Adopted Puppy Helps Balance Her Pack

Cheyanne’s love was the stabilizing force Michelle needed most.

Michelle + Cheyanne

As a teen battling mental health, Michelle found great comfort in helping foster dogs thrive. Then she met her match — and healing — in a puppy named Cheyanne.

"I know that no matter how hard it gets, however many times I fall or lose my way, Cheyanne will be there."

I convinced my family to start fostering for Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue in 2010 when I was 14 years old, two years into my battle with panic attacks and depression, and at the beginning of what would become a years-long struggle with anorexia. Animals have always been a source of comfort for me, where I find the most joy, so fostering for a puppy rescue felt like exactly what I needed.

Adopted dog Cheyanne

Like all fosters, I would fall in love with every dog that came through our house on their way to their forever homes. But it wasn’t until 2013 that I would finally understand what all of those families had felt when they found their match.

Adopted dog Cheyanne

At 8 months old, Cheyanne came into Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue abandoned and feral. Without any human contact for the first eight months of her life, she was unable to handle anyone looking in her direction, let alone attempting to touch her. I’m sure to most Cheyanne would’ve seemed like a lost cause. But I knew the moment that I saw her, the second that she broke character and looked directly into my eyes: I knew she was different.

Adopted dog Cheyanne

At 17 I was depressed, anxious and spiraling into isolation. I’d never felt more misunderstood or alone in what I was feeling. In my reflection, all that I could see were my struggles. But when this feral, fear-ridden, cowering dog lifted her head to look at me I felt whole, not broken. When she trusted me enough to eat out of my hand, I felt a connection. When she lay her head on my feet at night as I slept, I felt needed. Cheyanne trusted me when she was at her most vulnerable and I followed her lead when I’d never felt more lost. One step at a time, we moved forward together. Whether it was our daily walks, her favorite car rides, or simply a game of fetch in the back yard, I knew I had to stay consistent for Cheyanne’s sake. I had to fight my depression, my fears, for her. I couldn’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow,” Cheyanne deserved more.

Adopted dog Cheyanne

It no longer matters what I think I see in the mirror because it all pales in comparison to the look on Cheyanne’s face when I walk into the room. I’m now 23 years old and while I still have my struggles, I know that no matter how hard it gets, however many times I fall or lose my way, Cheyanne will be there.

I always thought that what I needed most was to be “normal,” to not be on the outside looking in. I guess what I really needed was someone to understand, and she does; to walk beside me through it all, and she would; to sit with me when it all feels like too much, and she will. I needed someone to rescue me, and she did.

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 Michelle won Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue in Berthoud, Colorado a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.