Archive for Pets Posts

published in Anger, Dogs, Home, Mental Health, Peace, Pets, Vulnerability, Writing by Maryanne | September 24, 2019 | 6 Comments

Trigger Not So Happy – When an Emotional Trigger Sends Us Into Red Alert

 

A trigger can be anything that sets off your personal “red alert.”

– Richer Life Counseling

Apparently, even, a barking dog.

Have you ever experienced an emotional trigger?

Here’s a good definition:

“A trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. A trigger is a reminder of a past trauma. This reminder can cause a person to feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or panic.”

Goodtherapy.org

On the morning I had to put my dog, Sadie, to sleep, I experienced an emotional trigger that launched me, lickety-split, into red alert.

Here’s what happened:

The previous afternoon, I had received the news that Sadie, my 12-year-old Golden Retriever, had bone cancer. I had left the vet knowing I had to make a very difficult decision that evening, seeing as I was leaving the next day on a 3-week trip to Ecuador. I had taken Sadie home and we’d spent a special, albeit heart-breakingly difficult, last evening together.

Sweet Sadie Pope

We shared a T-bone steak 😊 as I talked to her and thanked her for all the fun times we’d had together. I cried and cried and cried, hoping to God she would understand that the time had come for us to bid farewell. Yes, it was a dreadfully sad evening…but it was a peaceful one because I was able to quietly make – and accept – the decision that was best for her. I knew I had to call the vet in the morning and make an appointment to have her put to sleep.

Unfortunately, the next morning did not go as I had hoped.

What I had wanted – and expected – was to spend my last few hours with Sadie, talking to her, petting her, giving her treats and saying goodbye in the peaceful back garden of our new home…in our QUIET new neighbourhood.

You know…the one I moved heaven and earth to find because of the experience in my last home – the one in Sidney, where I pretty much lost SEVEN years of my life living next door, in constant anxiety and frustration, to the world’s noisiest neighbours.

After I had finally made the decision to flee that sinking ship (rats moving into the crawlspace was the last straw), I sold my home, put my belongings in storage and embarked upon – and fully embraced – the gypsy life with Sadie for 18 months. If it wasn’t for Sadie’s deteriorating mobility due to arthritis, I probably would have continued the gypsy life indefinitely…mainly because I was terrified of purchasing a home again, only to discover I had landed near noisy and inconsiderate neighbours…again.

Perhaps you can see where this is going?

For on my last morning with Sadie, guess what happened? The morons across the street allowed their Pit Bull to bark, non-stop, for three hours. And let me tell you, the psychological and emotional response this triggered in me was rather like The Tell-Tale Heart, the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, where the main character thinks he can hear the heart of the man he murdered beating in the wall of his home. In his head, the heartbeat gets louder and louder and LOUDER.

So, too, did the barking of the dog across the street.

In reality, of course, the barking dog wasn’t really that loud (especially since I had moved inside and shut the windows) but in my head it certainly was.

I had gone into Red Alert.

Thankfully, I was still able to think somewhat rationally…

This, I thought to myself, is what it must be like to go crazy. This, I thought to myself, is not overly conducive to the state of mind I need to be in to put my beloved dog to sleep. This, I thought to myself, could end badly…for the neighbours. I had the fleeting idea of calmly walking across the street, knocking on their door then cheerfully ripping their heart out.

No, I thought…better not. That would be messy.  Plus, I already have one death ahead of me today that I have to get through.

In other words, I was a little too close…to losing my shit. 

Now the astute reader, such as yourself, might be inclined to point out that when the barking dog trigger occurred that morning, I was already in an extremely emotional state because I was preparing to put my beloved dog to sleep.

This, of course, is true…which is another reason I didn’t walk across the street and get into what would have undoubtedly been a spectacular Jerry Spring style argument with my neighbor. They probably weren’t even home anyway and had just left their distressed dog in the back yard.

At any rate, yes, I was indeed already in full-on grieving mode and had the wherewithal to recognize that I HAD to stop a moment and ask myself: “What’s Important NOW?”

