From Torment to Triumph – My Story
Most blogs only give you a tiny glimpse of the person behind the posts, but I wanted to put it all out there for you so that you have a chance to get to know me better.
Everything changed when I turned 50 this year. What I mean by that, is that my mindset shifted dramatically. You always think about the future when you’re younger, wondering what will happen in the years to come. Suddenly, at 50, I could feel that shift that maybe “someday” was just around the corner. Turning 50 has been the only upsetting milestone for me in my life and it occurred to me (finally!) that this life is mine. I’m retiring from my day job (at a college) in 4 1/2 years (two months, three days, 60 minutes and 42 seconds…but who’s counting?). My joints might be a little sore from arthritis but I am not a knitter. I need to expand my mind and finally do what I absolutely love. Okay, two things I love: writing and dogs. Thus, Your Dog’s Health Matters was born.
Turning 50 and retiring soon is opening new doors for me and I’m excited to step into those spaces to have a look around.
Let’s back this up a bit…
I was born in 1967 in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. I was a “surprise”. I’m not sure if there is a more delicate way to put it. I have two sisters who are 16 years and 18 years older than I am. After trying for a third child for years, my parents just figured they weren’t having any more children. I don’t think birth control options were plentiful in the 60’s. At least not in this little town.
My mother worked at “the cotton mill”. The corporate name was Dominion Textiles, but everybody I know still calls it The Cotton Mill. She worked piece-work, operating machinery I was always too scared to go near. Her job was to make sure the looms operated smoothly and spent a lot of time fixing them. When she came home at the end of the day, her hair was actually speckled with dust and cotton threads.
There was a nurse on staff at the cotton mill, which I still find weird to this day. Let’s just say Occupational Health & Safety wasn’t a “thing” back then. Sure, the employer made a half-ass attempt to make sure people wore ear plugs against the constant noise of machinery, but that was pretty much it. Anyway, she was at work one day and went to see the nurse. Apparently, she thought she had a “tumor”. She was 39 years old when the nurse told her she 3 months pregnant. Enter Lisa.
In order to accommodate my arrival, my parents switched their shifts so that someone would always be home with me. My mother worked the 7 am to 3 pm shift, and my father worked the 3 pm to 11 pm shift. Dad would see me off to school in the morning, and mom would greet me when I got home.
My parents say I was a good child, but I doubt it. I never slept (never did….now I’m on a lifetime supply of sleeping pills). I was mean to my mother as a teenage girl. I suppose all teenage girls are, but I feel badly about it. I like to think that at the end – when I looked after my mother as she died – she got to see a more tender, loving side of me. Anyway, there she was. Thirty-nine and pregnant. Abortion wasn’t an option for a devout Catholic woman, not that she ever had that thought. Can’t say I would feel the same.
Here I am at 2 years old. Does anybody else think it’s weird that they dressed me in pink to match the kitchen cupboards???
My father was forty-nine years old, ten years older than mom. He was really excited when I was born and apparently I was “daddy’s girl”. He was a very quiet, contemplative man. I discovered later that he also suffered from severe anxiety and depression, a fact he hid quite well! I inherited those genes and it wasn’t until I became ill that I realized dad had the same thing. If he had been treated with meds and therapy the way I was, I’m convinced he would have had a much better quality of life. I have no idea how he did it. My father was born with 11 brothers and sisters in a time when medication was a luxury and only people in a psychiatric hospital got therapy. I’m sure my father saw it as a weakness in himself. That’s sad to me.
Very young dad.
Much older dad. The photo isn’t great but it’s all I had.
My elementary school years were okay. I had fun, learned fast, and quickly discovered that getting high marks also got me high praise. So I kept that trend going right through high school. Except in math….but that’s another story. For reasons I can’t remember, I had to wait for the school bus at the end of the day with a group of other older kids. I’d try to keep to myself with my head down, but these kids were relentless. Looking back, they were only teasing me. Taunting me about the barbie doll I carried around in a paper bag. I begged my mother to hurry after work so she could pick me up instead, but that didn’t last long. I pretty much had to suck it up until I finally graduated to junior high.
