Grief and Loss, Love, Pets, Uncategorized, Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love and Four Paws

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a dog, sometimes many. My childhood was not filled with happy memories; but it was filled with love and lots of fur. There were many times in my life where I didn’t have friends, well not the human kind, but I always had a friend in my dogs.

I was lucky to have dogs at home and at my gram’s house, and even at my dad’s house for much of my time there. Some of my earliest memories are of times spent outside playing with my four legged friends. My gram had a hound dog, Daisy, who she adopted when she failed to make a great hunting dog. She was tall and lean and brown spots covered her silky white coat. She was older when we met, and to escape from some of the other dogs my gram had, she would rest on the floor of my gram’s closet. She made the perfect companion when I needed to escape from the world with a book. I remember many days when we sat together under coat tails and slacks.

Another friend was Jake. He was a handsome red Golden Retriever. He was gentle and patient and made a great friend to lay on the floor under a comforter in front of the television while I colored. He was a calm old guy, who could always make me feel safe. When he went for rides with us he loved to sing. A favorite song of ours had lyrics that went sort of like this: We’re going for a ride, and we’re never coming back, and the train goes choo-choo. A little darker than I remember as a kid, but he loved it and howled along with us. I can still see his smile as he sat in the back seat between my brother and me.

A sleek black Doberman Pitbull mix was one of the many dogs that lived with us when we moved in with my dad. She was my guardian, and tried her hardest to keep me safe. This often resulted in her getting hit or kicked out of the way. When a neighbor boy broke into our home as a joke, she was the first to greet him with a fierce bite…he learned to never try that again. She came to Bob’s house with us when we left my dad, and her fine judge of character skills was sharp…he knew the easiest way to get away with being miserable was to get rid of Zuul. He pulled her tail and when she growled at him we had to find her a new home. That was one of the hardest goodbyes, because she didn’t understand why she couldn’t come home with us. I felt like I had let her down. In hindsight, she probably had a much better life without him in it.

Candy was a sensitive Husky that lived with my dad and his mom. She was white with grey course fur. She loved me as her own, even though we didn’t see each other that often. My dad could be cruel, but she loved him no matter what. After he died, she would sit at the end of her leash on the top of my grandmother’s lawn waiting for my dad to return. She eventually died of a broken heart. She was my savior when I visited my grandmother and dad. I didn’t speak unless I was hungry, thirsty, or wanted to go to the bathroom, but Candy didn’t care. She sat with me and let me pat her as anxiety and fear circulated my insides.

Lady, a slender Golden Retriever with long red hair came home with my mom one day she went to the grain store. She came to us with two names because her previous owners were in the middle of a custody battle over her and couldn’t even agree what to call her. My mom said the man said if she didn’t take her he was going to shoot her. My mom could never resit a new pet and Lady came to live with us.

Lady quickly became my best friend. There were many days she was my only friend. She was sweet and motherly, giving me the love and comfort I couldn’t find in my mom. She played hide and seek and tag with me. Some days when my sister and I were at school Lady would walk the half mile to see if she could find us. Teachers sent her home, but she was always looking for us. When I moved in with my gram, a scratch at the door would let us know Lady was there for a visit. She would sit on the couch with me or even lay on my bed with me while I listened to sad 90s music. She would stay with me until my mom yelled over for her to return for the night.

When I was seventeen Lady was at the end of her life. She had Cancer and we were told we had to say goodbye. I went to the vets with my mom and stayed with her as they administered the dose that would stop her sweet, gentle heart. I lost my best friend that day, and vowed to never let any other dog past my wall because I never wanted to feel that pain again.

Toby was an early Christmas gift the year my dad died. He was a long haired mix with big brown eyes. His brown, white and black fur never stayed neat, much like how I wore my hair. He was my first dog I could call my own. He loved me and helped me through my first real loss. He came with me when I went to stay at my gram’s house, and later, when I was in foster care, he was able to live with me too. He got me through many emotional days and nights. He knew all of my secrets and loved me just the same. After losing Lady, I still loved Toby, but I distanced myself enough to not feel the pain. I honestly do not remember now how or when Toby died.

Abbie and Scott are the dogs that came into my life as an adult. After a few years of not having any dogs in my life these two became part of the family. The vow to not get too close still stood, and even though their love and sweetness exuded from them, I did not want to let myself get hurt again. They have been through a lot as pets in a domestic violence household. They were both abused and still give as much love as they can. Abbie was depressed and Scott has anxiety due to the environment they were in for the first few years of their life.

