I prefer to live a positive life, but a battle such as this is not positive, and the negativity is really getting to me. As nothing really happened on Day 10 of my hunger strike—except for me roasting in 87 degree weather, ignored as usual by most everyone I turned to for help, obsessing over food and imagining eating everything in sight—I thought I might just let you know a little of my history and where I came from instead of anything more profound, or not, as the case may be.
I’m keeping this positive, as that’s what my soul needs right now. There have been plenty of negative events in my life, but I am choosing not to talk about them at this moment.
I was born in Altoona, PA, on February 25, 1964. That makes me a whopping 49 years old, a Pisces, and solidly middle aged, it appears. When I was young, everyone said I looked like my mother, but as I grow older, I swear that I look more and more like my father, which to me isn’t a good thing. But what can you do? It is what it is.
I lived in the Bellwood, PA area until I was 8, then moved to a farm in St. Augustine, about 30 miles away. It was 108 acres, and I really grew to love that place. We had a stream down below, and we could go down there and swing on grapevines (my mom broke her tailbone doing it) or just play in the stream and look for salamanders. I loved those little devils.
I always had cats and dogs, but for the most part they were not allowed to come into the house. I used to sneak them in when my parents weren’t home and give them love, hence the spark for what I do today. I always felt very compassionately for all animals, and it hurt me greatly to see the animals killed on the farm, but I thought that’s just the way it had to be. I ate them like the rest of the family, and just disassociated myself from their origins. I stopped eating animals in 2002.
I was always a very good student, getting mostly A’s in high school, and went to college for 1.5 years at Penn State Altoona for business administration, before joining the Air Force to be a Cryptologic Linguist. I got the highest score the Pittsburgh MEPS had ever seen on the DLAB, which is the test you take to see if you have an aptitude for languages, and that was an academic accomplishment that meant a lot to me, since it wasn’t anything you could study for; you either could figure it out or you couldn’t.
I studied for a year and 8 months in Monterey, California, and in Texas for the Czech language, and then was stationed in Germany. Although we all griped about the Air Force, those are most of the happiest memories of my lifetime. The people I studied with were with me from basic through Augsburg, Germany, and they were my family, my heart and soul. Although I never felt I was a great fit for the Air Force, I would grow to greatly miss that family I’d created, and long for them for the rest of my life.
We partied, a lot, of course, and one of my favorite memories was from Texas, where there was this rope swing that was WAY high up in a tree. You had to climb the tree, jump to the rope because it didn’t stretch to the tree, and then swing out over the water and drop in. If you didn’t drop on the first swing, you would hit the bank, as my friend Billy did, and that never had a good ending. I happened to be, and still am, afraid of heights, but I had to be like the big boys and do it too. I probably did it like five times, but I confess to being scared shitless every single time I did it. I’m still proud I did.
I earned the rank of Staff Sergeant when first available to me, mostly because my boyfriend at the time was studying so I decided to study with him. It paid off for me, but he was a little disgruntled when I made it and he didn’t. I don’t think we had a celebration dinner that night.
I always had cats, and my Air Force friends would tell you that I would find them wherever I was and start feeding them, sneaking them into my room, dragging them home with me, trying to find them homes. I couldn’t stand to see them suffer.
When I got out of the Air Force, I stayed in the Maryland area and finished out my Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I was already working at the Maryland Pennysaver in their graphics department, so when I got my degree finished, I went to work as a designer at a comic book distributor, then worked as art director at an ad agency in Bethesda. I got married and had my son Rayne, and after that bought my first computer (it was tiny and cost $8000 for the setup!) and started my own freelance graphic design business.
I mostly worked for a college book company, Rowman and Littlefield, as a graphic designer in their book department on a freelance basis, and picked up other clients along the way. I got a divorce, and Rayne and I spent a year living in Florida, but there I worked for the ad agency from hell, and ended up moving back home to Pennsylvania, staying with my mom and Chuck until I got things figured out.
Next door to her was a chained dog that I started calling about, but got no help and no response from the humane society, and I couldn’t believe it was legal to keep a dog like that.
I art directed and freelanced for an ad agency in Altoona, PA, while I saved for a house down payment. I bought a house later that year, and it was the house I’d end up living in for 15 years, and starting Dogs Deserve Better from.
I married again and we had a daughter, Brynnan, and I started seeking my mission in life. I felt a need to make a difference.
Thinking I wanted to go into the healing arts, I joined the American Institute of Holistic Theology, and paid for their program from the Bachelor’s level through the Ph.D. level. Over the years I have completed the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Natural Doctor coursework, then I studied for my Interfaith Minister ordination beginning last June. I was ordained as an interfaith minister in April 2013. I still have the Ph.D. level to finish.
At the time I would do a lot of self help books, and ask my soul again and again, God, what is my mission? A picture would come into my mind of the dog who lived up the road from me, a black lab, on a chain. I would say, no, God, that mission is too hard. I need an easier mission.
I was afraid for my life if I started to advocate for chained dogs.
But God or my conscience wouldn’t leave me alone about it, and I finally acquiesced. I had no idea what I was doing, but step by step I followed the procedures to start a nonprofit, doing all the paperwork myself, and launched a website.
I figured if I had to stand alone, I would take a stand against it and see where it lead.
On some levels I feel I am doing the same thing now, taking a lonely and isolating stand, but it’s a stand for justice.
I remember when I was pregnant with Rayne but I didn’t know it. I went to an astrologer, and I asked her about having kids. I was 28, and I was starting to feel that clock ticking, little knowing that I was already pregnant. She told me I should never be a single parent, because I wasn’t strong enough to handle it on my own.
Ha! Guess I proved her wrong. Some days it’s just the little things.
The little things.
To read about the case and see the evidence, visit this page: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/surrycounty.html