I’m so excited that I’ve just completed my first 21-day Thrive Challenge! I focused on a simple Microstep: scheduling time for movement every day. And I’ve found that committing to a 20-minute walk around my neighborhood with my dog, Bash, is the perfect start to my day. Bash, a five-year-old mini Goldendoodle, could not be more thrilled with this new morning routine.
Science shows that animals have a positive impact on our overall well-being. As everyone who has ever had or loved a pet knows, the companionship of a furry friend is supportive and comforting. Combining movement with spending quality time with my pet clears my mind before I start my work day, and I’m happy to find I feel less stressed, more focused and more productive all day long.
I’ve been inspired by many uplifting stories from animal lovers in our community and I’m thrilled to share eight great stories from associates who are improving their lives and finding joy — with the support of their pets!
1. Sundi Wilt, Walmart Supercenter #2027, LaVale, MD
Sundi and her dogs take care of each other.
It was so moving hearing from Thrive Challenge winner Sundi, who is healing following the tragic loss of her son, Joshua, from spina bifida. She says her dogs, Smokey and Bandit (I love their names, Sundi!) are supporting her and her husband Ken. “Smokey and Bandit bring a lot of joy and love into our lives. They’re always happy to see us when we walk through the door. I take them for walks and they help me get my steps in. And if I’m having a bad moment, petting them brightens my day. We often go camping to Shawnee State Park. My husband will sit and fish and I’ll go for walks with the dogs when the sun is setting. It’s so beautiful. Remember, ‘dog’ spelled backwards is ‘God.’”
2. Georgia Teel, Walmart Supercenter #0052; Hot Springs, AR
Georgia’s back on her horse again.
What a beautiful picture of Georgia and her horse, Flash. They both look so happy! Since losing weight in the past year, the 28-year-old is enjoying being “at one with nature” — and with Flash. “Riding Flash helps me get away from all the stress. I’ve been riding since I was a kid and I love it. But I’d stopped altogether for two years, because it was uncomfortable. I got back to it and Flash encourages me to be more active. Just saddling him and taking care of him is making me stronger physically, and my mood has improved tremendously. I love to go trail riding in the Ouachita National Forest — just me and Flash. It’s peaceful and relaxing,” says Georgia, who also shares with us that now she’s less stressed, she and her husband Hesston are hoping to start a family.
3. Rhonda Collins, Supercenter #0076; Berryville, AR
Rhonda’s dogs keep her moving and motivated.
Single mom Rhonda was dealing with chronic fatigue and high blood pressure before she downloaded the Thrive app. She tells us her dogs, “Savannah, a four-year-old boxer, and Waylon, an energetic boxer puppy,” are supporting her in relieving stress and anxiety. “I’m getting outside with them, which gives me energy and is helping my mood. I call my dogs my fur babies, they keep me moving. 160 days into my Thrive Challenge, my blood pressure is in the normal range,” says Rhonda. “I’m single and they keep me company and help me stay safe. And when I take them out, I connect with other people who want to pet them. I love them and they love me unconditionally.”
4. Steven Carls, Supercenter #6477; Phoenix, AZ
Steven’s pets make him smile.
You can see how much joy Steven’s pets give him. Here he is with Sarah and Penny. Steven and his partner, Debbie, have four chihuahuas and a cat. Since embarking on the Thrive Challenge, Steven’s lost 30 pounds and says, “I have energy for Debbie and for our animals — they’re the loves of our lives.”
5. Pat Lyda, Distribution Center #6014; Laurens, SC
Pat’s horses are her best friends.
Pat’s horses are helping her heal from grief since her father passed away recently. My dad and I shared a love of horses and would take trail rides together. We enjoyed our time riding together. My horse is Chip and my dad’s horse is called Boy — he wasn’t real creative with names! I love them both and now, spending time with them makes everything bad go away.”
6. Stephanie Alward, Walmart Supercentre #3056, Dieppe, NB
And here’s Stephanie’s amazing story. I find one dog is plenty of responsibility but she has quite a menagerie at home. And she says they’re all part of her Thrive Challenge journey. Now that’s a true animal lover!
“We have a house full of animals — three dogs, two cats, a fish, a rabbit, a bearded dragon, and 16 birds –– all of whom I rescued,” says Stephanie. “I get home and walk my dogs. My dream is to save up enough to rescue another animal. Animal welfare is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.”
7. Nina Migalski, Supercenter #3117, Winnipeg MB
Nina’s “girl gang” brings her happiness and gets her outside and moving.
This week I had the chance to connect with Nina, a store manager in Winnipeg, Canada, and a brand new Thrive Challenge winner who’s been with Walmart for 25 years. Congratulations Nina! Nina shared with us that the pets she adopted during COVID are making all the difference in her inspiring journey. “I live alone in a big house with a big yard so I decided I needed to fill the space with some furry friends. One dog became two. Plus, I added two cats, and this became my little fur family of four.” That family (all female) consists of: “Ginger, a 14-year-old bossy terrier; Rosie, a 6-year-old chiweenie who happens to be afraid of her own shadow; and my kitties, Darcy, and a sweet little disabled cat, Chloe.”The animals gave me a purpose, and unconditional love during such a difficult time,” says Nina. And now, they continue to support each other. Nina and her dogs go for walks before and after work. “We get much-needed fresh air and develop positive habits,” she says. “I can’t imagine life without my pets. I am the leader of my girl squad — just don’t tell Ginger!”
8. Gemma Dees, Supercenter #4235; Terre Haute, IN;
Adopting two dogs changed Gemma’s life.
And I want to end with this heartwarming story from Thrive Challenge winner, Gemma, who adopted two dogs with her husband, Phil. How lovely that the dogs have helped her focus on gratitude for the simple joys of life. “When I adopted Lola and Pepe, right away, I felt less anxious.They like to snuggle and give me kisses, and when I get home from work they’re sitting by the gate waiting for me. Rain, shine, or snow, we take them for walks — and it’s bonding time for me and Phil. Lola and Pepe are my little motivators. I realized how lucky I am to be able to do ordinary things with my husband and my dogs, and that life is good.”
My own next step: I am going to connect my phone, which I use to track my steps to Thrive and add a Microstep: walking 1000 or more steps per day. Join me! Also, pet owners, take a few moments and watch our amazing animal Resets on Thrive to lift your spirits and make you smile anytime you need a boost.
And we’d love you all to share your stories on social media. Tell us about your favorite Microsteps and Resets, your accomplishments, and how you and your family and friends are thriving and finding joy, so we can celebrate together and motivate each other.