The answer: I had to calm down enough so that I could fully be there for Sadie when the dreaded (and rapidly approaching) time came to say goodbye. I needed to be in a relaxed, peaceful and present state of mind.

So I loaded Sadie in the CRV and drove around awhile to calm down. Then I took her to the vet and was able to sit with her, comforting her as she passed, peacefully, between life and death.

Then I drove home, threw my suitcase in the CRV, backed out of my driveway, gave the finger to my neighbor’s house, yelled a few choice words then drove away…knowing full well that the anger – the fury – I felt towards them was going to have to be dealt with at some point.

And over the next couple of months, it was.

Thankfully, I was able to grieve Sadie’s death, and pretty much come to peace with her passing, while I was in Ecuador. But the anger I felt towards my neighbor stayed in my heart and mind.

And I realized that beneath the anger was something else: fear.

I was terrified of what my future might hold. The entire time I was in Ecuador, I worried that the new home I had just bought – partly for the dog I had just lost – would not be the quiet and serene surroundings I SO needed for my work and peace of mind.

What if I returned home from Ecuador and not only would I not have my furry best friend around anymore, I would now be subjected to the irritation of a constantly barking dog? Dear God, what if I was in for another seven years of noise?

I began to realize that the dog barking on the morning of Sadie’s passing had, in fact, been an emotional trigger to a past trauma: that of remaining next door to a noisy neighbour far longer than I should have.

Now, some people might laugh at the fact that I had been “traumatized” by a noisy neighbor (one person did laugh when I shared this recently). But I had. And I make no apologies. For different things are important to different people. And for me, as a writer who works from home, a quiet neighbourhood is really important to me…and I will never again waste precious time and energy pretending it isn’t.

In preparation for writing this blog, I did some research into triggers and came across an excellent an article, How to Deal with Anger Constructively, by Registered Clinical Counselor, Esther Kane, that helped me better understand what I had experienced. Here’s a snippet:

“From the vantage point of my therapy chair, I can often sense lots of emotions coming up in the person seated across from me, even if they aren’t necessarily showing what they’re feeling on the surface. When I checked in with a client recently who I sensed was angry, she said, “I AM angry. Really angry! I don’t know what to do with this feeling.”

At that moment, the image of a volcano came to me: On the surface, my client was the calm-looking solid volcano, but brimming beneath the volcano’s surface was red-hot lava bubbling and churning and wanting to explode. I see this a lot with women-especially when it comes to identifying and dealing with anger.

But before I go on, I’d like to make you laugh with a wonderful clip from INSIDE OUT– a children’s movie about emotions…this one explores anger and will definitely make you laugh.

I always tell my clients who are startled by the hot-lava emotions which bubble up to the surface that while it can be upsetting to feel such strong emotion; that there is no danger in any feeling. Feelings like anger are energy that come up and out and with some mindfulness applied, can be channeled for healing and peace – in our relationship to ourselves and others. The most important caveat I give clients is to not lash out in anger either to ourselves or at another person. That never turns out well.”

Esther Kane, MSW, RSW, Registered Clinical Counsellor

A volcano about to erupt is a perfect analogy to what I experienced that morning. And if you haven’t seen the clip from the film, Inside Out, take a moment and watch it…it’s brilliant.

As for the barking dog across the street?

When I got home from Ecuador, the Pit Bull across the street did still bark on occasion throughout the summer. But in all honesty, not that often. I have been keeping a log of when the dog barks and for how long, just in case I decide to make a noise complaint to the town. But truthfully, it hasn’t been a big deal…and for this, I am extremely grateful.

How to Cope with an Emotional Trigger

As for how to cope with an incident that triggers you emotionally, I shall leave that advice to the experts, such as Esther Kane. But this much I can tell you: when something happens and we lose our shit – or are dangerously close to losing our shit – then we better pay damn close attention and start asking ourselves some questions:

#1) What might be happening here?

#2) What do I have to do to get safely out of this moment: What’s Important NOW?

#3) Why do I think I was so impacted/triggered?

