Reduce Christmas Stress: Hug A Dog

stressAll Things Holiday

At the beginning of the month, I promised to share posts that are Christmas related. That promise has been kept and there are still so many things we have not done such as fashion, food or the stress of Christmas. That is about to change.

Although not wishing to be Debbie Downers, especially now that we are just days away from Christmas, but it has to be admitted and discussed that not everyone enjoy this “the most wonderful time of the year.” For some, the stress level can be quite high. That could be due to all the activities, preparations and shopping related to the season and so little time, they feel, to do it all. For others, the stress is more about not being too fond of Christmas for whatever reason. This could include that this is the time that a loved one or friend made his/her transition, a relationship came to its end or simply not observing Christmas and all the celebration is just too much for them.

Over the now 50 years of my life, Christmases have been quite joyful no matter the amount of gifts that I received, what we ate over the celebrations or where I lived. There were times when my love of the season was outwardly visible – in the decorations adorning my house, the special outfits that we wore and the spread on our table. But there were times, a few years, when the opposite was true. The stress of my life, the ‘disappointments’ and even devastation were so great that I honestly did not want to see another Christmas.

I know that there are people in that exact place today. It might not be you who is reading this now but you might know someone who is living the stress that can come with Christmas. It is for you, if you are the one, or for your friend, that I share this story – one that tells the story of my loss and insight back in 2007.  That was a truly trying time for me – it was one of those few Christmases that I was doing my best to be “normal” for the season. It was published elsewhere on this day – December 16 – and with some edits and revisions to make it relevant and somewhat shorter, I share with you today.


Don’t Stress, Mommy

Abigail in 2009
Abigail in 2009

“From the mouth of babes…” the Bible says and even though one cannot still describe my daughter, Abigail, a ‘babe’ given that she is a grown woman, wisdom indeed pours out of her mouth.  Take the piece of advice she gave me as we spoke on Messenger early that December morning: “Don’t stress, Mommy.”

We had spent the previous day enjoying a couple of our favourite mother/daughter activities – shopping and making Christmas cakes. It was late when we were done and as we bundled up to go into the cold for me to transport her home, she noticed for the first time the trembling of my/our dog Angello that I told her about.

Side bar: There was always confusion about who is the true owner of Angello – the Shi Tzu/Pomeranian cross dog that my partner purchased for me years before. We had another Shit Tzu – Betty – who I had purchased about three years before that and gifted my partner. That is a funny story – the purchase of Betty. 

I was driving home from our office – we ran a small and growing public relations firm back then – and came to a halt behind a garbage truck. I noticed a brown and white ‘thing’ hanging through the window and curiosity got the better of me. So I swung out and pulled up beside the truck and realized it was a mangy-looking, shaggy hair all in knots dog. 

Without a second thought, I shouted up to the driver who was holding this thing, “How much do you want for it?” We “wheeled and dealed” and 15 minutes later, he was driving away with my cheque and I with the flee-filled “thing” on my front seat. I will never, never forget the look on my partner’s face when I presented this flea bag as an early Christmas gift! 

Betty was with us for a few years and she got mixed reactions from me. I never owned a pet in my life until then – much less one that lived in the house! However, she and my partner were like peas in a pod and yes, there were moments when that relationship annoyed me – I readily confess. 

Then one day, Betty was gone – stolen in a swoop by thieves who drove through the neighbourhood where we had recently purchased our house. My partner was so heartbroken and swore we would never have another dog. And we did not for years.

Until Angello and according to my partner he was mine – and his nickname actually became “A Fi Yuh It” (Translation:“He’s Yours,”). This was an unsuccessful attempt at not forming any attachment to him as  well as trying to get me to housebreak him. Well that plan failed. Abigail, my daughter,  was also in on this and pretended at first to be nonchalant about this dog – until she realized that she could score ‘dates’ by walking him through the neigbourhood. She was right. Her first boyfriend was as a result of Angello’s cuteness.

When the time came for us to migrate to Canada – there was no question in my mind that Angello was coming once I found out that he could. So, Angello was actually an immigrant to Canada along with the rest of us. He was the one who settled fastest. The first day of snow, he was out in the yard, rolling in it as if it was the most natural thing for him to do.

Five years after migrating to Edmonton, Alberta, he was dying. Watching him sleep on my comforter as I tapped away on my laptop, I  wondered as Abigail did during our conversation on Messenger, “Is he in pain?” 

“Death might not come quickly,” the veterinarian-specialist had told me.  Angello had a rare type of kidney disease and so he did not know how long my darling had to live. “It could only be months, Claudette.”

