really put my weight into her harness, she’ll lie down so that her center of gravity is low and I can’t tip her towards me. She then begins her slow army crawl towards home, belly in the dirt. She looks so pitiful that I often give in.

Keep in mind that Stella is a healthy, almost 2-year old cattle dog mix who sprints in giant circles in the dog park and wrestles for an hour every day. She’s not out of shape. She’s not opposed to running in the park. She’s just not interested in running with me. Not to mention that she’s compelled to investigate every smell we run by, so I’m constantly tugging her along or getting my shoulder yanked so that she can traipse into the grass. It’s ok– if I were a dog, I’d rather explore with my nose, too. Jogging is boring compared to 300 million olfactory receptors.

Suffice it to say, Stella is not a good running buddy. Maybe when she’s a little more grown-up she’ll like it more, but I’m not holding my breath. It would be nice to have the motivation of having a dog to run with, but I’m actually pretty well into a running habit these days. On days when I’m not feeling it, I do the regular loop. Frequently, I add more distance with the other paths on the mesa, and sometimes I even do the loop twice!

Every time I take an extended break from running and then start it up again, I find that it’s easier to regain my endurance. I’m always worried that I won’t be able to get back to the part where it’s enjoyable, but I’ve found that part at the beginning where you’re lifting cement shoes off the trail and breathing through a straw to be much shorter than I remember. Once my body readjusts to the requirements of running, I’m always happy that I did it. I notice that running helps my mental health in more ways than just the release of those precious endorphins. It also gives me a routine to plan my day around and something to look forward to. When I get home from a run, I often feel grounded and capable, and noticing my tired muscles is an exercise in mindfulness. Plus, there’s the simple fact that I’m not looking at a screen while I’m outside, running.

I really enjoy the sense of accomplishment that it brings me, although I have to be careful not to connect this too tightly to distance. Otherwise, I find myself disappointed if I don’t run as far or farther than my current limit. (Curse you, perfectionism!) It’s much better to feel accomplished for the act of running itself; I got out of the house, breathed some fresh air, and got my heart rate up. That’s all that matters.

Week 25 of Working on Us: Thankful and Grateful

Working on Us is a wonderful series over on Beckie’s Mental Mess, where each week has a new prompt meant to get people talking about mental health topics. Check out the original prompt for week 25 and click around to find participants of previous weeks’ topics!

This week, the prompt is loose; just write about something you’re thankful/grateful for.

I joke with my family that my life basically revolves around the dog park, and although it’s funny, it’s also kind of true. I adopted Stella when I was in a really tough place, mentally, and her sweetness, affection, and persistence are what have gotten me out of bed and outside over the last year.

black dog with pointy ears laying in grass between person's outstretched bare legs

When I think about how grateful I am to have Stella, I also think about my family’s support and patience, and how willing they were to care for her when I was in the hospital. I’m thankful for the people I meet at the dog park, and the sense of community and routine I’ve found there. I think about the resources I have to be able to provide for Stella, and the fact that my body allows me to walk, run, and play with her.

IMG_4092black dog with pointed ears panting while lying in shade next to concrete structure

When I think about how grateful I am to call Stella mine, it ripples out to every aspect of my life with her. I think that’s a powerful quality of giving thanks; you cannot be thankful for one thing without also being thankful for what contributes to it and leads to it.

I’m also incredibly thankful for what comes from my responsibility for and love of Stella. I’m thankful for long walks with frequent sniff stops and short walks around the block. She gives me stories to tell and reasons to get out of my comfort zone. I’m grateful that she makes me laugh every day.

IMG_4489black dog biting stream of water from sprinkler

I’m thankful that she is instantly joyful when I buy her toys, but is also amused with a simple piece of cardboard. I’m thankful that I can tell when she’s tired because one ear flops over.


I’m thankful for my pup because she makes my life more joyful, she connects me to other people, and she demands that I take care of her and in so doing, myself. I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving, and if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope that you had a great week filled with all of the people, pets, and things you’re thankful for all year long.