Dog and Adopter Overcome Trauma Together

Janine and Princess Buttercup learned to heal from trauma, paw in paw.

Janine + Princess Buttercup

A survivor of domestic abuse, Janine knew fear all too well. Together, she and Princess Buttercup have learned to hold their heads high and keep tails wagging.

"Her joy has lightened my burden and I know I am loved, which recharges me so that I can go help people. Every day I know that I can give to others because of how much she gives to me."

I am a survivor of domestic violence. My sister, however, did not survive, and it took weeks to find her body. So, I wrote a book — If I Am Missing or Dead — and I now travel the world speaking to shelters, government entities, the military, and to professional sports teams on coercive control and the spectrum of abuse. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting work, trying to change minds and save lives. It’s also lonely. Or it was.

Adopted Dog Princess Buttercup

Last fall a childhood friend who volunteers at the Humane Society of McCormick County in South Carolina posted a photo of herself holding an injured dog. I joking wrote, “What are you doing with my dog?”

“That isn’t your dog,” she wrote back, sending another photo. “THIS is your dog!” My friend was right, and in December I drove five hours to pick up Princess Buttercup, a Retriever mix. She was feral and didn’t know how to walk on a leash or ride in a car, and she was terrified of passing through doorways. She kept her head down and her tail tucked. She clearly needed me as much as I needed her.

Adopted Dog Princess Buttercup

Now both of us hold our heads high. Every morning Buttercup leaps onto me and buries her head in my lap, front legs wrapped around me in a hug, and I start laughing. She stays that way, nuzzling into me and allowing me to rub her all over, until my coffee dings, and then she stretches to her full length, pinning me down for a few seconds more. Her joy has lightened my burden and I know I am loved, which recharges me so that I can go help people. Every day I know that I can give to others because of how much she gives to me.

Adopted Dog Princess Buttercup

It took time and love and consistency for Buttercup to trust me. Now she sits at the front window, waiting to wag when I return. When I settle into the couch, she hops up next me and sprawls, belly-up, graciously allowing me to rub her tummy, reminding me of the opportunity when I pause. When we drive she sticks her head out the window and flies her ears, then she cavorts and dashes and leaps when we jog in the woods. Because of her I can run again, knowing I am safe, knowing that I’m not alone. Because of her I am approached by toddlers, and I know they can hug her and pet her and tug on her ears and she will never do anything worse than lick leftover dinner off of their faces. Because of her, I am not lonely. I end each day with less space in bed and more dog hair than I might like, but also with a peaceful mind and a full heart. Because of her, I can continue to carry the stories of the people who need me, to be a voice for the voiceless. Because of her, I feel loved.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Janine won Humane Society of McCormick County in McCormick, South Carolina a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.