I have sat many times with people making their transition into the next life during my Clinical Pastoral training and so my fear of death no longer exists. What I was experiencing as I watched Angello prepare to go was not fear. It was a deep sense of loss – one that was with me for over a year. In May 2006, my almost 19 year-old daughter moved out and my world started a downward spiral. 

One after one, my most beloved ones were leaving my life and Abigail’s advice on Messenger –“Don’t stress, Mommy”  was hard not to do. Her wisdom, however, challenged me to open my eyes (and heart) and see what was entering my life along with the departures.  So I did and must admit they were “legion.” 

Nevertheless, in the moment, I was grieving for a life that I once knew as Angello prepared to make his exit from mine.


Stress, Loss And Overcoming At Christmas

pet, dog
Angello – Christmas 2009

This was not and possibly is not the Christmas story that some readers might have expected, anticipated or wanted from me. However, always mindful that everyone’s lived experiences and realities are different, it had to be written and shared – to make even one who is experiencing stress about or over Christmas, who has suffered any type of loss at this time of the year, know that they are never alone.

“This too shall pass,” the saying goes and it is true.  Angello lived for a few more years in fact but would eventually leave my life. My daughter and my relationship would go through the hills and valleys over the 7+ years since this post was originally written. A marriage would end and many relationships between would too.

At the time of writing this piece back in 2007, my healing was accelerated and stress level about Christmas reduced by following the advice from one of my greatest set of therapists – books.  I did as Melody Beattie wrote in her book, Journey to the Heart, and not ignore my brokenness and pain. Instead, I gently held my heart in my hand and caressed the cracks as I continued to open it even wider. 

That’s tough s..t ! (Sorry for the language, I will explain another day the impact that working in prisons had on my vocabulary – ha-ha).  It is just as tough as my daughter’s sage advice not to stress. One decision I made, one of the legions of blessings that came through Angello’s preparation to die was however, to get a puppy from his first and last sexual encounter.

Should you need support or just a listening ear, make sure to check our local listings for therapists, counsellors and/or support groups to help you through this season. I am always here to be your friend and you can contact me through my Facebook page, sending me a direct request, or via Twitter. As well, when you subscribe and join this community, you will receive a daily email update of our posts and my FREE monthly newsletter that includes practical tips and a monthly affirmation poster. So, sign up today!

Blessings to all who are “going through” this Christmas. Believe me, one of the best antidepressants is a hug, a snuggle or a cuddle with a pet, so visit your local animal shelter over the season, if you do not have one of your own, and bring down the stress level.

Namaste

Claudette P. Esterine
Claudette

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47 thoughts on “Reduce Christmas Stress: Hug A Dog

  1. […] couple of months ago, I wrote about ways to alleviate stress at Christmas. It was something that was relatively easy for me to write as over the years, seasonal stress was […]

  2. It is proven that pets can help your wellbeing, saying that, our cat is a minx and has been known to stress me out!! A cuddle with a gorgeous golden retriever or similar would be fab! I used to have two, they are a lovely breed. I hope you have a good Christmas. Kaz 🙂

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thanks Kaz! I laughed when I read your words “our cat is a minx.” I wondered if it is really a minx or its behaviour? Either way, Merry Christmas to your household! 🙂

  3. Eileen xo

    We got our first pet almost 2 years ago, after I became quite ill. He is a wonderful addition to our family and trule makes all of us a bit happier. he is the sweetest 90 pounds around

    1. Ms Claudette

      I can just imagine! They are such lovely and loving companions! All the best to you and yours! 🙂

  4. Rosey

    Everyone’s experiences really are diferent. This was a nice reminder to be considerate of that fact.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Exactly, Rosey! 🙂

  5. Angie@chasingmyhalo

    Pets really work their way deep into our hearts. Even thinking about my dog passing away makes me want to cry. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are most welcome! Will you be getting another pet?

      1. Angie@chasingmyhalo

        We still have our two. It’s just that my dog is a giant breed and already 10, so I know her time is limited!

        1. Ms Claudette

          Isn’t that the hardest part – knowing that “the time is limited?” Well, continue to enjoy him/her as far as possible and not think too much on what time is left. Namaste. 🙂

  6. Yes, sometimes a hug is just what you need to feel better. I am sorry to hear about Angello. He sounds like a super sweet dog. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

    1. Ms Claudette

      He was a rude but wonderful – contradiction – dog! A hug is the best medicine – after laughter! 🙂

  7. dltolley

    Hugging my Aldo as I read this. There’s nothing quite like a dog . . .

