Author. Speaker. Mental Health and Animal Welfare Advocate.

 

Shannon and Sunny

Before I tell you a little bit about me, I’d like to tell you about a dog named Sunny—a ten-month-old, brindle pit bull so skinny even her shadow looked bony. Her tail, a little stump of a thing, looked like it had been chopped in half and then stomped in three places. Every day in the back corner of a rundown Los Angeles shelter, she pushed her wet, black nose through the bars of her barren kennel—reaching out for love in the midst of her suffering.

Sunny seemed so different from me. For years, I hid when life got hard. I was afraid to love. To ask for help. To be vulnerable. And sometimes, I even wanted to make myself suffer.

It wasn’t until I began working in animal welfare that I stopped reaching for all the wrong things—bulimia, addiction, numbness—and started turning to shelter dogs for comfort. Whenever I started listening a little too closely to the depressive voices in my own head, I could unlock a kennel door. I could offer comfort to another life, a life as sacred and real as mine. I could awaken to a vital need for forgiveness, beginning with myself.

My journey wasn’t simple or easy, but today, I live recovered from bulimia and depression.

My healing experiences with animals have been featured on CNN, NPRThe Huffington Post, Salon, Psychology Today, and in my own book, Pound for Pound. On a daily basis, shelter dogs continue inspire my heart, reminding me that even under the toughest circumstances, we can do the bravest thing.

Reach out for love.