Then it got worse. A group of girls decided to make me their target and I was bullied constantly. I never really cared much about fashion, or how I looked, until junior high taught me that I better step it up a notch. They teased me about the clothes my mother had made for me. They chanted that I should kill myself. They threatened me every single day. Sometimes in class I could see them standing outside the door just waiting for me. At one point, I remember carefully wrapping one of my father’s straight razors and bringing it to school for protection. Nobody had guns back then.
If you’re a certain age, you might remember Super Dave Osborne. Well, it was a Canadian television comedy that was really silly and weird. I loved it. Super Dave Osborne had this mantra he repeated when he felt something wasn’t going right. On one episode, he was in an accident and his head blew off and landed in a field. The camera zooms in and there is Super Dave’s heading chanting his favorite mantra “balloon ball…balloon ball….balloon ball.” Hey, I told you it was silly. I thought it was so funny that I decided to use the mantra at school. One day, the gaggle of tormentors cornered me outside. They never actually touched me, but they intimidated the sh*t out of me. So I started chanting. “Balloon ball! Balloon ball!” The tormentors didn’t think it was funny. In fact, one of the more obese girls said, “You better not be talking about me!”
I survived and went on to high school, where I got a little prettier, dressed a little better, and got a boyfriend. Things were better, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I developed bulimia, a condition where you pig out on as much as you can and make yourself vomit right after. It was disgusting and it dominated every aspect of my life. That’s when I spiraled. I started cutting myself and at one point I ran away and hid in a field until my father found me. At that point, they brought me to the hospital where I stayed 3 weeks in the psychiatric unit. It didn’t help.
I was probably 8 years old or younger in this picture and BOY was I pissed off at my mother for making me have my photo taken. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was in a department store called Steadman’s and there were a lot of people watching. I was stubborn and refused to smile. That pretty much summed up my relationship with my mother. I think the photographer got fed up with me too. Can you blame him?
I told a therapist that the only thing I really wanted to do was take ballet. I was 14 years old. My parents didn’t like ballet and, for that reason, weren’t keen on enrolling me. The therapist asked if they could afford it and the answer was yes. So, long story short, I joined ballet and it saved my life. I practiced every day, auditioned for ballet camps, went to ballet camps, and performed on stage in the little local theater. I learned to eat better and suddenly had a regular physical activity. Life got much better for me.
Fast forward to adulthood. Two divorces. One child. A third marriage that’s working out.
To this day, I have no idea why the adults in my life didn’t forbid me to marry when I was just 22 years old. I was a child. I went through all the motions of preparing for a wedding and even went to a pre-marriage course with my fiance. The whole time, I didn’t recognize the signs that he did not want to get married. But for some stupid reason, he went through with it. That marriage (if you want to call it that) barely lasted one year. I hardly even think it counts!
I moved back home after that and it was a huge mistake. My mother was always very critical of everything I did. Even my sisters would tell her to lay off a bit. “Why do you eat like that?” “Is that what you’re going to wear?” “Stop chewing your lip!” “Stop wringing your hands!” Stop. Don’t. Can’t. Sin. Guilt. All of that toxic stuff. Finally, out of desperation, I moved out and into an apartment with my new boyfriend. I loved fast without thinking. I married him without thinking. And I got pregnant, not necessarily in that order.
It started out okay, but after the baby was born he got really impatient with me. He yelled at me a lot and slowly took over everything. He wasn’t jealous, but he made me feel stupid and not capable. He made fun of things I did in front of his mother and my friends. The only thing good I got from him was my son. My son is an adult now and I am so proud of him. I won’t say too much about him because he probably wouldn’t want me to. He’s awesome.
