How a puppy helped heal a grieving heart
On the eve of the millennium, my life looked great to outsiders.
I had not one successful career but two. I worked as both a journalist – writing articles for the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Times – and helping couples as a marital therapist. But I was really in a dark place.
The counselling that I’d recommended to everybody else had not shifted the grief from the death of my much-loved partner – despite trying three different therapists.
I was struggling with low level depression and my polite but distant relationship with my mother had left us both tip-toeing round each other.
My grief was further isolating me and many of my old couple friendships had just withered away. Something had to change – but what?
Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
My solution? To get Flash, a collie cross puppy – perhaps not the best choice for someone who’d never owned a dog, or even lived with one, before.
Monday 3 January 2000
With New Year’s Day falling on a Saturday, I had Sunday and a bank holiday Monday to recover from partying from one millennium into another. The hype had suggested that we’d finally come round from our hangovers to find the collapse of the banking system and planes falling from the sky because computers could not cope with the transformation from 1999 to 2000. However, the new millennium seemed remarkably similar to the last one. I went up to my office, opened my journal and began to write:
Every time I confess my New Year’s resolution is to become a dog owner the responses, in order of popularity, are:
1. It’s a huge responsibility.
2. It’s a terrible tie.
3. You don’t know what you’re taking on.
Maybe it would be less controversial if my resolution had been to try crack cocaine. I expect I’d receive fewer warnings. So dogs are a tie and a responsibility. At the moment I’m entirely free to do exactly as I please. I can stay out all night and nobody cares. I can stay in bed all day and nobody moans. Don’t fancy working today? No problem. I just don’t phone anybody, and don’t sell a newspaper or magazine article. My problem is not having enough ties or responsibilities.
In this memoir, I chronicle not only the ups and downs of training an excitable puppy but how Flash brings back my childhood fear of wolves and the unresolved issues with his parents.
Slowly but surely, by looking though Flash’s eyes, I starts to laugh again, fall in love with the Sussex countryside and heal old wounds with my mother.
At the climax of Flash’s puppy years, he gives me enough confidence to take a real-life wolf for a walk. And in the final section of my journal, Flash still has one last lesson to teach me.
I was touched by this journey from loss and separation, through grief and pain to a place of truth, love and acceptance. A story of sadness and joy which could just as easily be entitled The Power of Love
Kathy Gore OBE DL, chair of Friends of Sussex Hospices
This is a wonderful memoir that is funny, moving, and ultimately life-affirming. It addresses emotional wounding and male depression in ways that millions of us can understand and relate to. Andrew might be writing about dogs, but his real topic is how to find the courage to open up to love again.
Jed Diamond, psychotherapist and author, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound and Surviving Male Menopause: A Guide for Women and Men
Writing as Andrew G Marshall, his work includes the international best-sellers I Love You But I’m Not in Love with You and How Can I Ever Trust You Again? – which have been translated into over twenty different languages.
He also writes for the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday, and leads a team of therapists who offer his Marshall Method Therapy in London and Berlin.
Photos of Flash
Photos of Onion
My friend Lana not only looked after Flash at the end of his life but on several other occasions.
The Power of Dog – A memoir about getting a first puppy, turning forty and transforming a son and mother’s complicated relationship
On the eve of the millennium, the life of therapist and best-selling self-help author Andrew Marshall was in a dark place.
The counselling that he recommended to everybody else had not shifted the grief from the death of his much-loved partner – despite trying three different therapists.
His career as journalist had reached a dead end. He was struggling with low level depression and his polite but distant relationship with his mother had left them both tip-toeing round each other.
His Solution? To get Flash, a collie cross puppy – perhaps not the best choice for someone who’d never owned a dog, or even lived with one, before.
In this funny and moving memoir, Marshall chronicles not only the ups and downs of training an excitable puppy but how Flash brings back his childhood fear of wolves and the unresolved issues with his parents.
Slowly but surely, by looking though Flash’s eyes, Marshall starts to laugh again, fall in love with the Sussex countryside and heal old wounds with his mother.
At the climax of Flash’s puppy years, he gives him enough confidence to take a real-life wolf for a walk. And in the final section of Marshall’s diary, Flash still has one last lesson to teach him.