When we were able to escape the domestic violence I started dating. I knew I didn’t want to be with someone like the man we escaped. I knew right away George was different. He had a best friend, Belvedere, a sweet, intelligent yellow lab. When I met Belvedere I was impressed with their relationship. George and Belvedere loved each other and I knew when I saw them together my initial thought was correct.

Belvedere’s love was strong. His big, brown eyes held so much love and he was eager to share it. Right away he let me share George with him, and as my love for George grew, so did my love for Belvedere. The wall I had built so many years ago when I lost Lady slowly began to crumble. Maybe it was because I was finally in a safe relationship, being loved for who I was, or maybe it was because Belvedere was so much like Lady. The same gentle spirit and enormous heart. It was impossible to keep his love out.

As my wall crumbled I was able to receive Abbie and Scott’s love. Now three dogs held my heart after so many years of closing it off. With great love comes great pain. That was something I knew, but chose to forget.

On my birthday this year we took Belvedere to the vets because he wasn’t acting right and it looked like he had gained a lot of weight. We were told he had a large mass in his belly area and the outcome was most likely poor. We scheduled the needed ultrasound for the next appointment, the day after the Holiday, and it was confirmed he had a mass on his spleen. Emergency surgery was the only option that we were given that could possibly save him. We were leaving for New York for our wedding just days away. An opening for the surgery was available the very next day, which would allow him to travel with us to be part of our big day.

The day of his surgery I waited for the call to let me know he was OK. I waited. And waited. And waited, until the phone finally rang. It was the vet telling me they had him in the operating room and found that the growth had spread to other parts of his body and asked if we wanted her to continue. I knew in my heart he would make it through surgery, and she had to continue. A few hours later we got the call that he did make it and we were allowed to bring him home to recover.

Four days after his surgery he took the six hour drive to New York with us and he was able to share the day with us. He even wore a matching bow tie. When we returned from our trip we had a message to call the vet, the results from the biopsy had came in. It was now George’s birthday. It was the day we learned Belvedere had cancer. It was the day the hope we held that he was going to be OK faded away. We made an appointment to talk about treatment options, and tried a few. Still the cancer was spreading, and we were told it was only a matter of time.

How do you live everyday knowing it might be the last day with one of your best friends? The first few months after his surgery he was like his old self. He wanted to play ball, he wanted treats, and he gave lots of love. His eyes sparkled and his tail wagged. As the days passed, his energy drifted away, but his appetite didn’t leave. He was changing, but he was still full of love.

A couple weeks ago we knew his days with us were limited. George’s one wish was for Belvedere to make it to Thanksgiving with us. It was his favorite Holiday, because he loved turkey so much. The Wednesday before Belvedere’s appetite had left and he was having a hard time walking. As he laid on the kitchen floor I sat with him and gave him Reiki. I sent the intention to take his pain away and let him enjoy his favorite day. When we went to bed he came with us, and early in the morning he got sick. A few hours later, after he took his medication, he became his old self for a few hours. He was in the kitchen with me as I cooked our Thanksgiving meal, and he napped by the oven as the aroma from the turkey circulated around him.

When it was time to eat, he was by George’s side, something he had stopped doing before. His happy eyes and smile returned as we gave him turkey and ate our meal. Thanksgiving was a good day, for him, and us.

On Saturday morning he stopped eating and started having a hard time walking. He didn’t come up to bed with us. His tail still wagged, and he used all of his energy to give as much love as he could. We knew the time we didn’t want to come had arrived. We hoped we were wrong, but on Monday morning, we knew we had to let him go.

Because Belvedere hated the car, the vet was able to make a home visit the following day. We spent as much time as we could with him. When I had to leave the house to get the kids, Abbie left the comfort of the couch to lay with Belvedere on the kitchen floor until we returned. Even Abbie loved Belvedere.

On Tuesday we all spent time with Belvedere to say our goodbyes. When I returned home that morning, he took the last of his energy to greet me for the last time as I returned home. The day was gloomy, cloudy and snowy. When the vet arrived the sun came out, and as we sat on the floor with Belvedere a rainbow danced on his back. As sad as I was, I knew he was going to be happy and free. He was going to play ball and eat as many treats as he wanted. He was going to be the early Christmas gift for my gram and George’s. The image of my gram’s loving smile was all I could picture as I gave him Reiki in his last moments.

