Oakley, the therapy dog I never knew I needed

It’s funny, I will automatically speak in a higher pitched voice as I pass a cute puppy on the street to say ‘hello’.  As the weather has been getting nicer, I have been out walking a lot more.  I have seen numerous puppies and dogs en route.  And I can’t help but say hello to them as I walk by.   It reminded me of the trip to Salt Spring Island a few years ago with my favourite little furry companion, my cousin’s dog.  

A gun metal grey French bulldog with a little white dot on his head is a warm comfort to my moody soul.  I am so thankful that this little frenchie traveled with my cousin and my family to Salt Spring Island in the Summer of 2018.  While we were in the ferry line up, I could hear his heavy breathing.   I wanted to take him out of his dog carrier and into my arms to hold him close.  Oakley stole my heart with his brown bulging eyes and his crooked legs.   Sarah had taken him in to help him heal and learn to walk again.   

On the Island, I sat on the patio with my latte, cheese and jalapeno croissant, I turned to Sarah and said, “I want snuggles.”  Oakley must have heard me because he dragged his bottom across the wood closer to me and rested his head on my thigh.   Having scoliosis made it difficult for him to walk any distance.  This touched my heart.  I stroked his short silky fur and grinned like a five year old with ice cream.  I never knew I wanted a therapy dog, until now.  

I smiled at the little fellow and held him close to my chest as we walked over puddles and craggy pavement.  His ears flapped in the breeze.  Everyone walking around the coffee shops and the boutiques squealed.

“He’s so cute!!” 

“Look at him!” 

“Nice colour!”

For a moment I felt like a proud dog mom.

We walked towards the Salt Spring Island market, my arms holding such a sweet and heavy bundle.  A young boy approached.  “Can I pet him?”  “Yes,” I said, “He’s friendly.” 

“This is my second favorite type of dog. What is your frenchie’s name?”

“Oakley.”  I said with growing pride. 

How could this four-legged pet get wrapped around my heart so quickly? He is the dog I never knew I wanted.  

Sometimes, therapy comes in soft furry packages.  

Every time I get to visit my cousin Sarah and her dog is a special day.  As for enjoying the small things, I will continue to greet pups on my walks in the neighbourhood.   


Princess Coffee Spill

I can be royalty and imperfect, and that’s okay.

I had a macchiato puddle on my arm. In my excitement leaving the coffee shop, and on finding a bench in the sun, I dropped my cell phone and my caffe macchiato. It spilled all over my arm, dress, purse and the sidewalk.

“Oh!” the two ladies visiting each other on the bench nearby me exclaimed.

I felt the heat of embarrassment.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you.” I managed to say. I felt close to tears. My tiny espresso was all over me. The cup was almost empty. I was raw from feeling so lonely.

I sat down on the sunny bench and pulled out the only napkin in my now coffee soaked pink cross body purse. The napkin itself was pathetic. It was mascara stained, lipstick stained and tear soaked from my crying/praying session in the adoration chapel minutes ago.

I unfurled the crinkly balled mess and wiped the dark creamy puddle off my arm. For some reason, it hadn’t dripped off but had collected on my skin, as if I had spent two weeks on a beach in Costa Rica.

After deciding I had felt sorry for myself long enough, I tried to see the humour in it. I wanted to laugh out loud but I didn’t want to look more like a weirdo.

So, I walked home to get out of my coffee stained blue dress. After changing and eating my delicious deli sandwich, I felt better. I even came up with a nickname for my coffee accident, “Princess coffee spill.”

This made me giggle and since I was home alone, I laughed freely. I wasn’t worried about looking normal. It’s good not to take my dear self so seriously. And I liked the nickname. I can be royalty and imperfect and that’s okay.

“I could do a great many things!”

At 8 years old or younger my dream was to be a writer and so I write.

After a workout in the gym at work, I stood at the entrance of the hospital in boots and a toque waiting in the cold for the shuttle to take me 10 minutes from my home. In a blur of backpacks and bags, one with “The New Yorker,” written across it, a middle aged pregnant woman and her man dropped all of them beside me. The bearded man walked off with purpose to return with a car, leaving the woman standing among all the baggage. She held onto her purse and looked at me. I was moving to the music that I was listening to in my headphones.

Taking a step closer, she caught my attention and asked, “Are you a Doula?”

“No, but I want to be,” was my reply.

It was an honest answer.  Ever since my friend Alison had her son Elliot, I had played with the idea of studying to become a postpartum Doula.  So that I could be there to help the mom with her newborn. I could keep her company, provide her with information on newborn care, and help her with the house chores.   There was a long pause, so I turned away thinking the conversation was over.

“Are you interning?” She asked hopefully.  

“No.”  I gave her a look of apology.  She seemed tired and worried.

I want to be a Doula but it’s more of a future wish than reality.  It would take considerable time and once a doula, scheduling would be a gong show.  I have a full time job that I love. I would have to wait until another time to pursue this possibility.  She sighed and looked disappointed.

I mused.  This is not the first time I have been mistaken for something else.

“Are you a lawyer?” an off-duty policeman asked me as I sat with a serious posture in a silver suit from Holt Renfrew.  I was waiting for an interview at the Justice Institute for a job as an Administrative Assistant.

“No.” I replied. I must look like one, I thought.  

“I could be a great many things,” said Louisa May Alcott in Little Women, but I am not.

The amazing thing that flourishing with a mental illness gives me, is the ability to dream and make goals.  When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought a life of professional prestige and personal bests were over.  Walls built of shame, doubt and low self-esteem seemed too difficult to scale. Yet, slowly with the love of God pouring into my heart, layers of stigma and hopelessness fell away.  Maybe it was testing the waters by going back to school, or applying and being hired for different jobs that increased my confidence. Doors opened, I rose to the occasion and dreams became a reality.  

At 8 years old or younger my dream was to be a writer and so I write.  When we had a house fire, I thankfully saved the handwritten short stories I penned as a child.  Most of my stories back then were about surprise birthday parties, (I always wanted one), and the birth of new siblings (I have three brothers and two sisters). No one has ever asked me if I was a writer.  Funny. It’s almost as if I was a ghost writer. Writers must not look like writers. They have such varying interests. I run, dance, sing and work full time in an office.

What does a writer look like?  For writers use pencil, pen, tablet, laptop and voice recorders.  Wiry eyes, curious nose? Tall, thin, fat or short? Young and old.  Outgoing or shy. What would be the defining feature? Used to be ink on fingers.  Not so much anymore. Maybe they can be spotted in cafés, writing in a notebook or typing on a laptop.   Hard to tell.

And how dull a life must be if never written down or reflected upon.  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” said Maya Angelou.  It seems so wild and free in ink or pixels. Our lives are full of creative content. From when we walk to work till when we rest our bodies at night.  Even my dreams can be made into the stuff of fairy tales.

Ah, to write!