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Finding My Spirit – Completed 1/26/13 – Dr. Marty Anderson

On New Years Day 2013 when Valerie and Ryan rescued a homeless, abused, grungy and sick little dog from the roadside, a miraculous chain of events began. I’m Dr. Marit “Marty” Anderson and this is the story about finding my spirit.

Unlike the little black dog, I am an only child who grew up with privilege and plenty of everything. I believed I was “immune” to poverty and hunger. Always eager to learn, I loved college and earned degrees in nutrition and psychology. For 20 years, I had a private practice in San Diego providing individual, couples, family and group psychotherapy. I also enjoyed designing workshops, programs, teaching materials and consulting with organizations. I loved every minute of my work and have always been more motivated by creating something to help my fellow beings than by “profit.”

In 2003 as a driver ran a stop sign, another chain of events was about to be put into motion. The errant driver collided with my car and I was left with a traumatic brain injury and other bodily injuries. I closed my office and retreated to my home with no one to help me. My mother had died and father, who had remarried, was experiencing dementia and would die shortly. In a mental fog without income, I kept paying the bills until there was no more money.

When a family member presented me with legal papers to sign I thought, in my haze, that I was going to be helped. During one of several hospitalizations, my home was put on the market, sold and some of the proceeds used to buy a trailer to which I was “moved.” I was never told my home was for sale, had never seen the trailer purchased with my funds and never saw a cent. I had two dogs, one parrot, no health insurance, no money, no food and no clue.

This had to be a mistake! What did I have to do to get rescued? Many times I begged the person who engineered the secret sale of my home for kindness and assistance. I’ll never forget the words I heard one of the times I begged for help – they were: “I don’t care if you live or die, just don’t show up on my doorstep.” I stopped begging.

As you see, my path and the path of the little black dog were now becoming quite similar. I was an unwanted stray tumbling around within the “social safety net” (which feels about as safe as jumping out of a plane without a parachute “using my seat cushion for flotation.”) Though I appeared to be functioning, my memory of the first years after the accident is sketchy. The initial “closed head” brain injury caused balance problems and after the initial trauma I had a dozen bad falls that let to four additional bloody head/face wounds requiring hospitalization or trips to the emergency room.

We (my dogs and parrot) somehow stayed alive. I had to learn what the little black dog already knew – that there are people who will hurt, abuse, steal from and debase a being that can’t defend herself. In 2011 the stress of trying to survive caused me to be hospitalized with Stress Induced Heart Failure and I was put on heart medication.

By 2012, I was stronger, my thinking was clearer and I was trying to figure out how my experience could help others who were dumped into “the system” without the education I had. What did people do who lived in poverty and didn’t know how to eat nutritionally and cheaply? How did others navigate the system without 20 years of experience in social work and psychology?

My constant friends were leaving me. My eldest Italian Greyhound had died at age 18 and in August, 2012 my second Italian Greyhound died at age 12. After losing my last dog, I began to give up. I was growing weary of the never ending struggle. I still had my 18 year old parrot yet missed the companionship of a dog so much it ached.

A friend who had adopted a special needs dog told me to call Upward Dog Rescue. I hesitated several months. I felt like a shelter dog at the back of the cage that doesn’t bother to greet visitors any more – just sits quietly desperate and afraid to hope she’ll be chosen. How could I possibly deserve another dog when I felt like a needy stray myself?

As 2013 began I did call Upward Dog Rescue and met Valerie who arranged for me to meet little “Sophia,” who she and Ryan had just rescued. This little black dog reminded me of myself – tattered and hurt yet willing, one more time, to risk trusting someone in the hope of finding a friend.

Thanks to Valerie, Ryan and all those who support Upward Dog Rescue, I adopted my new forever partner on my birthday and no longer want to “give up.” I named the little black dog “Spirit” and am enjoying teaching her how to live in a house, walk on a leash etc. Spirit is a quick learner. Her spay surgery wound has healed and she is still on medication for a gnarly case of mange. Because of Upward Dog Rescue supporters, Spirit is receiving the medicine she needs and I am a grateful nurse. Her fur is slowly growing back and she is more beautiful every day.

Just yesterday I saw my cardiologist and told her how my mood and outlook have improved since adopting Spirit. Her clinical exam and review of a recent echocardiogram showed a normal, healthy heart. My doctor said I could stop taking heart medication and encouraged me to bring Spirit (the “stress buster”) to my next appointment because her office is now Dog Friendly!

I look forward to sharing Spirit’s progress with the Upward Dog family, who rescued both of us! Thank you for finding my Spirit.

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