“There are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.” ― Doris Day
Well, we all know after a hard days work there is nothing better than getting home. Except for one thing, getting home to that waggling tail, that big slobbery kiss and that undivided attention that is never enough. (Well, sometimes it is definitely enough!)
There's no denying that dogs have a massive impact on their owners lives day in day out, but for some, owning their own dog could be (and has been) life saving.
As most of you know I'm a 26 year old Dog Breeder located in Romsey, VIC, Australia and boy have I had my fair share of saying "F*ck this." And by "F*ck this" I mean "F*ck life." I grew up (well, I'm still growing up) on 10 acres of gorgeous land, with my single mum, my older sister and my identical twin. We all still live on the same property - well with a few more ring ins, ha I joke, we love it. My older sister has her own house on the same property we grew up on, with her husband their two daughters and son. My twin sister has just moved back home with her boyfriend; we wouldn't have it any other way. Growing up in this beautiful country town, animals were never few and far between. My youngest and fondest animal memories would be from our Pony "Pee Wee" who used to walk into our kitchen and steal fruit off the table, and our Black Lab "Koolie" who would run 2km down to our bus stop to meet us after school to walk us home safely. As far back as I can remember animals have always been a comfort in my day to day life. When I was about 9 years old I remember having my first anxiety attack, where I thought I was dying. As much as my family, especially my mum, was always there to comfort me, I vividly remember my first dog Gemma, a Pomeranian X, was my go to girl. I remember sitting on the steps that lead up to our horses paddock and talking to her, crying to her, she'd always listen.
Everyone has that one dog, that one dog that lent a helping paw. The one that was there through the heart ache, the sick days, your happiness and your life. In some cases - my case, there has been a lot more than one dog. That first dog that started it all for me was the matriarch of Jordan Country Groodles, Bessy. The day that I picked Bessy up in 2012 from her breeder, was a day I could never forget; with tears rolling down my cheeks on the phone to my best friend Katelyn explaining how amazing she was - how could I forget that feeling. I want everyone to be able to experience that and I'm that glad most people do.
I was in year 9 at Sacred Heart Collage, Kyneton when I was diagnosed with Dyslexia; I had always struggled academically but I actually loved school. I was passionate about writing and of course my friends (friends that I've kept until this day, which is rare for people with BPD - I'll explain this in a minute) and I feel like high school was actually a very positive part of my life. I thrived on having a routine and when that routine ended, I changed. When I was 18 I was admitted into my first psychiatric facility, I'd had a rough breakup with my childhood sweetheart. (No one tells you how to deal with heartbreak, it's not something you learn at school.) It was a public hospital and it was horrible (I didn't even know where the hell I was!).
From there until I was 22 I was constantly in and out of psychiatric facilities, visiting three different hospitals on about 10 different occasions. My longest stint was 2 weeks in The Melbourne Clinic, I must admit it actually wasn't too bad, because at this point I knew I needed help. I ended up at The Melbourne Clinic after numerous (more times than I can count on my hands and feet) calls to the police from my parents regarding self harm and suicide attempts. In between those five years of trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I endured intense psychotherapy, three times a week for a good three years, and still today I visit my psychiatrist regularly. I base some success of my recovery on Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (even though I didn't complete the full course.) The rest of my recovery is due to my family and when I say family I am definitely including my dogs. In life, happiness is my main goal - for me, happiness is the biggest success anyone can achieve.
My mum has always been accepting of the choices I make, especially deciding to make my dogs my full time priority. Even though she supported me through school, university and working, it didn't matter what I did, she just wanted me to be happy and thrive.
