Pet Mom Gets Support from her Adopted “Heart Dog”

Hailey, an adopted part-Border Collie pup, is Nicole’s best hiking buddy and therapy dog through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Nicole + Hailey

Nicole was coping with depression, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In a time when she needed support more than ever, her adopted dog Hailey was there by her side.

"She knew just when I needed her, and how to provide emotional support without being able to say a word."

For the last 15 years, I have been involved in the animal rescue world. During that time I have heard people use the term “heart dog” to explain a connection between humans and dogs that is unlike any other. For me, a heart dog is so much more. My heart dog currently comes in the form of a 2-year old girl named Hailey. She is part dog, part therapist, and she is just who I needed when she bounced into my life.

I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager. Animals have always provided a way to escape from the pull of depression, and I couldn’t wait until I was able to finally have a dog of my own. Shortly after getting my first apartment, my first dog, Ava, and I became inseparable. Ava helped me to manage my mental health in ways that traditional therapy never could. After 11 years together, we discovered that she had inoperable cancer, and it was time to say goodbye. When I lost her, I just didn’t know what I would do. I am the Assistant Director of my local rescue, and while there were many dogs in our care that were perfectly wonderful, none of them was my “heart dog.” My wonderful Executive Director reached out to other rescues in the area, and Christie sent back an image of the cutest, fluffiest puppy I had ever seen. Still, I was skeptical.

Hailey has always been her own girl. From the moment she entered our house, I just knew that this part Border Collie pup was going to give me a run for my money. Smart dogs are never easy, but she was also very emotionally intuitive. She knew just when I needed her, and how to provide emotional support without being able to say a word.

When 2020 hit, there were more challenges than I thought possible. This was the year that would take me to my emotional limit, and I know I couldn’t have made it through without Hailey by my side. We live in Phoenix, and on the days when the weather permitted, she and I would go for hikes that allowed us both to get what we physically needed, and allowed me to spend time clearing my mind with the best therapist I had ever had.

Dogs come to us just when we need them, and we are so lucky when we meet our perfect match. I can never thank Christie, and The Pet Knot, enough for bringing my sweet girl to me.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Nicole won The Pet Knot in Phoenix, Arizona a 2021 Love Stories award.