Now I’m married again. Well, common law marriage which is considered marriage in Canada. I call him my clusband. Common-law husband. Clever, right? I hit the jackpot of relationship bliss. This man treats me with respect and kindness. He doesn’t raise his voice and he encourages me to grow and learn. After he came into my life, I learned to manage my own finances and make my own decisions. It took me a long time, but I finally feel as if I’ve made it. At 50, I’m a full-fledged mature adult.
This is the much happier and much older me.
And now I’m almost ready to retire from my day job. I see a lot of exciting endeavors ahead of me, including this blog. I’ve always wanted to be a pro-blogger and now is my time. I heard somewhere that you should blog about a passion, and my passion is dogs. If I could afford a huge ranch, I would own a lot of dogs. But since I can’t do that right now, I’m happy to write about them. I want this blog to be smart and informative. I don’t cookie-cutter it from other blogs. All of my research is carefully plotted and I always ask for input. If you ever read something in my blog that doesn’t resonate, please tell me! The last thing I want is incorrect information out there.
My dogs save me from myself, over and over again.
My love of dogs started with a rabbit-hound named Skippy. I was 6-years-old, waiting in the backseat of the car while my father rummaged under the raised floor of my uncle’s old hunting cabin, a derelict structure without electricity or running water. It was summer and we had driven deep into the woods. The black flies swarmed the car and I watched my father swat at them with his Sunday cap.
My mother kept sneaking peaks at me in the back seat, eager to see my reaction. Of course, I didn’t have a sweet clue what the big secret was!
Then my father shimmied out from under the cabin and as he approached the car, I saw a small, wriggling dog in his arms.
I was a quiet child and I didn’t whoop or holler or even laugh out loud, a personal trait my mother found incredibly annoying. But this day was different. I leaned forward and held out my arms, my mouth wide open. I can still remember those soft, velvety ears and the black spots on his round tummy.
To be honest, I don’t remember who came up with the dog’s name. I just remember it was Skippy. To this day, I have a very special place in my heart for hounds. Skippy was covered with fleas, ticks, and mud but I didn’t care. He was mine.
Below is the only photograph I could find of me and my father. There are no pictures of Skippy because – unlike today – we didn’t have smart phones and we didn’t regularly carry cameras around. Cameras were usually for special occasions like Christmas and birthdays.
My mother must have thought this was a special occasion when she took this picture.
I had a lovely relationship with my father. He was nearly 50 years old when I was born, he and my mother having raised two daughters already. You could say I was a surprise!
My sisters are 16 and 18 years older than I am, and they had moved out of the house by the time I was old enough to realize I had sisters. We lived on a dirt road in a rural town with very few other kids around to play with. But I had Skippy. I snuggled up to him on my mother’s pristine kitchen floor, played with him in the backyard, and followed the dog, and my father, on rabbit-hunting excursions.
I vaguely remember the day I came home from school and Skippy wasn’t outside in his pen. I asked my mother where he was and she, looking uncomfortable, mumbled something about the dog “disappearing”. Something inside, maybe childhood naivety, accepted the explanation without fuss or question. I can’t explain that to this day. I never cried and I don’t know why.
Here’s a picture of my mother holding me. It was 1967 and she was 39 years old.
Now I’m 50 years old and I have two dogs – a golden lab and a pit bull/lab mix. Coco, seen in the photo below, is actually one of Emma’s pups.
Emma, the golden lab was “romanced” by the pit-bull down the road one day. We pretended we were a little upset but secretly, we were pretty excited about the pups.
My husband and I kept one of her ELEVEN pups and sold the rest for a small fee to suitably screened owners.
Here’s the “pup”, Coco, now 6 years old, drifting asleep.
Coco – Pit Mix
Even though I watched my father and – years later – my mother, fade and eventually pass away, something about the eventual passing of my dogs has me tied in knots. I just keep reminding myself that if I could get through my parent’s passing, I can handle it when the time comes. But can I?
If you’re reading this, you obviously LOVE DOGS as much as I do. It means a lot to me that you’ve arrived here and I intend to bring you the best, most accurate information about dog health.
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