Cheyeanne Murphy’s dogs may not have saved her life in a literal sense, but she believes they’ve saved her from going down a dark road and have made her life much more worth living.
Around 10 years ago, Cheyeanne’s mother passed away. She was a young and seemingly healthy woman, but one day she learned she had cancer, and a few months later, she was gone.
“When my mom got diagnosed, I was definitely on a different path in life,” Cheyeanne recalls. “I had a business that I was working way too many hours at. I was living somebody else’s dream that wasn’t mine, and I thought I had to, because that’s what I had grown up to believe I was supposed to do with my life is make money. When my mom got diagnosed with cancer, I realized life can change in one day. You are not guaranteed any amount of time. You aren’t guaranteed, really, anything.”
She continues, “It sometimes comes across as horrible to people, but I always say my mom’s death was the best thing and the worst thing that ever happened to me, because it forced a very young me to live extremely presently.”
And so, with the help of her beloved dogs – Cash (now deceased) and later Notorious and Shady – Cheyeanne finally found her way out of the dark place of grief she was in and started learning to really live again.
“I had a career change. I moved. I ended a very long relationship. And I spent a whole entire year ‘deconstructing the onion,’ figuring out who I was as a human and what I wanted out of life and where I wanted my life to go. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to make people happy. And I honestly, with every bone in my body, believe that is possible.”
Notorious was Cheyeanne’s first rescue pet after her mom died, as well as her first pet with a disability. Her sister sent her a link to the pup on Facebook, and she instantly fell in love.
“They had this little tiny dog that wasn’t more than a year old running around in the snow with no use of her back legs, and she was just doing flips and circles, and she was making this high-pitched squeal, and I just fell in love. I have never seen a dog with more spunk and firecracker.”
Cheyeanne was hesitant to adopt the dog at first, because she had never dealt with special needs animals before. She knew this pet had limited use of her back legs and lacked control of her bladder, but she couldn’t get her mind off the dog all the same. So she applied for adoption and, a few months later, had her
new dog, now named Notorious, at home in Spokane, WA. Eight years later, Notorious is still happy and spunky and enjoys running 5Ks in her wheelchair, even though she’s about nine or ten years old.
“As soon as I let her off the leash, she’s barreling down the hill, and she’s just got no fear of anything. So she kind of takes the lead, and I just follow her. She doesn’t realize that she’s disabled, and I don’t need to tell her,” Cheyeanne laughs.
Cheyeanne’s other dog, Shady, was also love at first sight but in a different way. Most shelter pets need to have some time to warm up to their new owners and lives, but Shady knew how to trust and love everyone from the word go, and she took to Cheyeanne immediately. For her part, Cheyeanne was keen on adopting another “unadoptable” rescue, so the very loveable Shady didn’t seem like quite the right fit at first.
“When I met Shady, she was just adorable. She was a hug and a love, and her little white tail was wagging, and I told the the people at the rescue, ‘I don’t need to adopt this dog. This dog is gonna find a home. This is not a hard-to-place dog. And they told me, unfortunately, that she’s a special needs dog and she’s gonna be harder to adopt because people want an animal that serves some kind of purpose.”
Shady’s prior owners surrendered her to a veterinarian after she was hit by a car and lost both her eyes. Vets tried to reattach the eyes, but only one stayed put, and Shady has very little vision left even in that eye. Shady was also considered a senior dog, making her less adoptable.
So Cheyeanne decided to adopt Shady, and she’s glad she did. “She’s one of the easiest dogs I’ve ever had. She just adapted to everything. She loves men, women, kids, dogs, cats. She’s just very chameleon. She loves everybody.”
Cheyeanne always names her dogs after musicians, as music is a big part of her life. Cash was named for Johnny Cash, Notorious is named for The Notorious B.I.G., and Shady is named for Slim Shady (Eminem).
“I don’t believe anybody has a linear life, and music has been there for me during those downs, and it’s gotten me to realize that I’m not the only one going through certain things. It’s one of the staples of my everyday,” says Cheyeanne. “I decided to name [the dogs] after [music] icons, and I always told them they were gonna be icons. It doesn’t matter how you start in life, it matters how you finish.”
And certainly, these senior dogs are finishing strong by giving hope and purpose to Cheyeanne’s life and touching the lives of others in the process.
Of course, owning rescue dogs with disabilities has come with its share of challenges, as predicted. Notorious often loses control of her bladder and urinates on the floor. Shady has to be constantly monitored, especially around water, since she can swim but has no sense of direction. It’s often difficult to find dog-sitters for when Cheyeanne travels, because the two are a big responsibility.
But there are also certainly some positives that make up for the challenges, including some small things you might not have thought of. “They can’t jump on furniture, which is awesome,” says Cheyeanne.
Notorious and Shady have been Cheyeanne’s constant companions on many outdoor adventures. They enjoy paddleboarding, hiking, 5k (and even 10k) races – with Shady riding in a backpack – and more. The dogs love seeing wildlife and meeting new people.
Most of all, Notorious and Shady remind Cheyeanne that life is worth living and that the little moments of enjoyments are sometimes the most important.
“These dogs, they wake up every single day happy, and it dug me out of a really dark place to see them wake up and be happy,” recalls Cheyeanne. “They gave me something to focus on that wasn’t pity. They have every reason to hate the world. They have every reason to be mad at people, and they’re not. And that’s so inspiring to me.”
Cheyeanne hopes that people who read her story will be inspired to adopt rescue pets, especially senior animals or those with disabilities.
“They might be a little more work. But everything that is work is worth it. Give them a chance. I promise you it will make your life better.”