#4) Why do I REALLY think I was so impacted/triggered?

#5) How am I going to deal with it, if it happens again in the future?

Then we need to get some sort of plan – and healthy coping mechanisms – in place.

The world is full of stimuli, any of which could be potential emotional triggers. We can’t always control what happens around us, but we can control how we react to it…even if that means simply getting ourselves AWAY from a distressing situation as fast as possible.

Related Blogs by Maryanne

Celebrating Sadie – Saying Goodbye to Sadie Pope

Sometimes Things Have to Springer Before They Settle

Anger in the Garden – Pruning Back for Future Growth

When Opportunity Knocks on the Door – Literally

What’s Important NOW? The Question that Took Me to Chicago

Anchors Away – Letting Go of Anger

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

published in Animals, Death, Dogs, Grief, Life After Loss, Pets by Maryanne | July 16, 2019 | 20 Comments

Celebrate Good Times – Saying Goodbye to Sadie Pope

 

“Our animal friends teach us
More than we could have expected…
And love us
More than we could have hoped…

…That’s why we miss them
More than we could have imagined.”

– Anon

“I don’t have good news,” the vet said, after examining the x-ray of Sadie’s left wrist.

And in my heart of hearts I knew what news what coming…

Bone cancer.

Oddly enough, it was an ear infection I’d taken Sadie in to see the vet on Friday June 21st, 2019. Although I’d noticed her wrist had been swollen for the past two weeks, I hadn’t taken her to the vet to have it checked because…well, because deep down, I guess I knew something bigger was brewing and I didn’t want to face it.

But for me not to have marched Sadie into the nearest vet at the mere hint of an ailment was very uncharacteristic. That dog received better healthcare than most people on the planet.

In fact, because of her severe arthritis, as well as injuries from relentless ball-chasing, Sadie had been to so many different vets throughout the Western States & Canada that her regular vet teased me that the only way he was able to keep track of where I was at any given time was by the Sadie-updates sent to him by other vets…from Okotoks, Alberta to Newport, Oregon to Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Anyway, after telling me the news that Sadie had both a tumor and a fracture on her left wrist, the vet laid out my limited options:

#1) Cancel my trip to Equador and stay home with Sadie as she succumbed to a very painful and fast-spreading cancer.

#2) Go on my trip and leave Sadie with her caregiver and take the (highly likely) chance of Sadie going downhill on his watch (without me).

#3) Put Sadie down before leaving on my trip.

I chose the third option and, according to the vet, by doing so both Sadie & I were likely spared an extremely difficult – and painful – month or two (she likely wouldn’t have lived longer than that with her diagnosis).

And so…at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday June 22nd, I bid farewell to my beloved buddy. Sadie’s passing was peaceful…for her. But I’m not going to lie…for me, it was excruciating. As I sat on the floor of the vet clinic, petting Sadie and comforting her as she prepared to pass between life and death, I could feel the waves of hurt surging up from deep within myself. It was brutal.

And I just went through this with my dog, Soda, five years ago…and Sable three years before that! But as Shakespeare said, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

After Sadie had passed, I sobbed my home, threw my suitcase in the CRV and headed to my friend, Lynne’s, place in Abbotsford – extremely thankful I didn’t have to spend a single second more in the house without my Sadie.

But here’s the amazing thing: although Sadie’s sudden death was akin to having a Band-Aid ripped off the old heart, the emotional aftermath – the grief – was surprisingly…brief.

One day I was scratching Sadie behind the ear as she passed away; the next day I was on a plane to Equador. In hindsight, it was as if the Universe had airlifted me – literally – out of the grieving process. Maybe I’ve wasted too much precious time over the past two decades grieving?

At any rate, when Lynne and I joined up with our tour group in Quito, Equador, we hit the ground running (well, okay…walking slowly due to the high altitude). And in the days to follow, I was too damn busy having fun, laughing, seeing new sites, experiencing new adventures, eating new food and meeting new people to be sad.

