How An Unexpected Furry Friend Helped This Woman Cope After She Lost Her Husband

"I named her Grace because I think my husband sent her to me."

When a woman named Rachel lost her husband, Laurence, to a sudden heart attack, she "was left with this intense loneliness and void." But in a post on Humans of New York (HONY), Rachel talks about how rescuing one dog helped change her life.

"My husband had a sudden heart attack a few months ago," she told HONY.  "It was just a few blocks from here. They called me in to identify his body and then just let me walk right out onto 7th Avenue. I felt so lost. My friends were wonderful and supportive but eventually everyone moves on with their lives."

Rachel adds that she doesn't have children, isn't "a workaholic," and following her husband's passing, she couldn't eat or sleep. But after doing some research, she found out that dogs can help people cope with grief and depression.

And it's true:  A recent study published in Scientific Reports showed that owning a dog not only reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it can benefit your overall well-being. 

"Dog ownership has been reported to be associated with alleviation of social isolation and improved perception of well-being, particularly in single persons and the elderly," it says in the study. 

Moreover, when it comes to our mental and emotional health, owning a dog can help reduce anxiety, provide sensory stress relief, and help us find joy, Help Guide reports

So, Rachel headed to a resuee fair in search of a poodle. However, they were all gone. But then, she spotted another dog that needed her help, too:

"There was this one old dog in the back that nobody was looking at. She was skin and bones. She was trembling and scared and mucus was running out of her eyes. She seemed so fragile. She reminded me of myself. I named her Grace because I think my husband sent her to me. She's my first dog. She's been pure joy. We spend all our time together. She's gained her weight back. She comes with me to therapy. We're getting better together."

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Rachel isn't the only example of someone who's credited their happiness to their dog. In an article on HuffPost, writer Kathryn Oda talks about how her corgi, Buddy, helped manage her anxiety and depression. Oda mentions a day when she felt her anxiety and depression resurfacing, but came face to face with Buddy. 

"Buddy started jumping all over me, kissing my face, letting me know that it was time to go outside. It was as if he was saying, 'It's no time to be sad, the world is awesome!' And for the first time in my life, on a day when my anxiety and depression was present full force, I got out of bed. I put on my winter boots, snow pants, gloves, hat, scarf, coat, and went for a walk in the snow with my new best friend. I realized at that moment, walking down the street in minus 30-degree weather, that my life was changing. I really was a new person. This was my new beginning, my missing puzzle piece."

In another instance, a middle-aged man named Eric talks about adopting an overweight dog and forming a bond that would help them both lose weight and save their lives. 

"This entire process brought me out of my shell and made me a different person," Eric says in a video for Humane Society Silicon Valley. 

While a dog may not be the complete answer to coping with loss, anxiety, or social isolation, stories like these show they sure do help. 

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