Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Bad – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Honey the golden retriever grins in the snow.

Don’t worry. Be puppy.

Feeling bad stinks.

Being injured or sick, whether physically or emotionally, is no fun at all. There’s only one thing that’s worse. And that’s when you feel bad about feeling bad.

Talking To Yourself When You’re Feeling Bad

How do you talk to yourself when you’re feeling bad?

I hope you have nurturing voices inside your head. Voices that tell you to relax and take it easy. Let other people take care of you. Take time off.

Or maybe you’re more like me. And the voices that shout at you when you’re feeling bad just make you feel worse.

  • What do you have to feel so bad about? You’re darn lucky.
  • You know, there are people out there whose treatments are making them feel worse than your illness makes you feel.
  • Why would you even think of staying home? If you’re conscious, you should be working.
  • I don’t know what you’re complaining about. You know you’ve felt much worse than you do now.

I sometimes wish my dog spoke English. But if it results in her hearing voices in her head when she feels bad, I wouldn’t wish it on her.

When Dogs Feel Bad

I feel very lucky. My dog Honey is a very healthy girl.

But she did have a health crisis when she was seven months old.

Honey the golden retriever is recovering from surgery.

I don’t feel good enough to run around. But I feel good enough to chew on my favorite toys.

At three months old, Honey swallowed a plastic squeaker from a cheap toy. We did what worried people do when their pups swallow something indigestible—we examined every little brown package that came out of her for weeks. No squeaker.

Since Honey showed no signs of ill-health, we assumed she must have passed the squeaker when we weren’t watching. But four months later she started getting sick. Yep, the squeaker had been traveling through her system and was finally giving her problems.

It was hard to diagnose because Honey would be healthy and then sick. For a few days, she’d be happy and playful. Then she’d start vomiting and look listless. An x-ray found the problem and sent Honey in for emergency surgery.

In the days before her diagnosis, Honey made the most of how she felt. When she had a good day, she frolicked and played. When she felt bad, she sat quietly or napped.

A dog is incapable of feeling bad about feeling bad. And even though our minds are wired for thinking about our feelings, maybe we need dogs as an example of a better way to feel bad.

Learning From Tri-Pawd Dogs

Hearing your vet diagnose your dog with bone cancer is a scary thing. But you only have to look at any dog amputee to realize that when your vet tells you that removing a cancerous leg will give your dog a chance at a happy and healthy life, she’s telling you the truth.

Tri-pawd dogs feel bad like anyone else who has major surgery. They need time to recover. They have to build up strength gradually.

But they seem to heal quickly. They feel bad when they feel bad. But they don’t feel bad about feeling bad. They just get moving when they’re body tells them it’s time.

Honey the golden retriever plays in the snow.

You don’t need four legs to do my favorite activity–making snow puppy angels.

It’s Okay to Feel Bad

Feeling bad just happens. Everyone gets sick. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone feels emotional pain.

And it’s ok. It’s just part of life.

The only time you can count on not feeling bad is when you’re dead. And even that may not be true depending on your theology.

I hope I can learn from dogs to stop feeling bad about feeling bad. It doesn’t make anything better. It just adds a heap of regret and shame on top of already feeling bad.

And who knows? Maybe if I can stifle the voices trying to make me feel bad about feeling bad, I can make room for a nurturing voice or two.

Honey never feels bad about feeling bad. She just deals with what life gives her at the moment. And if that’s good for her, maybe it’s good for me too.

Honey the boxing golden retriever takes on The Hammock.The Fight of the Century

Yesterday, Honey took on The Hammock. Who was victorious?

Check back tomorrow for the results of the fight of the century. And for your chance to win a great prize.

Your Turn: Do you feel bad about feeling bad? Or are you good at channeling a dog’s ability to just feel bad or good?



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  1. People really do need to be more like dogs when they don’t feel well. Lay around, rest, and try to get better quickly.

  2. I do feel bad about feeling bad and that’s because I worry about how I’m impacting the people around me. So I’m learning to own my feelings, let people know I’m not 100%, and then losing myself in a movie or book or long walk with the dogs.

  3. I truly believe that “feeling bad about feeling bad” is drummed into us — especially those of us whose parents grew up during the Great Depression era — from childhood. My Dad did NOT believe in “sick days” — either from school or work — and would be having hissy fits now if he knew how many times I called in sick from work just to “recharge” my own batteries! Luckily, Mom was more understanding…she let my brother and I stay home from school when we were truly sick.

    My brother and I called those “recharging” days “Mental Health Days”. Sometimes you just HAVE TO take a day off from the insanity and give yourself a break from it all, especially from that inner voice! I still hear it every now and then — it sounds just like my Dad! LOL — but I tell it to go away and leave me alone.

  4. When Cooper feels bad, he makes me VERY aware of it. He hangs his head, shuffles over, climbs into my lap, and buries his head against my chest. If I don’t start rubbing his ears, he huffs and puffs, shifts around, and gazes up at me. He asks for exactly what he needs when he feels icky. I’m not so good about that. At all. One of the many lessons I should be learning from my guys!

    • I suspect the fact that Cooper is male has something to do with his sick behavior. Or is that just a human thing? :)

      And of course, we sometimes find ourselves in a position where we can’t help but rely on others for help. It’s probably good for us to learn this lesson before we’re forced to.

  5. You are right, everyone, creature feels bad at times. Katie is one that has lots of ups and downs. Mom says she is moody. I am almost always happy and funny. If I am looking sad, then Mom knows there is something wrong with me. Mom always tries to put on a happy face but at home with us, she lets it be known when she feels bad and we do our best to cheer her up. Life will never be perfect and it is okay to feel bad and to mention that you feel bad. No one should feel bad about feeling bad.

    • It’s interesting that you say Katie is a moody girl. I sometimes think the same is true of Honey.

      Your mom is lucky to have such excellent pups to cheer her up.

  6. Recently I’ve been trying to open up slightly and admit when I’m not feeling ok and not let it worry me what other people think about that!

    • Sometimes admitting things aren’t great is a good way to let people in. Perfection is boring and it’s certainly not relatable.

      Hopefully you don’t have too many days of feeling bad to worry about.

  7. Dogs seem to be able to accept any disability that comes there way, and they almost always find away to enjoy life – especially those that live with a family that loves them.

    Glad all ended well with Honey. These dogs and the things they eat. Wish they could take a lesson from us on what NOT to eat. LOL!

    • I have serious doctor, sick, and hospital phobias. I certainly hope I never have to face a serious illness without a dog to guide me. I would not do well.

      I’m so glad Honey outgrew her appetite for eating horrible things. Now she’s a champion at “leave it.” But as a puppy, she was a terror.

      Of course, I’ve never tempted her with anything really wonderful–like cat turds. :)

  8. When my Husky feels low and sad, he just likes to sit quietly at one corner and doesn’t react to any f our activities or even when someones at the door. That bother me a bit n i try doing everything to make him feel happy and rejuvenated.