The pain is raw, and much like the day I said goodbye to Lady. The thought of the love and happiness he took with him leave me with tears. The house is empty without him, even still full with the five of us and the two dogs. We are missing a huge part of our life. It always amazes me the amount of space one person, one dog took up energetically. While we have them, it is hard to see their true impact, but when they are gone, it is all you can see. I know he hasn’t left us. I know he will be with us, waiting by the treat bag. Today, the first day I returned home and wouldn’t see his wagging tail and happy eyes, I found a tuft of fur on the floor in the mudroom before I opened the front door. I know it was his way to let us know he hasn’t left, and bring us comfort. Because even when he was hurting, he still gave his everything to make sure we were OK. His love is endless. His heart was pure. He was one of the greatest losses of our family.

As the pain floods me, I can’t help remember the vow I took to never feel this pain again. I think about the times I pushed the love away, and then I think about what I missed out on. I am grateful he was part of my life, our life. I am grateful he taught me it was OK to love again. I am grateful that the love was worth the pain.

It’s hard to understand why creatures with such big hearts have such a short time in our lives. It’s hard to understand how people can be so cruel, and judging, and evil, where there are pets who love with all they have. It doesn’t make sense, but I am grateful for the lesson.

Until we meet again. Thank you for the love. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for being you. As Tom Petty says, “You’ve Got A Heart So Big.”

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Domestic Violence, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Amy’s Story

“I was with my bf for about 3-4 years total, off and on. The whole relationship was rocky to begin with. I never figured it out, then one day it clicked. He didn’t want to work, help support anything. Everything was to make him happy. My father was dying and he had to be stuck to my side to “be there for me”. I didn’t want him there and neither did my father but he had to follow me. Out of respect for dad I couldn’t go see him or I’d have a shadow, and disrespect him while I was there. Anyone I was close to left me. They didn’t like him and I couldn’t see why. We have a child together. He used him as leverage to keep me when I finally had enough of feeling depressed and lonely and never good enough. Told him I didn’t love him. He told me I’d never have my son and he’d make sure of it. I stayed. I tried to leave him for 1.5 years before I was finally able to. The last few months when I finally made the decision I had to leave regardless what he said. We fought. Told me I’d never be good enough for anyone else and no one would want me. I’m a useless, waste of air. Said he wished he was a female so he could beat he sh*t out of me and get away with it. Literally push came to shove sometimes. I’m 5’3 and he is 6’4. We were nose to nose a couple times. He’s told me I should kill myself and wreck my car and make everyone happier not to deal with me. A few days later the brakes went in my car. He called Child Protective Services on me a few times, and brought me to court numerous times trying to make me look unfit. For my birthday I went out with my so called close friend. I ended up being drugged, carried out back of the bar and left there. I’m not sure who or how I got ahold of him to get me but he came. Child Protective Services woke me up the next day. Said I was accused of being an alcoholic. Come to find out my friend was fooling around with him and helped him drug me and make me look unfit. I slept with a knife under my pillow for a long time. The last couple court dates I had an escort out to my car. The court guards actually asked me because they seen him hanging around outside. Before I got out of the house I had at least 2-3 CPS visits and at least one court date started. Since then, I moved back to my mothers house. Got a better stable job. A man who picked up the pieces and helped me grow. He built a house for us. Things have done a complete 180 for me. I feel loved and wanted again. Something for the longest time I didn’t think I was allowed to feel.”

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are important.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Domestic Violence, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Rod’s Story

It started out with small things early in our relationship. Firstly, small decisions being made without really asking for my input, even though I always liked to include my partner’s opinion in everything we wanted to do in our plans or future needs. Decisions like buying items that weren’t budgeted for, or making arrangements to do certain things without asking if I was available (from work mostly).

These things were no big deal at the time, as we were a couple and loved each other right? We would work through any issues that came up in our lives together, just like other couples did. 

This was also the beginning of what ultimately was my denial of a serious underlying problem with our relationship.

We ended up having five children – the first of which was born only two weeks after I left hospital due to major cancer surgery. This was a very difficult time for both of us, especially for my then fiance, whom was 9 months pregnant and also having a partner that might not have come home from the hospital.

The small issues from the past weren’t so obvious, but they were still there, as I just was too unwell to see it at the time.

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s and the real abuse started. This was mostly in the form of psychological blackmail, when it came to relationship issues like sex, money or decisions about our family’s future. While I was by no means the perfect partner or father, I was always 100% committed to my wife and family, and would never consider doing anything to put that at risk. It seems this was known by my partner and used against me.

Eventually, bigger decisions were made without my input at all. Such as my partner travelling interstate without telling me, and leaving our five children in the care of friends. The first I knew about these events, was when I would receive a phone call from those friends to ask when I was picking them up that day. I worked 2.5 hours drive away at the time, so this was not so simple. I was told by the friends that my partner had told them that I would be picking them up, while she went interstate. I said I knew nothing about this.