And the more I thought about Sadie, the more I realized how silly it was to be sad. She’d had an incredible life (a heck of a lot better than the flea-ridden dogs in Equador, let me tell you!). Our five years together had been chock-full of fun, adventure, road trips…and many, many orange & blue chuck-it balls.

Then, one morning at breakfast a few days into our trip, Charlie (who put the tour together), said to the group something to the effect of: “This trip is a celebration of life.”

Clunk went the coin as the truth hit me like a ton of bricks: I needed to be celebrating Sadie’s life versus mourning her death. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing…or trying to, anyway.

Now that I’m back home again and have had a few days to be in the house without her, I admit I miss her terribly. But then I look at a photo of her and see her big grin (on the rare occasion she didn’t have a ball stuffed in her mouth) and I can’t help but smile myself 🙂

In celebrating Sadie’s life, here are 3 things that stand out the most for me:

#1) Her joy…she was always smiling!

#2) Her love of new adventure (which made her the perfect road trip companion).

#3) Her relentless focus. Sadie the retriever took retrieving very seriously. Some have called her ball-obsession a bit OCD. But Sadie was born to retrieve and by God, that’s exactly what she did, day in and day out. May we all learn from Sadie’s intense focus. I sure have.

Here are some of my favourite photos:

Sadie & MA in Utah

 

Bring back the Expos!

 

Always in style…

 

Happy times together, California

 

The one time Sadie WASN’T smiling (or holding a ball in her mouth) because someone was holding her dinner HOSTAGE!

 

The look on Kitty Meow’s face is priceless…oh the indignity of a DOG not letting me in my own home!

 

Serious Sadie in her Russian hat

 

Relaxing by the fire…

 

Happy campers!

I was laughing out loud, putting these fabulous photos into this blog…hooray!

And look what just arrived in the mail…

Sadie blanket by Print Your Pet

A cozy blanket with smiling Sadie Pope…sent to me by my wonderful friend, Kristin! The blanket was made by a company called Print Your Pet. I LOVE it!!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

published in Beauty, Dogs, Inspiration, Nell Shipman, Pets, Travel by Maryanne | October 16, 2018 | 6 Comments

Pilgrimage to Priest Lake

 

“Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”

– John Steinbeck

Howdy from Okotoks!

I hope you’ve had a grand week. Sadie and I made it, safe & sound, to where we will be house-sitting (for my brother Doug and his wife Tracey) in Okotoks, Alberta. We will be staying put here (more or less) for three months.

Here’s a quick recap of our recent travels: after Sedona, I returned to Victoria, BC to retrieve the retriever.

MA & Sadie, on the road again

We took the ferry Sidney, BC to Anacortes, WA then went for a wee hike at Mt Washington Park:

 

We stayed the night at the McMenamin’s Anderson School Hotel (very cool) near Seattle.  Then we headed east towards Spokane with a pit stop at Easton Lake, WA:

In Spokane, we stayed two nights at the ever-so-lovely historic Davenport Hotel (Momma Pope loved it there!):

Then we made a pilgrimage to Priest Lake, Idaho – Nell Shipman’s old stomping grounds. As you may recall, Nell Shipman is the silent screen star I have been writing a screenplay about (God’s Country) over the past decade. This gorgeous beach is very close to where Nell and her filmmaking team built Lionhead Lodge back in the 1920’s:

And this is you-know-who testing the sand quality:

This is another shot of stunning Priest Lake…I can see why Nell was so smitten (but boy oh boy, is it ever remote, even today):

After Priest Lake, Sadie and I headed north to Canada and stayed the night in Cranbrook, BC. The next morning, I went to check the oil in my CRV…and the dipstick tube came out again! Yes, it’s a great way to meet guys 🙂 but back I go to yet another Honda dealership to get it FIXED, once and for all.

We received a very warm welcome in Okotoks from the neighbourhood kids (within an hour of arriving, both Sadie and I were playing back-to-back games of hide & seek) and are happy to be hunkered down in one place again…with a freezer full of yummy food, thanks to Doug & Tracey!

Take care and have a wonderful week.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.