Carmen Leal

Carmen Leal is a storyteller and the author of multiple books, dozens of articles, devotionals, and human-interest stories. Carmen relocated from Hawaii to Oshkosh, yes, there is a story behind the move, and has become an awesome dog mom. Carmen and her husband have become reluctant gardeners and know a crazy amount about Wisconsin weeds. She is the mother of two sons, two incredible grandsons, and Coconut, the best imperfectly perfect rescue dog in the world. You can learn more about her latest book by visiting Wag Away


A professed non-dog person, it’s thanks to a driver who fell asleep at the wheel in 2015 that I now have the best dog in the world. I know, we all think that about our dogs.

The official diagnosis was post-concussive syndrome with moderate frontal brain damage resulting in level ten headaches, PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and visual hallucinations.

I didn’t know that the blinding headaches were because of the concussion and traumatic brain injury. For eighteen months I worked and then cried on my way to and from one of my six weekly medical appointments. I was in so much physical and mental pain that suicide was a very real and hopeful option.

My doctor suggested an emotional support dog. I scoffed. Over two years after the wreck, a dog was a last-ditch effort. I was only partly joking when I tell people my first choice for a name for a dog was Xanax. I figured I had tried everything else, so I’d try a dog and if that didn’t help I’d give him to my husband who I had been lobbying for years to adopt a dog.

Coconut, named for our Hawaiian roots, has given me a reason to live. Before Coconut I could barely get in a car, let alone drive. I no longer sang or wrote, both of which had been lifelong passions. Crowds caused major panic attacks and I was so angry and negative I drove people away.

I drive most days, I’m writing again, singing in the area’s top choral group, and volunteering. I have a part-time job and I feel like I am making a difference. I’ll likely always have headaches, but they are more manageable thanks in large part because of time and my dog.