Written by Shelly, Secretary of Doggie Dates NSW
That was until February 2004 when my life was almost taken away from me. Saved by air bags is what the ambos said when they pulled me out of my crushed car after a drunk driver decided not to wait for traffic and sped out, lost control of his black ute and slammed head-on into me. I was travelling home from work like I always did, only on that Friday afternoon, my whole life changed.
I used to be so fit. I played tennis, did big walks all over the area and went to the gym and did aerobics. That all changed that year. I was off work for most of the year and the local medical centre became my best friend. Hubby had to carry me most weeks into the medical centre – who ended up making a special dark room for me and gave me pethidine shots to help me get through blinding migraines which made me blind and dizzy and so very sick. I never suffered migraines before. These ones were debilitating. As soon as they saw me in my pjs and dressing gown in hubby’s arms they wouldn’t say anything, just lead me to my special dark room and in would walk the doc with his syringe of pethidine. Such a Godsend.
By September, I was wishing I didn’t live through the accident. I lacked the motivation to get out of bed and I was very depressed. If I had to go out as friends invited me for coffee to try to reconnect with me, I couldn’t drive anywhere or do anything without checking if I had any pain. Hubby took me out to Westfields to do the food shop and we decided to walk around and we walked past a pet shop. (Back then they had dogs for sale in the window). That was when we spied our first dog “Tilly”, the kelpie-shepherd cross in a window spot laying down resting while 2 Jack Russell’s jumped over her like crazy nutters. We did the food shop and decided we needed to rescue her. So we did.
That was the best thing for me. I finally had a reason to get out of bed and a reason for living. She wasn’t the easiest dog. She was dominant, food aggressive and highly intelligent. But she triggered the love of a challenge in me. We did lots of training and even had personal training with a dog whispering business. A lot of people kept saying to us, just give up. Put her down. But that just stirred me to move on and try to find what would click for her, how to tap into her smart brain and connect with her. That’s when I found a local Flyball group. Perfect. She loved it and she was fantastic at it. As she got older we moved on to agility and then she retired. We lost her in May 2018. Worst day of my life.
So life was a struggle after the loss. I would spend longer at work and only come home when work was being closed for the day. I went to work at the crack of dawn. The migraines still happen and always did but thankfully the pethidine shots eased off a few years after the accident. It took us a long time to ease the pain of losing Tilly. But by January 2020, we decided it was time to have a new addition to the family. At that time covid was in China and the worry of whether it would make it to our shores was the current news. That was also the year of the bad bushfires. Maximus’s family had fire surrounding their home in Mogo and even had to evacuate the whole family to the beach.
We went to Mogo and were stopped at Nowra. The fires were going through and we couldn’t get to him. When we did get there, we didn’t know it was him we would get. Hubby wanted to see which pup wanted him. We met all the puppies, most of them went back to their beds in the house but one pup stayed with hubby and played with his shoelaces. That was maximus.
As time went on Maximus has helped me so much. He is the reason I get up in the morning and he eases my pain just by patting his soft head or being with me. In the accident I received crushed vertebrae and rib fractures and wrist fractures. I developed depression arising from the pain of the accident and PTSD and had dark thoughts. The injuries were and are still so painful.
Recent scans revealed I still have fractures in my spine, thoracic crush fractures and neck fractures that have obviously never healed. Migraines are still debilitating but they are handled with medications which work some of the time. This week has been the worst in a long time. I haven’t been able to work since Tuesday. But what keeps me fighting on is Maximus. His cuddling and sleeping on the lounge with me have helped me to stay positive.
He got me active again and gave me the confidence to join Doggie Dates NSW. I joined the Central Coast group in August 2020. It’s been the best thing for us both. He is such a social boy and he has loved it. I did worry people would think he was a crazy nut job in a large form but everyone has been so accepting. The first two people that made me welcome was Sally and Brooke and today they continue to be good friends. Brooke and Archie have a history with us. We all did the “Canine Basics” class and this was where we first met. Maximus and Archie were made to stay 10 metres away from each other since there was an immediate love hate relationship. Now they are the bestest buddies. They even entertained the 2020 Christmas walk crowd by playing with each other’s toys. People were horrified when Archie would go snarly puss at Maximus, while Brooke and I would just laugh since we knew their history.
TJ and her Doggie Dates group is something I firmly believe we all need. They don’t just do walks; they have people who care. There are members who have so many stories and we all just naturally share connections. It is so good to feel part of the group. Even if you don’t have a dog or lose your dog, they are there for you. I have found such good friends in Doggie Dates who reach out when I didn’t ask but I really did need them.
Maximus knows when I am not good. He lays against me and snuggles and if I am sleeping with a migraine on the lounge, he will go next to my legs and curl up beside me. He will walk gently and behave differently when he senses I have a headache or have a migraine coming on or am dealing with a migraine.
Mental health is so important to recognise and accept it is “okay” not to feel okay. It’s amazing how many of us are suffering from depression and also PTSD. I was too afraid to talk about it but my friend Sharon has helped me in so many ways. I was too frightened to take maximus to the beach and she took her dog Charlie and Charlie showed maximus how to “do the beach like a dog”. She is also a great listener and always has time for me especially when I am not “travelling so good”.
The best part about doggie dates is there are lots of people with so many things in common. Many of us struggle with our mental health. We all have our dogs to help us and that’s great because those dogs open the doors to talking about our struggles and our challenges. No one puts you down or makes you feel less human. Just talk to a friend in the group. Or if you can’t find someone, the just chat with Tj. She is an awesome listener and is so kind. When we hear about someone doing it tough in our group, we reach out to them and try to help. Sometimes it only takes one dog and one person and one walk and suddenly, you are feeling more positive and like a weight has been lifted.
By Shelly Timp