What Began with a Dog

Military Spouse writer shares health journey in new Legacy Essay

Written by Jennifer Wake


Gold, red, orange, brown and even some green leaves drift onto her hair. She looks up to see all the trees showering their leaves down onto her and her oblivious dog. Shenny is on the trail of something, nose to the ground pulling her along. Since no one else is on the path, she reaches down and releases the dog to chase whatever catches her attention.

As she wanders along, she thinks back to last year. Last year she wondered if she could walk the four-mile path. She remembers how old, heavy, and out of shape, she felt. It has only been one year since she found a dog to adopt. She had hoped then that maybe this dog would help her walk back to herself. 

Shenny is a bernedoodle, a large low shedding dog, but really she is a zen hippy diva. She calms down every dog she meets, hangs out with anyone, and is spoiled. She is long-legged with poodle hair that grows fast and over her eyes. She uses her nose more than her eyes to explore the forest. She loves to walk. 

Walking the dog had helped her move more but she still felt old, tired, and worn out. She needed a change. In January she made a decision, this was the year of health. She wanted to stop procrastinating and move forward. How? Join a gym? Find a trainer? Go to the gym and try to figure out what to do? Join a Crossfit group? Well, that may be too much for her. After dinner, she told her husband, “I'll start small, walk the dog three times a day with a goal of taking 10,000 steps.” 

The large snowflakes came in February and she had not changed. The large fluffy flakes landed softly and then caused slipping. She worried about falling, all her joints ached, and she did not sleep much. She worried, nothing changed, she worried more. One day, as she was walking in the woods with Shenny racing in the snow ahead of her, she felt fresh worry. She thought: what if I slip in the woods? Would anyone find me? Would they follow Shenny’s paw prints? Would Shenny notice? 

That last question pulled her out of her worries because Shenny always stops to make sure she is following. A bond formed between them where they could walk three to four times a day, often without a leash. In the distance, Shenny paused to look back before pouncing on a pile of snow. Her thoughts focused again: Shenny needs me to get healthier. My kids need me, my husband needs me.  “Enough of the excuses, let’s do something!” she shouted into the forest. Shenny was startled and came back to her, leaning heavily against her as if to make sure she was ok. Her leaning almost caused them both to fall over. 

On the 21st of February, she made a decision to reach out to a health coach. After she talked to her husband and he was excited to join her on this health journey, she started her new adventure. 

Her progress was steady, nothing immediately life-changing. She felt like a turtle, slow yet steady, carrying a lot of extra weight. Her weight had become a protective shell covering over every miscarriage, every loss, every move. She used food to try to cover the hurt. Like a hermit crab with a huge shell, she wore oversize clothes to cover her extra baggage. Her coach encouraged her to measure herself and record it. For accountability, she sent in her stats and pictures of herself. Her coach saw the changes long before she could.

The first week was hard as she removed sugar and carbs from her diet. She crashed. The third day found her napping in the afternoon as she detoxed from sugar. She rarely napped, thinking her usual response: moms are too busy to nap. But her body craved more sleep. The next few days became easier, except for the amount of water she had to drink. She made a spreadsheet for herself to record all the water, which helped her remember how much she needed to drink. The days she drank enough water helped her feel better, even just a little bit. She now drinks more water than Shenny.

Ten pounds down and her jeans had grown. “I must not have put them in the drier, that’s why they are loose” she argued with herself. Yet she had to wear a belt to hold them up, for the first time in many years. One morning she realized she had gone to sleep without tossing and turning. She felt a little better, her feet did not hurt as much.

Her clothes kept growing. She had more energy, slept better, and did not feel as old. Her husband lost weight too, and she could see him change, but somehow, she did not see her own changes. Finally, seven months into her health journey, her husband made a slide show of all the pictures she had sent to her coach. As she watched the slideshow, she kept seeing her old self. Her husband stopped the show and asked “What are you looking at?” After a minute, or was it a lifetime, she breathed in, and decided to stop judging the woman in the pictures. She decided to look again, and honor the changes and the choice she had made for her health and well-being.  

After she looked at the pictures, she started seeing the world with different eyes. The temperatures outside were cooler in September, which gave her dog more energy. Walks became less of a chore and more of a time exploring a park near her house. She even joined a dog walking group for accountability, which her social dog loved. Walks became longer and the fear of falling lessened. She felt that a bond had been created between her,  Shenny, and the forest. She decided to appreciate the changes in herself just as she loved the way the forest and Shenny changed throughout the seasons. 

Gold, red, orange, brown and even some green leaves drift onto the path. As she wanders, watching the leaves shower down, she decides to keep off the weight. She likes walking in the woods, sleeping better, and having more energy and fewer aches. She loves how she looks now, she feels young again. 

“What’s next?” she wonders. She can become anything.

She is healthier and happier. She is becoming more adventuresome. Maybe a ride in a hot air balloon, or sky diving?  Maybe she can even become a writer. As she ponders the future, Shenny bounds in to get a treat and some love. She praises Shenny for returning and for helping her along this journey. She pauses and realizes she has not appreciated her own determination on this journey. As Shenny leans in, she starts to lean into believing she can complete this journey, this transformation, this season of change.

Words by Jennifer Wake @mom23wakes

About the Author

Jennifer Wake is an Army wife, mother of 3 grown children, PWOC Board member, teacher, trainer, women’s speaker, and writer. She is married to a wonderful husband and has served in chapels in various locations from Germany to the Mojave Desert. Over the past 22 years she has made a home for the Wakes 13 times and survived multiple deployments. God has called her to mentor military spouses, especially spouses who serve sacrificially. Her various passions include writing books and blogs, developing Bible training material, networking with women all over the Army, and professional quilting. She has self-published one book entitled “Call Signs: How Knowing God’s Character Empowers Women to Accomplish His Mission.” 

You can connect with her at www.jenniferwake.com or on most social media: @mom23wakes

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  • I was inspired by your essay to begin again the things to help me become healthier. Thank you.

    Vanessa Ames
  • What an inspiring article! Thanks for sharing how one small decision began a successful health journey!

    Ginger Harrington
  • Nicely written, Jennifer. Your word pictures are clear and your descriptions of the lady’s thoughts and feelings ring true.

    Jackie Ehrman

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