When she returned, there would be sex for favours, or to otherwise try and make up for the past week. This was very a very common method of abuse in our relationship at the time. There was no real personal involvement from her, it was just her way of making sure things worked in her favour. I later learned about the cycle of abuse, and immediately recognised this behaviour as abuse.

Any questions about what my partner was doing were met with silence. Eventually, large sums of money were going missing from our accounts, a lot of miles were being put on the car, without any obvious reason for it. The kids were going hungry, the house wasn’t being kept, all the while I was working away trying to build a future for my family. 

The end came with her weaponising the children, and essentially never having to deal with the emotional stuff that had occurred. This was very damaging to me, even though I had been through a lot already with cancer etc, and heavily relied on my partner to take part in the relationship. 

R.S.

Thank you, Rod, for sharing your story. You are strong. You are brave. You are not alone. Thank you for being one of the two men that shared for this project.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Depression, Domestic Violence, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Violet’s Story

“When I was 15, I started dating a man that was 24. After six months in the relationship, I didn’t want to be with him anymore. I wanted to be able to do things with friends, and be a normal high school girl. When I tried to breakup with him, he got angry and wanted to know who the other guy was. I assured him there was no other guy, and told him I would stay with him. I stayed with him for another five years. We did not go on dates, or do anything fun. I missed out on all of my high school years, and spent every night at home watching TV and movies with him.

When I was 20, I met another guy, and soon realized I wanted to be with him. When I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t love him anymore, he told me he would kill himself if I left him. The next day we went for a ride in his truck and we parked in a parking lot to talk. As soon as he turned off the truck, he opened up the console and pulled out a new pistol. He said he bought the gun to kill me, and then himself if I left him. He told me that if he couldn’t have me, no one could.

I stayed with him awhile longer, until the thought of being killed was better than the thought of living the rest of my life with him. I worked the courage up to tell him I was leaving, got in my car and drove away. I went to my best friend’s house to tell her what I had done, and she told me I needed to hide.

I found another friend’s house to hide at, and heard that he had gone to my best friend’s house looking for me. He banged on the door, yelling and screaming, until they called the police on him. I stayed with my other friend that night, and then went to the police station. They sent me to Umbrella, where they helped me fill out paperwork to get a restraining order. After waiting all day for the judge to look at the order, it was denied. The court said since he hadn’t done anything yet, they couldn’t grant the order.

I went back to the state police barracks, where a state trooper met me. When I told him my story, he said he would issue my ex boyfriend a no trespass order for my place of work, college, and my house. He said he would do his best to scare him off.

That worked for awhile. Then I started getting flowers sent to my work, with love notes. I threw them away as soon as I saw them. He would call my work to try to harass me. Then I noticed he started following me. I would have to find a different route almost everyday to keep him from following me. I was on guard all the time. Then, it would die down, and I would stop looking over my shoulder. That was when I was at the car wash, cleaning out my car, and when I looked up, he blocked my car in, so I couldn’t leave. He came running at me, calling me a whore, and told me I ruined his life. He kept yelling and calling me names, when I finally got in my car and drove out of his trap.

I was so scared after that, knowing that I never knew where he would be, and I never felt safe. I covered all of my windows in my house, and checked my locks several times a day to make sure I hadn’t forgot to lock them. After awhile, the stalking stopped, and I was able to live my life without the fear, although, at times, I still scan parking lots and have the feeling that someone is going to kill me.

It has been 20 years, and I am still alive. His threat to kill me, and himself was just a tactic to keep me from leaving. I am now happily married, and I feel safe with my husband.

Thank you, Violet, for sharing your story.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are loved.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Economic Abuse

Economic abuse is another form of abuse and control, and can sometimes happen slowly enough you are unaware of what is happening. It can also be a deciding factor if a person can leave or not. For me, my abuser took my money, and then ruined my credit. I was the main source of income in the household, but had very little access to the funds. My check would be deposited into our joint account, and before I had time to pay the bills the money would be gone. I spent countless hours rearranging things and planning what bill needed to be paid. If checks were used, sometimes the money for that check would be spent before the check hit the account, making a mess of everything.

The one thing my gram always told me was how important it is to have good credit. When I met my abuser, even though I was only 21, I had excellent credit. I had a credit card that I used, only to pay it off at the end of the month. I did not have a car loan, or any other monthly payments. I had a small savings account as well. When I became pregnant early into the relationship I was the one who had to pay for everything the baby was going to need. Soon my savings were gone, and my credit card bill was more than I could pay off each month.

