How My Daughter’s Rescue Dog Helped Me Deal with Her Addiction

I had taken to writing my daughter’s obituary, revising it week after week. It usually cropped up during a run, as if the movement jarred the sentences loose from the dark place where I hid my fears.

Shea was a witty, big-hearted kid who loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, old-time game shows, and vamping on stage. At our courthouse wedding she was the official witness, our marriage certificate bearing her loopy signature. During a trip to Los Angeles, we watched with pride as she bravely approached Owen Wilson in a Venice Beach bookstore to ask for an autograph.

But then I’d get stuck. All these sepia-toned memories were of her as a child. I struggled to conjure anything meaningful from the previous 10 years. Where was that impish blond-haired girl who loved to draw and silly-dance to TV theme songs, who didn’t care what people thought?

That kid had been replaced by someone I no longer recognized—a stranger with vacant eyes and sores hidden beneath thick makeup, thin as a coatrack. Addicted to heroin and fentanyl. At 25.

I still couldn’t believe it. Shea used to be terrified of needles. She used to be a lot of things—a soccer player, a prankster, someone who sang in the shower. Now I didn’t know where she was or who she was with. I expected a pair of stone-faced cops to knock on our door any day. I couldn’t think where we would bury her.

The only thing of Shea’s that I could reach out and touch was her 3-year-old dog, Hank, a 30-pound mutt who was now living with us. I started running with him at the nearby Middlesex Fells Reservation a few times a week after a particularly low point in Shea’s journey.

family photo

Shea, Chris, and Caleb with Hank in Ogunquit,

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