My Dog Ate My Grief Homework

Between grief counseling sessions, I’m given homework assignments. The most recent was to create my “loss history graph” – a detailed report of each significant loss in my life, when it happened, and how intensely it affected me at the time. Needless to say, that wasn’t so fun to do, and once I completed the arduous task, I folded the page and tucked it inside a book for safe keeping.

A few days later, I noticed my dog Daisy munching away on a piece of paper. I sometimes give the dogs junk mail to tear apart, so I assumed that’s what it was, but closer inspection revealed the truth. She was eating my loss history graph. After pulling the soggy, tattered page from her mouth, I assessed the damage, which turned out to be minimal. While she’d chewed the edges and blurred much of the writing with drool, the only segment she’d removed entirely were the words: Dad died.

Later that week, my grief counselor and I both had a good laugh as I held up the pitiful remains of my loss history graph and explained what had happened. I mentioned how strange it was that Daisy had gone so far as to pull the page out of a book, which she’d never done before. My counselor, also a dog lover, spoke of dogs’ intuitive nature and suggested (somewhat tongue in cheek) that Daisy might have sensed that particular piece of paper made me sad and figured she could help me out by eating it.

Her nod to dogs’ intuitive and protective tendencies reminded me of an incident not long after Dad’s death. I’d left Titus asleep on the couch and gone into the bedroom to cry. Soon after I left the room, I heard Titus plop onto the floor and prepared to be tackled by a giant, exuberant puppy, as was his norm. But the wild assault never came. Instead, Titus crept onto the bed, crawled up to my head, sniffed at my face, and gently licked the tears from my cheeks.

“Hello, human. We are here to consume your sadness.”

In light of these two events, I’ve concluded my dogs are super heroes. “Doodlebug” is my usual nickname for Daisy, but in light of her new hero status, she may need an upgrade. I’m thinking: Daisy the Grief Gobbler.

And Titus can be: Titus the Tear Terminator.

I’ve said it countless times over the past year of fear and misery, and I know I’ll say it again.

Thank God for dogs.

Trusting the Tract


In a recent conversation with my sister, she spoke of a little voice that guides her in making important decisions. Despite the knee-jerk diagnostic tendencies that accompany a background in psychology, I do realize she isn’t suffering from auditory delusions. She simply allows herself to be guided by intuition.

As I listened to her, I wondered why I don’t have a guiding voice. Sure, there’s a lot of chatter in my head, but rarely is this chatter insightful. It’s more like the incessant honking of a gaggle of geese: pervasive, loud, and obnoxious.

Then I remembered that I do have an intuitive sense, although it doesn’t dwell in my head. It lives in my digestive tract. And it’s not a voice; it’s an irritant. My intuition works like this: if I’m making good choices, it remains dormant, but when I fall off my path, it roars to life. And not in a good way.


Throughout the years of writing and revising Aret, my end plan was to self-publish. I felt really good about that option and spent many hours considering how I’d go about it. However, a few months ago, after completing what I like to call my “final revision” (ha ha), I suddenly changed course and decided I should try the traditional publishing route. Despite my stomach’s angry response, I started down the querying path. As I clicked from one literary agency’s website to the next, my intestines contracted with alarm, but I chalked it up to feeling out of my element.

Yesterday, all of that changed. After spending the morning tweaking a corny query letter while ignoring my gut’s furious roiling, I received some serious, family-related news. Since extreme, unexpected personal matters tend to press the pause button on the rest of my life, receiving this news made me freeze long enough to notice that my stomach was on fire. And in that moment of painful reflection, I thought, What am I doing? Life is short. I’m wasting time!

Voila! Just like that, my intuition stretched, yawned, and went back to sleep, apparently trusting that I’d found my way back to the path. Which I have.

              I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to go up.

As my tummy settled, I remembered all the exciting self-publishing ideas I’d had before stumbling off the rails, and I got all squiggly with excitement. One of the things I’d planned to do was contact a dear friend (also a professional actor) to ask if she might be interested in doing the audiobook for Aret. For free, mind you, because I don’t know if the book will ever make money.

Granted, this is a strange request to make of a friend. Um, want to do a lot of work for no money? Because I would love to hear you read this story. Plus, if I’m going to take anyone on this crazy ride, I’d like it to be you. After all, we have a history of doing that sort of thing.


And she said YES – a gleeful yes, full of smiley faces and exclamation points, which makes me feel like this:
I’m back on the path. All is right with the world (the world of Aret, anyway). And all my digestive tract has to say is, “Zzzzzzz.” I’ll take that as a sign that I’m headed the right way.