When we moved in together, the first thing he wanted to do was add his name to my bank account. As soon as he had access to my money it was gone. The money he was spending was not being spent on the baby on the way, but for porn, beer, and cigarettes. The money disappeared quicker than I could understand. When I asked questions about the spending, or even sharing the expenses for the baby, he made me feel guilty for even asking.

While I was at work he would sign up for new credit cards in my name since he now had access to my social security number, and all of the needed information. Since I was at work, he would get the mail, and before I knew it, the cards would be maxed out.

When I took rolled change, and birthday money to the bank to open a savings account for my son, I mistakenly left the paperwork out where he could find it. Before long, my son’s account was empty. As the kids got older and had money from gifts, he would “borrow” the money, but never paid them back. He started this with my gram too, asking to use her credit card to do nice things for me (like flowers after a fight, or a hotel room away with the kids), and never paid her back either.

During our relationship I received two inheritances, totaling around $30,000. I wanted to use the money to pay off my debt, and buy a laptop so I could start writing. Before I knew it, the money was gone, and I still had my debt and no laptop.

Without access to money or credit, I was stuck. The house we owned was in my name, and if I left I would have to pay for the house and an apartment, but there was no way I could do that. This was all part of his power and control over me and the kids.

Some information about economic or financial abuse follows:

Economic or financial abuse is when an abusive partner extends their power and control into the area of finances. This abuse can take different forms, including an abusive partner:

  • Giving an allowance and closely watching how you spend it or demanding receipts for purchases
  • Placing your paycheck in their bank account and denying you access to it
  • Preventing you from viewing or having access to bank accounts
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
  • Maxing out credit cards in your name without permission or not paying the bills on credit cards, which could ruin your credit score
  • Stealing money from you or your family and friends
  • Using funds from children’s savings accounts without your permission
  • Living in your home but refusing to work or contribute to the household
  • Making you give them your tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns
  • Refusing to give you money to pay for necessities/shared expenses like food, clothing, transportation, or medical care and medicine

This information was found at https://www.thehotline.org/

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Domestic Violence, healing, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Amanda’s Story

“I wanted to help him see the good qualities in him that I saw. I tried to save him, to rescue him and I guess to change him. It was much easier to rescue other people than to deal with the horrors of my childhood trauma. The relationship started great he had quit smoking, landed a great job, and was looking into volunteer firefighting. We moved into our place five months into the relationship when I was three months pregnant. It was an exciting time but also an eye-opening time. He would say degrading remarks about my family and me. I felt isolated and alone. We were leaving our last parenting class and he asked where we were going, I responded straight. That was the wrong answer; he said: “I’m going to crash this jeep into the back end of those cars.” The day before our baby shower, he asked if I wanted to end up like the woman in town who was found murdered by her husband in their backyard. I was so afraid he would kill me after our son was born, but I had no one to talk to. The birth of our son was traumatic and took a toll on my physical and mental health. I struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression. I was suicidal, and he “If you want to kill yourself, go ahead the baby, and I are going for a walk.” When I finally did reach out for help at my six-week postpartum appointment, the lady from the crisis unit said she wanted me to get better and realize my worth so I would be strong enough to leave. I was still in denial that I was in an abusive relationship; I would make up excuses for him. The final straw was when I was in the car on the highway pumping milk for our son; he asked if I had anything to cover up with, I said I didn’t, but no one could see anything. He said, “I’m going to slam your head against the dashboard to knock you out.” A month and a half after that incident, I was in a domestic violence shelter getting the much-needed education and support.”

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your story.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are important.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Domestic Violence, healing, Hope, Sexual abuse, sexual assault, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Devan’s Story

“I was warned about my abuser, but I didn’t believe it. I was swept off my feet, only I never got put back down, I got put into a box. The abuse was mental and emotional. He controlled everything: money, outings, get togethers. He made me feel incompetent of doing anything so I would have to depend on him. Making small remarks to people, “She doesn’t know how to cook, so I do it.” Of I had a problem that was related to him, it was never his fault, but somehow mine instead, and that I was acting crazy. thats when I stopped using my voice. He’d get mad at me for saying no to sex. He would try talking me into it, I’d still say no. he then would start making me feel guilty, and how its my fault for saying no. I eventually just stopped and would just let him have sex with me for the sake of not feeling emotionally hurt. I had daily anxiety and crippling panic attacks at least once a week. This ongoing nightmare was affecting our child as well.

I am now divorced from my abuser and have sole custody of our child. I found my voice, and self-worth. I’m dating a wonderful ma who loves all of me, and whom my child adores. He swept me off my feet, and put me back down where I stand freely next to him, as an equal.”

Thank you, Devan, for sharing your story.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are powerful.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness