What My Dog Taught Me About Acceptance

Zoe, a 16-year-old Jack Russell terrier with a razor-sharp bite, showed journalist Steven Petrow how to dissolve some old angry differences more than yoga and meditation ever could

  Listen to Steven Petrow read his essay: “What My Dog Taught Me About Acceptance” 7:00

Stretched into a Downward Facing Dog pose in a yoga class, I listened as the instructor talked about the “cycle of acceptance.” Modeled on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of loss and grief, the cycle is a way of absorbing a painful blow and working your way through to, well, acceptance. When our teacher suggested that each of us identify the situation that we most needed to resolve, I knew mine immediately. It had to do with my then-husband, who had just started divorce proceedings: “Accept Jim for who he is and let go.”

Since separating from my ex, I had zigzagged around feelings of denial, depression, bargaining, and anger (yes, mostly anger). But I couldn’t move closer to acceptance. Guided meditations helped some, especially a few specifically on “acceptance” and “surrender,” but still fell short. Looking back now, however, I’ve come to realize that it was my relationship with Zoe, my now-16-year-old Jack Russell terrier, that revealed critical lessons about acceptance that were strong enough to dissipate my lingering anger. 

Hello Zoe, the Terrier-ist

Zoe came as a package deal with Jim 14…

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About the author

Steven Petrow

Steven Petrow is an award-winning journalist and book author who is best known for his Washington Post and New York Times, essays on aging, health, and cancer, which often appear on the “Most Read” lists. He’s recently been named as an Opinion Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. "Steven has long been an eloquent voice for civility in public discourse, and such a voice is needed now more than ever," Editorial Page Editor Bill Sternberg said in a release.

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