Professional breeding didn't just happen overnight; throughout my time recovering I spent a lot of time with my dog Bessy (aswell as my horses and cats). It was during this time I looked into breeding. My dad had a beautiful pure bred American Cocker Spaniel that he sired out to a close friend of his who bred Spoodles (Cocker X Poodle.) Whilst living with my dad down on The Mornington Peninsula I was surrounded by a litter we were looking after; during one of my episodes these pups would give me pure joy, and I felt that I gave them the same amount of joy back. I was working full time when I had my very own litter, (well Bessy's, not mine!) and yes I did get a lot of happiness out of this, but I still wasn't 'fixed'. By my second litter I was still deteriorating, I'm fairly sure the pups were born whilst I was in hospital, there's a lot I can't remember. I stopped working, and put every thing I had (which wasn't much) into my dogs. My stamina was non existent, I'd sleep all day with Bessy and Bronty (Bronty is Bessys daughter from her second litter) and if I showered or brushed my teeth I'd take that as a bloody good achievement! I remember asking my twin sister to wash my hair because I was in such a horrible way, I said "I'll pay you to do it" (she didn't take the money).
Mum knew that working full time just wasn't going to work for me. She sometimes felt like she was enabling me by letting me sleep all day, but we both realised I had to do whatever would keep me alive.
I tried, I tried a lot.
I would cope sometimes and most people thought I was just a normal, happy, talkative girl, but deep down I always felt ill at work. I'd go and vomitt in the back room from my intense anxiety and come out with a smile on my face. I also couldn't complete my double degree at Uni due to BPD, It was a really tough time for not only me, but the rest of my family.
As I realised my business was thriving and I was actually being taken seriously, three breeding girls and three different sires (on site and off site) and I, really began to flourish. I had routine again, I was making my own money, I had something I was thoroughly enjoying and I had goals for me and the girls.
On the 5th November 2016 I woke to the worst phone call anybody could ever receive. The man that I was falling in love with had passed away. I remember running outside, I just needed to run. I ran up to my sisters house, and my mum followed me. I dropped to the ground where Bessy and Bronty started to lick me better. We had only shared a short amount of time together, but I am so frickin grateful for that time. The early stages of love for me are the best (I'm sure you can agree). The butterfly feelings are prominent, the kisses are full of lust and looking into each others eyes continuously is something I can't explain - because boy, did he have the most amazing eyes I'd ever bloody seen. And he knew, because I was lucky enough to tell him. We met each others families, he met my gang of furry babies, we had a lot of amazing times within that short period. He was only 24. His 25th birthday would have been over the weekend just passed. I was certain my BPD would show up again after years of being dormant. I booked myself straight into my psychiatrist to work my head out. I believe I am coping as well as one can to this news. I am putting a lot of my DBT skills into practice and making sure my dogs are around me, sleeping next to me has definitely helped; I don't feel so alone.
I believe he is still around, I feel him. I see him in his little brother and in his dad. I'm really grateful that I have a great relationship with his family, his step mum, dad and little brother. Before and after this tragedy happened they were always people I wanted to be around, we will always share memories of us all being together with Marcus. It will never be the same without his cheeky smile on this earth and I promise to live life for him, like he did, enjoying every single moment, always being happy, participating in life like everyone should.
I must admit I have felt judged by a lot of people who didn't understand mental health over the years, but I'm proving people wrong, and you should too! I try to see the good in everyone, I have now realised everyone is facing a battle of their own, and who are we to judge how a certain circumstance effects a person? Everyone deals with things differently. I think I am someone who wears my heart on my sleeve and I love that, otherwise Marcus would have passed away not knowing how I felt about him.
I found something that I loved and I went with it. As any breeder would know it's a full time job running a business and looking after multiple dogs, especially if you want to do it 100% (it's hard being a perfectionist).
In 2017, I decided that I was going to kick social media's butt, and I am, with the help of Techno Bird (our web designer.) I hope to spread some more awareness about mental health and how animals can really help your journey. Because at the end of the day, everyone has their own journey. I want to take time in this blog to really express how I feel about mental health, everyone has been touched by mental health in one way or another. I truly believe that companion, therapy and assistance dogs are life savers. We will be working with Brama Labradors Inc. who are a non-profit organisation; they breed and train their own Labradors for assistance dogs. We are hoping to work together in 2017 to bring more assistance dogs to people in need, using Jordan Country Groodle's own pups to join their training programs.
We want to be a platform for people to share their stories, from dogs to mental health and everything in between. Please help share mental health awareness!