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 looked back at me and then to the cabin, 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.
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.
Skippy was in my life when I started elementary school, and I’m glad because that’s when the bullying began. There was no internet back then. The word wasn’t in anybody’s lexicon. I suppose, l looking back, it wasn’t really bullying…at least not the way it’s defined today. That would later, in junior high, when I thought I’d feel safer if I brought a straight razor to school.
The worst part of elementary school was waiting for the bus to bring me home at the end of the day. I’m not sure why, but the bus was never at the school at the end of the day. A bunch of us (me and a pack of older kids) sat around on the cement steps until the bus got there. That’s when the torment would start. They’d grab my book bag and look inside. Of course, I was a little girl and what little girl doesn’t carry Barbie Dolls? They laughed at me and I didn’t have the fortitude to laugh with them. I was humiliated on a daily basis.
At one point, I actually convinced my mother to pick me up from school after work. It was faster than waiting for the bus. That didn’t last forever though. I don’t think she really understood how tormented I was by those kids. When I got to junior high, I didn’t both telling her anything about the bullying. Actually, I didn’t tell anyone.
A pack of mean girls would follow me all around the school saying horrible things to me like, “You should kill yourself!” or “I’m going to kill you.” I never did anything to them. For some reason, they were able to see the weakest kid and they pounced.
Keep in mind that I wasn’t brought up in a wealthy family. My mother was really controlling and I wasn’t allowed to wear what the other kids were wearing. That made me stand out like a sore thumb. I think it really pissed them off that I had friends who loved me. They saw me laughing and enjoying my friends and BOY did they hate that.
They would often surround me so that I couldn’t move. It was terrifying to me, because I was afraid they were going to beat me up. Instead, they just stared at me with mean eyes. That was when I learned to go deep inside my own head until it was over. I never responded to them. Instead, I just stood there searching my mind for other things to think about. I controlled my breathing and learned to wait.
They actually made me a stronger person for what they did. Although, I just have to say that I am still in the same town as these girls – now women. They seem to have chaotic lives and didn’t age well. So take that! I know..very petty of me.
My parents had me when they were quite a bit older. My sisters were already moving out of the house when I came along and my parents seemed to befriend MUCH older people. I was too young to stay home along for along time (and too nervous), so I was frequently dragged to the homes of white-haired people with health problems.
I was lonely a lot of the time, but through that loneliness I became very creative. I learned to enjoy books and began to write stories of my own. I especially loved to tap into my imagination and day dream. Here is something I have never told ANYBODY before. When I was 7-years-old, the Million Dollar Man was a show on TV that everybody watched. I guess in my little mind he represented that hero I needed to save me. So, everyday on my way to school, I would sit on the bus and press my forehead to the window, daydreaming of the myriad ways the Million Dollar Man would save me.
It’s kind of sad when you think about it, but it was also a great help for me to be able to go to those imaginative places.
I was tormented through my teenage years and suffered with bulimia and other risky behavior. It’s amazing I survived at all when I think of the stupid things I did. Honestly. I ended up in the psychiatric unit of the local hospital for a couple of weeks. A therapist met with my family and suggested they allow me to do the one thing I really wanted to do…..join ballet.
They could afford the lessons, but for some reason they were reluctant to sign me up. Once the therapist recommended it, I was ecstatic. I swear it was ballet that saved my life. My self-esteem went up. Suddenly I cared about my body. I was surrounded with like-minded people. And the instructor was a total hard-ass. She was a mother to all of us. She scolded and loved us at the same time. She made us sew our own ribbons on our slippers. “Do NOT ask your mother to do this!” she commanded.
Her name is Mrs. Elena Arnett and she saved my life.
This 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.
Here’s a picture of my mother holding me. It was 1967 and she was 38 years old.
Now I’m 50 years old and I have two dogs – a golden lab and a pitbull mix. 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 Falling Asleep
And here’s his mom, Emma, now 6 1/2 years old. Emma is the golden lab and the pup cuddled next to her is my son’s boxer, Nora.
My dogs give me something to occupy my mind and, when my mind is busy, I don’t have time to succumb to anxiety.
I have clinical depression and generalized anxiety, both of which are treated with medication. I became ill when I was a child but, back then, it wasn’t recognized. My father jokingly called me “Sad Sack” but the truth was, I was sad, a chemical imbalance not diagnosed until my twenties.
Medication corrected the imbalance for the most part, but sometimes my moods take a dip. There are days when I come home from work and the last thing I want to do is smile, let alone laugh. But then I open the door and my two, big, goofy dogs are waiting for me, each with a stuffed bear, tails wagging furiously.
As a dog lover, you know the feeling when your dog(s) greets you at the door, usually with a toy in his mouth, tail wagging furiously. You didn’t have to say or do anything. Dogs are just happy that you’re home. How special is that? My dogs make me laugh whether I want to or not. They pull me out of the deepest moments and save me from myself, over and over again.
I don’t think I’ll handle it well when their time eventually comes. I hope someone will help me through it. 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. Ridiculous, I know. I have to remind myself every single day to focus on the here and now. I believe it’s part of the illness.
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.
My extensive research and experience led me to create this blog in the hopes of helping other dog owners find reliable, practical, and useful information.
I will be adding to this over time, molding and shaping my memories as they come to me. The most important thing I’ll be doing is working hard to bring you quality content.
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