    1. Ms Claudette

      I so agree with you. I have been tempted to get another one but I tend to be a bit nomadic and so it might not be a good idea. 🙂

  8. I can totally relate Claudette, our dog Dwighty just passed away 2 months ago and I cried a river! I kept on watching his old videos while playing with my boys.. just so depressing. Now I really need to hug a dog.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Do you have an animal shelter nearby? Go find one and hang out until your tear dries! Namaste. 🙂

  9. I agree, a hug and a smile can do so much for our mood.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Absolutely!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. I’ve never had a pet until my daughter moved in and brought her cat. Now I love that cat sooooo much! Giving her little pats and scratches does my heart good. I believe you!

    1. Ms Claudette

      It is an amazing feeling, isn’t it? Give her a pat for me. 🙂

  11. victoria

    I don’t have dog because my dog was passed away 2 years ago

    1. Ms Claudette

      Sorry to hear about the passing of your dog. I do hope you will still enjoy the holidays!

  12. Elizabeth O.

    For a season full of celebrations, it’s really so funny that we get too stressed about it. I enjoyed reading this, definitely reminds you of the more important things this Christmas.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Isn’t that amazing – the stress that comes with the most wonderful time of the year? Well at least for some! I hope you will not be one Elizabeth. 🙂

  13. i can relate to your lose of angello as I have lost my cat lizzie. she was a joy year round but extra fun around Christmas time. as much as i love this time of year it does really make you miss the ones that can’t be here to enjoy with you. i would love to hug a dog right now and a cat too

    1. Ms Claudette

      Sorry about your loss of Lizzie. Are you considering getting another one? I do hope you will have some other companion to enjoy the Christmas with?

  14. I love my dog. He knows my secrets. As for judging…we all do it…it’s human nature. But will we speak it and give grace to those whom we don’t agree with or many times have misunderstood. 🙂

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, I do agree that most dogs hold so many secrets for us humans! 🙂 Thanks for visiting.

  15. I had a dog and when I’m sad I always talk to her and hug her. I’m so sorry for your lost.

    1. Ms Claudette

      And they great part is when they look at you as you speak! I swear they understand every word or at least the vibes you are emitting! Thank you so much for visiting and you sentiment. 🙂

  16. Spring, summer, fall or winter I do not allow anything to raise my stress level and most definitely not the holidays. I am not preparing any large meals, I am not doing any excessive shopping neither am I putting up any Christmas tree….LOLROTF…yes..yes…I am lazy and I own it. So whatever is in the house on Christmas day that is what I will eat….So sue me, shoot me….BUT no stress here…no pressure over holidays whatsoever….Hahahahhahahahahahhaha…the only thing I can promise is that I will be laughing

    1. Ms Claudette

      You had me cracking up reading this!!!! I can see myself having a ball with you on Christmas day doing absolutely nothing! So they will be suing and shooting us both!!! DWLAPUMS – I know people will be wondering what that means – not you of course! 🙂

      1. Hahahhahahahahahahhha..isn’t it liberating not to care a hoot what people think? The day I got to that point I felt like I could make it a national holiday for it was just so freeing….

        1. Ms Claudette

          You are way too funny for me!!! I love that you always make me laugh with your comments! 🙂

          1. Life is too short….so laugh as much as you can and buy those shoes just because you love them….LOL…I had to put that in because I just bought several pairs……HAHAHAHAHAHHA

          2. Ms Claudette

            You are killing me!!! LOL 🙂

  17. We don’t have any pets right now, but I can definitely understand how having one would be especially comforting at this time of year. Unconditional love that comes in any form is such a welcome thing. I’m so sorry for the loss of Angello.

    1. Ms Claudette

      That’s it – the unconditional love that pets give, it is so priceless. Thank you for visiting and your sentiments. 🙂

  18. I dont have a dog so I will hug my kids. Sorry about the loss of your dog.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Give them a hug for me as well! 🙂

  19. Your right it might not be a typical Christmas story but as you said all our experiences are very different and we should support rather than judge. I am sorry to hear about the death of Angello x

    1. Ms Claudette

      That is a way that I try to live – not judging others as I do not know their full story. I also do not try to tell people to believe as how I do. We all have our path. Yes, Angello moved on yet, I remember him so vividly! Thanks for dropping by again Ana! 🙂

  20. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I am all for anything that helps someone get through hard times in their lives.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Me too! My philosophy is “whatever floats your boat” it is not for me to judge. If you ask me my opinion of for support, only then you will get it if it is contrary to what you are doing! Thanks for visiting again Robin! 🙂

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