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Infertility depression wouldn’t let me care for myself, so my dog stepped in

I got married straight out of college at age 22. My husband and I decided to wait on starting a family to enjoy our time together. After our second anniversary, we decided we were ready to have kids. Little did I know that it would take another eight years for that to happen.

Like any couple ready to start a family, we figured it would take a couple of months. No one in our family had any infertility issues. After two years of trying, I saw a specialist. They couldn’t really pinpoint anything physically wrong with me. They just told me I was young and sometimes these things just take time.

I was also having painful menstrual cycles. Again, doctors couldn’t pinpoint why. I was just told to wait and give it time. Dealing with the pain was tough, but the worst part was the question everyone kept asking: “When are you guys going to have kids?” Fast-forward two years later: I still wasn’t pregnant and was in a deep depression.

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My husband and I decided to buy a house after living in apartments for four years. It was a cute little townhouse with three bedrooms (just in case we had kids). The house seemed lonely with just the two of us, so we decided to adopt a dog. We both grew up with dogs and loved having them, but hadn’t been in a position to get one until then.

Our dog search took us to a farm in rural Minnesota. One of the farm’s Blue Heelers had a litter of mixed-breed pups that the farmer wasn’t interested in keeping. When we walked into the puppy pen, our feet were attacked by puffs of fur and teeth. The litter of six pups was an array of brindle, merle and black fur and they were all as cute as can be. One pup sat by itself in the corner of the pen, watching us intently. He was all black with a patch of white on his chest. The farmer informed us that the pup was the runt of the litter and the only male. I walked up to him and he looked at me with big eyes and put his paw on my leg. It was a done deal — he was the one.

Scout was a great puppy. We were able to housebreak him in a month and only had a few incidents of puppy destruction. I got up early every morning to walk him before and after work and took him on weekend adventures. He filled the void that caused my depression. A lot of people say their pets are their like their children, but Scout really was my child. I didn’t dress him up or carry him like a baby, but taking care of him helped distract me from my infertility troubles. My depression killed my motivation to be active. Scout forced me to be active — he needed to be exercised and it helped my depression. As the years passed, and with Scout’s constant support, I worked on my depression and tried my best to let it go. I tried to keep my focus on enjoying each day with my dog and husband.

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After seven years of infertility, I finally got the answer to my fertility problem — endometriosis. It was the cause of all those years of painful menstrual cycles. The disease had also damaged both of my ovaries. I underwent surgery to repair some of the damage, but the doctor was only able to salvage half of one ovary. At that point, I knew my chances of having a child were very slim, but I was OK with that. After all, it had been seven years and we could always adopt.

As I recovered from my surgery, Scout, my ever-loving dog, was my constant companion. He reminded me that just like during my depression, he was by side and this pain would soon pass, too. When I started to feel depressed, he’d throw a chewed-up toy on my lap and urge me to play. That’s the wonderful thing about dogs: they live in the moment. They don’t worry about the past or what will happen tomorrow. You need to worry about right now. Life’s too short to sulk. Pick up a ball and throw it — live for the moment.

I followed Scout’s advice and just played. A few months later I got an unexpected surprise: I was pregnant. My baby was due shortly after my 10-year wedding anniversary. I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. When I brought him home, Scout stood guard in his room. He instinctively knew that the baby was a part of me and part of his family. He even stopped sleeping in my bedroom; instead, he slept in the baby’s room.

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Scout lived to be 14. When he passed, part of my heart went with him. I felt like I’d lost my firstborn. For many years, he was the child I never had. Always loyal, loving and by my side. As he grew older, I mentally prepped myself for his loss. Emotionally, I knew I would be a mess. When he crossed over to the rainbow bridge, my depression crept back in. True, I had my kids to keep me busy, but his death broke my heart.

Instead of crying all day (which I did some days), I decided to follow Scout’s example — pick up a ball. However, I had no fur baby to retrieve it. I knew that no dog would ever replace him, but I could help another. I got involved in animal rescue and I help save homeless dogs in his honor — Scout, my loving son who taught me to take it one day at a time. To get off my butt and walk it off when I was feeling bad. To play, every day, like there’s no tomorrow.

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