Cake, Comfort, and Companionship: What A Dog Can Teach You About True Love

Last week, SoulPaws received an email from a woman who would like to remain anonymous. She suffers from binge-eating disorder, and she wrote:

Of all things, why had I volunteered to bring a cake to Barb’s going away party? Who did I think I was? Someone with self-control? Someone who could keep a cake in her fridge for a night without touching it?

A lick of frosting…

Sometime around midnight, the day before the party, what began as a finger-swipe of frosting turned into a full blown binge. One corner piece turned into two, then three, then four. And before she knew it, she had eaten the whole cake with her bare hands. The pink frosting that read “Good luck Barb” was now jammed beneath her fingernails, and chocolate covered her hands and mouth and chin.

After she’d licked the sugar off her hands, she climbed into bed and pulled the covers over her head. She sobbed, feeling trapped. Sealed inside a body she hated. Bound to a mind that would never let her forget how fat and disgusting and unloveable she was.

Molly gives what the cake can’t

Then she heard her elderly Labrador, Molly, enter the room. Molly was not an infamous Marley. Instead, she was the kind of Lab who listened. It only took one day to potty-train Molly as a puppy, and three tries for her to learn “sit.” Molly happily obliged by the rules of the house, one of which was not to hop up into bed.

That’s why it was so strange to suddenly feel a thud on the pillow beside me. Molly nestled against me, our eyes facing each other, and then she licked the tears off my face.

This old, obedient dog had broken the rules to be with her beloved companion. To give her owner the profound comfort and love she had been looking for in that cake. To say, with kisses and the warmth of her body:

I’m here. I love you.

And that helps…

The woman wrote, “I’m still bingeing all the time. I don’t know if I have the strength to get better, but I have this dog who loves me. Who really, truly loves me. And that helps…”

Even though our eating disorders tell us we are not worthy of love…we are. Our animals undoubtably know this. They do not place expectations on us. We who struggle with eating disorders tend to place an ungodly amount of pressure on ourselves.

Once we decide we want to get better, we don’t get why the journey is so hard. Why we can’t be over and done with our issues already?

With others, we exude patience and compassion. But when it comes to ourselves: we couldn’t be tougher.

Somehow, our set-backs seems unacceptable. Our relapses seem unforgivable. And when all we need is a trace of gentleness, we can’t seem to conjure up that sacred quality within ourselves, for ourselves.

Look to the ones who love unconditionally

And so it is helpful to look to animals like Molly for much-needed gentleness. Our pets love us whether we are celebrating thirty days free from binging and purging, or whether we’ve found ourselves locked behind a bathroom door again.

They love us no matter what we weigh, or what we’ve eaten, or what we’ve lost. We want to thank the woman who wrote to SoulPaws for sharing so honestly and openly.

Eating disorders can’t survive in the light of such truth-telling. The more honest we are, the more we let love in (whether that’s in the form of a sixty pound Lab or in human form), the more we recover.

We are with you

In this community, many of us have eaten cakes with our bare hands. Many of us have snuggled up with an animal who loves us unconditionally. And many of us have stumbled and gotten back up and stumbled again.

What we want you to know is that whether you are falling or on the rise, we are with you. Whether you are in relapse or recovery, we are with you. We know your resilience and beauty and inner-light and courage.

And like Molly, we love you for the miracle that you are.

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